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Auborn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2014. — 220 p. — ISBN-10: 1610165950; ISBN-13: 978-1610165952.Walter Block has for decades been one of the most effective and indefatigable defenders of libertarianism. One feature in his writing stands out, from his classic Defending the Undefendable to the present. He consistently applies the principles of libertarianism to every situation in a bold and original way. Readers of Toward a Libertarian Society, a collection of his articles from, will find this feature abundantly on display. Block believes that libertarianism has three components: foreign policy, economic policy, and policies on personal liberties. He devotes a separate part of the book to each of these components. In foreign affairs, Block is a resolute non-interventionist. He is an anarchist who rejects the state altogether; but, so long as a state exists, it should confine its foreign policy to defense against invasion. Doing so is in line with the tradition of Washington and John Quincy Adams. In our own day, Ron Paul has been the foremost champion of non-intervention; and Paul has few, if any, more ardent advocates than Walter Block. In economic policy, Block defends the free market against all types of interference. One issue especially concerns him: the activities of labor unions. Against union advocates, Block emphasizes that wages depend on workers’ marginal productivity. Block is equally decisive in macroeconomics. He calls for the total abolition of the Fed. Block, never one to avoid controversy, argues that much in the contemporary feminist movement is antithetical to libertarianism. Readers will learn his views about abortion, stem-cell research, and punishment theory. He is a firm advocate of the possibility and desirability of political secession. Reading Toward a Libertarian Society is the equivalent of a college course in libertarianism, taught by a master teacher.IntroductionForeign PolicyLibertarian Warmongers: A Contradiction in Terms
Bloodthirsty -Libertarians": Why Warmongers Can t Be Pro-Liberty
Thirteenth Floors
Let's Go Commie, Well, Kerry
Kill 'Em All: Let's All Turn Libertarian Warmonger
Let the South Go: St. Abraham's War and Current Foreign PoliEconomicsMicroeconomics
Environmental Economics
Labor EconomicsPersonal LibertiesFeminism
MedicalLibertarian TheoryThe Basic Premises
Punishment Theory
PoliticsThanks. Mr. Libertarian
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Toward a Libertarian Society

The Mises Institute dedicates this volume to all of its generous donors and wishes to thank these Patrons, in particular:

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Toward a Libertarian Society

Walter Block

Mises Institute, founded in 1982, is a teaching and research center for the study of Austrian economics, libertarian and classical liberal political theory, and peaceful international relations. In support of the school of thought represented by Ludwig von Mises, Murray N. Rothbard, Henry Hazlitt, and F.A. Hayek, we publish books and journals, sponsor student and professional conferences, and provide online education. is a vast resource of free material for anyone in the world interested in these ideas. For we seek a radical shift in the intellectual climate, away from statism and toward a private property order.

For more information, see, write us at, or phone us at 1.800.OF.MISES.

Mises Institute

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Published 2014 by the Mises Institute. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.

Mises Institute

518 West Magnolia Avenue

Auburn, Alabama 36832

ISBN: 978-1-61016-595-2

eISBN: 978-1-61016-629-4

To the Memory of a Great Man,

Murray N. Rothbard



I. Foreign Policy

1. Libertarian Warmongers: A Contradiction in Terms

2. Bloodthirsty “Libertarians”: Why Warmongers Can’t Be Pro-Liberty

3. Thirteenth Floors

4. Let’s Go Commie, Well, Kerry

5. Kill ’Em All: Let’s All Turn Libertarian Warmonger

6. Let the South Go: St. Abraham’s War and Current Foreign Policy

II. Economics

A. Microeconomics

7. Market vs. State: It Is the Overriding Distinction in Economics and Politics

8. What Do Boxing and Business Schools Have in Common?: The Problem of Ratings

9. The Motor Vehicle Bureau; Confronting It

10. Want To Help the Poor and Oppressed? Encourage Laissez-Faire Capitalism, You Bleeding-Heart Liberal, You

11. Want To Cure Poverty? Get the Government Out of the Market

12. Airport Insecurity

B. Macroeconomics

13. Keep the Penny, Toss the Fed: On the Criminals Who Killed This Once-Useful Coin

14. Private Enterprise and the Fed; What Should Be the Relationship?

C. Environmental Economics

15. Heroic Hunt Farms

16. Me and Hurricane Ivan: Thanks A Lot, Government

17. Me and Katrina: Weather Socialism

18. Clean, Cool Private Water: Government Water Means Trouble

D. Labor Economics

19. The Evil of Unions; In the Public As Well As the Private Sector

20. Is There a Right To Unionize? It All Depends

21. In Defense of Scabs; The Limited Justification for Trade Unions

22. The Yellow Dog Contract; Bring Back This Heroic Institution

23. Stop Whining About Jobs; It’s Production That Counts

III. Personal Liberties

A. Feminism

24. Four Firemen Die in Socialist Fire; Worse, Two of Them Were Woman

25. Arm the Coeds

26. Don’t Take Your Daughter To Work and Other Un-PC Thoughts

27. Feminist Sports Fraud; High School Boys Are Better Than The Top Women Athletes

28. Term Limits Hurt Female Politicians; A Silver Lining

B. Drugs

29. Second Thoughts on Drug Legalization: It Means More Loot For the State

30. The Libertarian Case For Drug Prohibition

C. Charity

31. Celebrities Engaged in Legalized Theft

32. Don’t Donate To the Red Cross

33. Social Justice; A Scary Concept

D. Medical

34. Stem Cells: A Libertarian Compromise?

35. Dr. Government; The Bureaucrat With the Stethoscope

IV. Libertarian Theory

A. The Basic Premises

36. Turning Their Coats For the State

37. The Libertarian Axiom and Jonah Goldberg, Neo-Con

38. Compassionate Conservatism

39. Ideas Rule; For Good or Ill: The Importance of Ideology

40. Sex, Drugs, & Rock ‘n’ Roll; and Libertarianism

B. Secession

41. If at First You Don’t Secede, Try, Try Again

42. Secession and Slavery

C. Punishment Theory

43. The Death Penalty

44. A Silving Lining in Unjust Executions?

D. Politics

45. Term Limits Make Me Sick; A Hoppean Analysis

46. Federalism: Is It Libertarian?

Thanks, Mr. Libertarian



What sticks out at me is that libertarianism is a three-legged stool. It consists of foreign policy, economic policy, and policy concerning personal liberties. Wait. No. That is not quite right. Yes, libertarianism does indeed consist of these three “legs” but so does every other political philosophy — Marxism, Conservatism, Left Liberalism, Progressivism, communism, Nazism, feminism — without exception. That is, every political philosophy, if it is to be a complete one, must address these three issues, wrestle with them, come to grips with them.

The topics I address in this book consist of a quintessentially libertarian answer to these challenges. And, if this material is to be consistent with that philosophy, it must adhere, strictly, to the two elements, the only two elements, of libertarianism: the non-aggression principle and private property rights based upon homesteading.

Does this book succeed in accomplishing that task? That is for others to determine. As for me, all I can say is that certainly I intend that it do so. For example, in the realm of foreign policy, the non-aggression principle would imply a policy of strict non-interventionism. This is not isolationism. The latter means that the U.S. pulls up its drawbridges, so to speak, and Americans have nothing to do with anyone in the rest of the world. That is not at all what the non-aggression principle requires. Citizens of our country should be free to visit, trade with, buy from, sell to, invest in, and allow investments from, people from all corners of the globe. It merely implies that the U.S. withdraw its hundreds of military bases from scores of other countries. Is this pacifism? Of course not. The proper role for the government of the U.S., to the extent that it has any proper role at all, is to engage in defense, not offense. Every basketball fan knows the difference. It is when the other team has the ball that they yell “Defense!” It is too bad that the average American cannot be relied upon to make this distinction consistently. What would a proper foreign policy require? Something of the sort of a very powerful Coast Guard, ready to kick the butt of anyone who would dare attack us (and shorn of its responsibilities to interdict illegal drugs, etc.).

This is why, in section I of this book, dedicated to foreign policy, I have attempted, in my own weird way, to make the case that the U.S. is at present, not a country that implements a libertarian stance, but rather one of imperialism. It swaggers its way around the planet, launching drones at people, drowning people, and using other ways to kill people, virtually none of them who have ever attacked America. And in the cases they have done so, as Ron Paul correctly insists, it was due to blowback. They are over here, he avers, because we were over there first. The solution of course is to adopt the policy laid out by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, no “entangling alliances” and of John Quincy Adams, not going abroad in search of monsters to destroy. MYOB, mind your own business, is a far better policy than anything employed by the U.S. for most of its history. Emulating the foreign policy of Switzerland might be a good beginning.

In section II of this book, devoted to economic liberties, I try to make the case that a free enterprise system is self-sustaining, maximizes wealth, and can do better, far better, without any “help” from the state. “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you” would be the diametric opposite of the viewpoint offered here. For the so-called public sector is based upon initiatory violence, at least insofar as its compulsory taxation is concerned. And in the Rothbardian analysis, its triangular intervention, forbidding or compelling commercial interaction on the part of the residents of the country, hurts, does not help, economic well-being. My favorite chapter title in the microeconomics section is: “Want To Help the Poor and Oppressed? Encourage Laissez-faire Capitalism, You Bleeding-heart Liberal, You.” Come to think of it, this applies as well to bleeding heart so-called libertarians. And this applies, in spades, to the macroeconomic sphere. Say what you will about microeconomic interventionism, it is by its very nature somewhat limited in scope. Not so the macroeconomic sphere, where the statists can do far more harm, in that their policies have an impact on every corner of the economy. It is important, too, to make the case for free market environmentalism, which is far from a contradiction in terms, no matter how our friends on the left wish it were. No, in the environmental field also, private property rights, the profit and loss system, are the last best hope for mankind, and the animal kingdom, too. As a graduate student of Gary Becker’s at Columbia University, I have a great interest in labor economics, and the proportion of chapters on this topic bears this out. Unions, minimum wages, violation of “scabs” rights are all part and parcel of an Austro-libertarian analysis of this sector of the economy. I write at a time when there is a push to increase the severity of the minimum wage law. I hope that the chapters in this section of the book will play some role in heading off this evil initiative.

Section III of the book focuses on personal liberties. Libertarians need make no apologies in terms of their analysis of feminism, drug legalization, charity, or health care. Again and again, the libertarian policies, based on personal rights, are both more effective and in greater congruence with morality.

So much for the libertarian outlook on the three legs of the three-legged stool of political economy. What about libertarian theory itself? This is the subject of the concluding section IV of the book. Here, I attempt to set up the basic premises and apply them to secession, punishment theory, and politics.

I hope this book causes you to think, and question how society can function successfully without a monolithic state riding roughshod over us. It would give me great pleasure if this helped in some small way to promote our beloved philosophy, libertarianism.


In his talk entitled “Emulate Ron Paul” delivered to the Alabama state convention of Young Americans for Liberty in Auburn, Alabama on April 6, 2013, Lew Rockwell mentioned five points. The first of them, the most important one in my view, was: “The subject of war cannot, and should not, be avoided.” In this regard Lew went on to say:

First and foremost, Ron is a critic of the warfare state. The war in Iraq, which was still a live issue when Ron first ran for the Republican nomination, had been sold to the public on the basis of lies that were transparent and insulting even by the US government’s standards. The devastation — in terms of deaths, maimings, displacement, and sheer destruction — appalled every decent human being.

Yes, the Department of Education is an outrage, but it is nothing next to the horrifying images of what happened to the men, women, and children of Iraq. If he wasn’t going to denounce such a clear moral evil, Ron thought, what was the point of being in public life at all?

Still, this is the issue strategists would have had him avoid. Just talk about the budget, talk about the greatness of America, talk about whatever everyone else was talking about, and you’ll be fine. And, they neglected to add, forgotten.

But had Ron shied away from this issue, there would have been no Ron Paul Revolution. It was his courageous refusal to back down from certain unspeakable truths about the American role in the world that caused Americans, and especially students, to sit up and take notice.

While still in his thirties, Murray Rothbard wrote privately that he was beginning to view war as “the key to the whole libertarian business.” Here is another way Ron Paul has been faithful to the Rothbardian tradition. Time after time, in interviews and public appearances, Ron has brought the questions posed to him back to the central issues of war and foreign policy.

Worried about the budget? You can’t run an empire on the cheap. Concerned about TSA groping, or government eavesdropping, or cameras trained on you? These are the inevitable policies of a hegemon. In case after case, Ron pointed to the connection between an imperial policy abroad and abuses and outrages at home.

Inspired by Ron, libertarians began to challenge conservatives by reminding them that war, after all, is the ultimate government program. War has it all: propaganda, censorship, spying, crony contracts, money printing, skyrocketing spending, debt creation, central planning, hubris — everything we associate with the worst interventions into the economy.

I have already contributed my love letter to Ron Paul in my 2012 book Yes to Ron Paul and Liberty; I mention this only to explain the organization of the present book. It has five sections: I. Foreign Policy, II. Economics, and III. Personal Liberties, and IV. Libertarian Theory. Of course, the five are interconnected. But, if I had to single one out, and I did, I would choose as first and foremost as did Rockwell, and Rothbard, foreign policy. “War is the health of the state,” said Randolph Bourne, and no words ever said are truer than those. War mongering has implications for economic policy; it is not for nothing that the government engages in debauchment of the currency: it helps them raise more funds than would otherwise be possible for their favorite pastime: throwing their weight around the world. It has implications for personal liberties, too. In no small part is the mischievous war on drugs a handmaiden of imperialism. I place the economics section second, since I tend to see the world more through those eye glasses than any other. The third section of the book focuses on personal liberties, surely an all important subject for all libertarians. The fourth section is about the medical issues that are needful of thought. The final section concerns the backbone of libertarian thought, its theories and core.

I thank Lew Rockwell for inviting me to put together a series of columns I wrote for over the years. I thank Stephan Kinsella and William Barnett II for their permission to include in this book essays I have co-authored with them, respectively.

Ron Paul, and Lew Rockwell for that matter, are hardly the only ones who have “been faithful to the Rothbardian tradition.” Murray, my friend for many years, my mentor, my teacher, my inspiration, has motivated an entire generation of libertarians, and Austrian economists, to promote the glorious Austro-libertarian philosophy. This book is in a small way devoted to that goal. This book is dedicated to the memory of that great man, Murray N. Rothbard.

Walter Block

New Orleans, 2014


Foreign Policy

Chapter 1

Libertarian Warmongers: A Contradiction in Terms

The argument used by most warmongers in the present day comes down to the claim that if we don’t kick Saddam’s butt first, he will do just that to us, first. Sometimes this is stated more formally along the following lines: It would be a dereliction of duty for the U.S. government not to invade Iraq, since if we do not, that country will unleash its weapons of mass destruction at us.

There are several problems with this way of viewing the world.

First of all, we have already “kicked Saddam’s butt” in the first Iraqi war, under Bush the Elder. We continue to do so with our “no fly zone” policy, and our interference with that country’s trade. Saddam need not argue that the U.S. might attack him; America has already done so, and threatens to do so once again.

Second, throughout all of history there has never been a dictatorial aggressor, a mass murderer, who could not have agreed with this preemptive strike sentiment, and enthusiastically so. Consider Stalin as an example. Is there any doubt he could not have resorted to this sort of defense with regard to Hitler? And the reverse, of course, is equally true. Each of these “worthies” could argue that the other might attack him, and therefore he would be justified in invading the other, first.

Next, consider Attila the Hun’s incursion against his neighboring tribes. Even though, we may posit, they did not threaten him, still, they were capable in principle of doing physical harm to him. Could Attila not have subscribed to the notion that since these other peoples might harm him, he was justified in a preemptive strike? To ask this is to answer it.

Let us move from an international to a local scenario, to see how this sort of thinking might play out. Suppose there are two men walking toward each other on the street. All of a sudden, without any provocation from the latter, A hauls off and punches B in the nose. When questioned about his behavior, A replies, “Well, B might have molested me first. The violence I employed was thus justified as a purely defensive measure.” Even Jack the Ripper could have hidden behind such a “defense.” After all, those women he murdered might conceivably have done him a physical harm. At least it does not constitute a logical contradiction to suppose so.

This sort of thinking, it should be obvious, is a recipe for disaster. It is an utter conflation of offense and defense. If the libertarian notion of non-aggression against non-aggressors is to make any sense at all, then surely there must be a distinction between the two concepts. If we cannot even in principle distinguish between offense and defense, our political philosophy is incoherent.

But of course we can. In order for defensive violence to be justified, the person against whom we are acting must have at least threatened us; even more clearly, he must be in the early stages of launching an attack upon us.

If he is doing none of these things, then to launch aggression against him is unjustified, at least based on the libertarian code.

It cannot be denied that Saddam had previously utilized aggression against Kuwait. But what has that to do with the U.S.? Where is it written that America should be the world’s policeman? And if it is justified for the U.S. to take on this role of protector of the known universe, this would also apply to other countries.

But that is the last thing that we as libertarians should want, for this is a recipe for almost total disaster. For the libertarian anarchist, government is always and ever an affront. Even for the libertarian minarchist, this description applies to the state when it exceeds its proper and very limited bounds. Given that government is a catastrophe always and ever just waiting to explode, the last thing we want is for them to mix it up with each other. If we have to have institutions that are exercises in initiatory violence, and, it appears, we must, then at least let us all bend our efforts to keep them away from each other. They are like scorpions, and we don’t want to put two or more of them in a bottle, and then shake that bottle up, especially if the rest of us have to live in that bottle, too.

The proper role for the state, according to even the limited government libertarian, is for this institution to protect the rights only of its citizens. Invading Iraq to punish it for its rights violations in Kuwait is to violate the first of these strictures. In this philosophy, further, the government can only protect its citizens when they are located within its own territory. For example, if a Canadian citizen visits Japan, and his rights are violated there, then it is the Japanese government, not the Canadian, which must put matters right. If Canada attempted to do so, there would be overlapping sovereignties: both countries would claim to be sovereign in a given geographical area. Canada should limit its protection of its tourists abroad to at most telling them that they travel at their own risk. But when any given country attempts to police the world, this is precisely the result: overlapping sovereignties, a recipe for disaster.

These remarks will appear to non-libertarians as drivel, or as misbegotten, or as hopelessly misleading. But how will they appear to libertarians, particularly those who advocate U.S. adventurism all around the world? This is a nonsense question, insofar as those who favor U.S. imperialism cannot properly be considered libertarians. They may favor the elimination of rent control, tariffs, minimum wages, subsidies to business, welfare and all other such violations in the economic sphere; they may argue for rescinding laws which prohibit victimless crimes such as prostitution, pornography, gambling, using addictive drugs, etc. But unless and until they favor a strictly non-interventionist foreign policy, one limited to self-defense, they cannot be considered libertarians.

* * *

Published January 6, 2003.

Chapter 2

Bloodthirsty “Libertarians”: Why Warmongers Can’t Be Pro-Liberty

The libertarian non-aggression axiom is the essence of libertarianism. Take away this axiom, and libertarianism might as well be libraryism, or vegetarianism. Thus, if a person is to be a libertarian, he must, he absolutely must, in my opinion, be able to distinguish aggression from defense.

Here’s a joke. Do you know the difference between a bathroom and a living room? No? Well, don’t come to my house. In this spirit I ask, do you know the difference between offense and defense? Between aggression and defense against aggression? No? Well, then, don’t call yourself a libertarian.

I can’t read anyone out of the libertarian movement. No one appointed me guardian of this honorific. I am just giving my humble opinion. In like manner, if you couldn’t tell the difference between a hammer and a chisel, I wouldn’t consider you a carpenter. If you couldn’t distinguish between a brush and paint, I wouldn’t consider you a painter. In much the same way, if you can’t tell offense and defense apart, that is, if you believe in preemptive strikes against those who are not attacking you, then I can’t consider you a libertarian even if you favor free enterprise and oppose criminalizing voluntary adult conduct.

There are areas in which well meaning and knowledgeable libertarians disagree: minarchism vs. anarchism; immigration; abortion; inalienability; punishment theory. Although I have strong views on all of these, I recognize libertarian arguments on the other side. But not on this issue.

You don’t have to wait until I actually punch you in the nose to take violent action against me. You don’t even have to wait until my fist is within a yard of you, moving in your direction. However, if you haul off and punch me in the nose in a preemptive strike, on the grounds that I might punch you in the future, then you are an aggressor.

Suppose you were a Martian, looking down upon the earth, trying to figure out which earth nations were aggressors, and which were not (i.e., were defenders). You have particularly good eyesight. So much so, that you can see actual uniforms, flags, etc. You notice that one country, call it Ruritania, has soldiers on the territory of scores of other nations, and sailors in every ocean known to man.

You discern that another country, Moldavia, has its armed forces in but just a few countries other than itself. And that’s it. No other country has foreign military bases. What do you conclude? If you are a rational Martian, you deduce that Ruritania to a great degree, and Moldavia to a lesser one, are aggressor nations.

Suppose that your Martian eyesight also allows you to read earthling history books. There you learn that Ruritania fought worldwide wars twice in the last century, and has physically invaded, oh, give or take, about 100 countries during that time. Further, that Ruritania was the only nation in the entire history of the world to have used an atom bomb on people; worse, that they used this satanic device on civilians, not even soldiers; that they did so to get an unconditional surrender (Ruritania refused to promise to allow the emperor of the defeated nation to remain on his throne) from a country they pushed and hounded into war in the first place.

Who would you think was the rogue nation? Who would you think was a danger to the entire world? Who would you think was an aggressor?

But wait. Let’s try to reconcile legalizing victimless crimes with not being able to tell the difference between initiation of violence and defense against it. Why legalize heroin, or alcohol for that matter? Surely it is true that those who use these substances are more likely to commit crimes than those who do not.

If you really believe in preemptive strikes against people not involved in a “clear and present danger,” then how can you justify legalization? Surely, to be logically consistent, you would have to throw in jail all those who use addictive drugs.

Nor need we stop there. It just so happens that young males commit proportionately far more crimes of violence than any other cohort of the population. Under the preemptive strike philosophy, we would be justified in putting them all in jail, say, when they turn 15, and letting them out when they reach 25. Thus, if the preemptive strikers were logically coherent, not only could he not be a libertarian in foreign policy, he could not favor this philosophy even in this area.

* * *

Published January 11, 2003.

Chapter 3

Thirteenth Floors

It is well known that 13 is an unlucky number. If you don’t believe me, look it up! It is for this reason that in the U.S. and a few other civilized countries, there are no thirteenth floors in high rise buildings. We go directly from the twelfth floor to the fourteenth. And this is all to the good. It is for this reason that we, and, as I say, a mere handful of other civilized countries, have not been plagued with the bad luck visited on the rest of the world.

So far, however, America has done nothing, nothing I tell you, to alleviate this problem on a worldwide basis. But what does it profit a nation such as ours, which has achieved a preeminent position, spiritually, morally, economically, and, most important, militarily, if we will not share our civilizing influences with our beknighted neighbors?

Thus, here is the plan.

First, we put our own house in order; we pass a constitutional amendment, by executive decree, banning all thirteenth floors from the home of the brave and the land of the free; yes, whiners will object that this is unconstitutional, but surely we must reject this “argument” given the present emergency. In any case, that ancient and now irrelevant  called for Congress to declare war; an entire series of “police actions” has rendered that a dead letter. If for war, then why not for thirteenth floors, ask I.

Second, we announce to the entire globe that henceforth no new buildings are to be erected anywhere on earth with thirteenth floors in them. If they ignore this non-negotiable demand, we will bomb only those buildings, with our sophisticated pin point accurate weapons of mass destruction, leaving all else undisturbed.

Third, we give everyone one year to convert their present housing to the U.S. model. We are nothing if not generous! In this vein, we leave it entirely up to them whether they merely want to renumber their floors to be compatible with the American practice, or, if they wish, to physically eliminate these vile floors, so as to accomplish the same ends. However, if they refuse to abide by this modest proposal, we will have no choice but to invade their countries, all of them, and make these changes ourselves.

It is time, it is long past time, that the rest of the world be brought into conformity with U.S. architectural practices. Because of them, we have been lucky: among the jewels in our crown are multiculturalism, feminism, the U.S. Constitution, the drug war, and queer studies.

Of late, however, it must be admitted, a certain amount of bad luck has come our way. Under this rubric must be counted the murder of the innocents at Ruby Ridge, the Waco massacre, and the 9/11 tragedy. But these have come about not because of any flaws in the American Experiment (applause at this point, please), but, rather, due to the failure of many other countries (they know who they are!) to, wait for it, eliminate their thirteenth floors. This constitutes an external diseconomy. As is well known to all neoclassical economists, market failures of this sort justify government action to alleviate them. Since the U.S. is now the world government, it is fully in keeping with our global obligations to uphold property rights in this manner.

Yes, yes, there are some ignoramuses, mainly Austrian economists, who reject this notion of negative externalities constituting market failure, and justifying governmental ameliorating action of the sort now being proposed. But they are few and far between, and thus, incorrect. There are also, it cannot be denied, traitors in our midst, who oppose U.S. foreign military interventionism. They are silly wusses. They do not realize just how unlucky are thirteenth floors, nor that, unless we rid ourselves of this scourge, the world will never be safe for Democracy.

Please note: this is a parody.

* * *

Published April 5, 2004.

Chapter 4

Let’s Go Commie, Well, Kerry

Dear Mr. Kerry: For God’s sake, we’ve got to get rid of that imperialist war-mongering socialist fascist George Bush! You’ve got to go the Gene McCarthy route. It’s not too late. You can jettison that baloney about getting the U.N. involved in the carnage. No! The only way to get elected is to pull out now, and offer reparations for the many sins of the U.S. government (previous administration, of course). So far, at least as president, you haven’t murdered a single solitary innocent person. Let’s try to keep it that way, shall we?

Enough with this me too-ism on Iraq. The Republicans can out-war you any day. In that direction lies the fate of Gore, Humphrey, … Don’t you want to win? Surely, you’d like to be president, wouldn’t you? Wasn’t that the whole purpose of the primaries?

Now look. Full disclosure here. I’m a libertarian. I don’t like your socialism any more than I like the Bush variety. In some ways, you’re even worse, beholden as you are to some of the worst elements in the domestic polity: teachers, unionists, welfare queens, and Hollywood, as well as organized, victimological gays, women, blacks, Jews, Hispanics, etc. But I’m willing to overlook all that. Anything, to see that the monster Bush gets his just desserts come election time.

I don’t much care if you wreck health care by imposing that wicked and inefficient Canadian system. It bothers me very little that you’ll pack the Supreme Court with judges who will take affirmative action to new and presently unimaginable depths. I fully expect that the first step in your administration will be to force helmets on bicyclists; heck, even on joggers, or people who merely go out for a walk. You can even make Barbra Streisand your Secretary of Labor and Jane Fonda your Secretary of Commerce. I’m willing to tolerate all of this and more, if only you stop this mass murder of innocents in the Middle East, and of course the potential for it everywhere else.

So here’s the deal. I will root for you in the coming election if you just borrow a leaf from Washington’s “Farewell Address” or read, digest, and act upon that of John Quincy Adams speaking on the Fourth of July, 1821, who stated:

Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been unfurled, there will [America’s] heart, her benedictions, and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. … She well knows that, by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy and ambition, which assume the color and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. The frontlets upon her brows would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished luster the murky radiance of dominion and power. She might become the dictatress of the world; she would no longer be the ruler of her own spirit.

I can’t vote for you; sorry. I never vote; it just encourages them. (Ok, when I was young and foolish, I voted for Barry in 1964; but that was the last time! Honest!) In any case, if I voted, I’d have to vote for Michael Badnarik, the candidate for the Libertarian Party. It’s an aesthetic thing, you wouldn’t understand. But I will root for you, at least vis-à-vis that monster, Bush, if you make a 180 degree turn in your foreign policy. Think Switzerland. The U.S. as a sort of gigantic Switzerland, which offends no one, which minds its own business.

So here’s what you’ve got to do. Pull out all our troops from everywhere. Now! (Ok, ok, wait until you are elected.) If you learn we’ve got some soldiers on the moon or Mars, this goes for them as well. No more foreign military bases. Ok, ok, you can have as many foreign military bases as Switzerland has. Tell you what I’ll do: I won’t even insist you disband all our consulates abroad. This goes to show you just how moderate a libertarian like me can be. And they call me an extremist! Faugh! I hope and trust you appreciate my forbearance on this matter.

Then, socialism, glorious socialism. Onward and upward! Nationalize the steel mills. They are just a bunch of slobs who for far too long now have been hiding behind tariff protections. Take over the auto industry! Surely, the people who run the motor vehicle bureau offices and the post office can make better cars than Toyota? Raise the minimum wage to, oh, about $100 per hour. The present levels are unconscionable for a “progressive” such as yourself. Go green: prohibit people from exhaling; it ruins the environment. The only reason full-bore socialism didn’t work in the U.S.S.R. is because they didn’t have the right leaders. But I have every confidence in you (and Jane and Barbra). Just stop the mass murder, ok? (Said in the tone of voice employed by the guidance counselor in South Park.)

* * *

Published July 8, 2004.

Chapter 5

Kill ’Em All: Let’s All Turn Libertarian Warmonger

Save some liberal wieners and a few ungrateful pinkos, no one in the country would seriously doubt that a worldwide slaughter of foreigners would make America safer. While efforts of the heroic Bush administration to wipe out all the Arabs are certainly a good start, we must not forget that other countries in the world are evil and we’ve got to settle their hash.

Before discussing the litany, it is important to note that this article only provides a tip of the iceberg. Understanding the vital importance of a pre-emptive foreign policy, we have resolved to establish an institute to rigorously pursue this end. Heading up the International Democratic Institute for Overseas Transplantation (IDIOT) will be a cadre of noted pro-murder libertarians, including Randy Barnett, Deroy Murdock, and Ronald Bailey. Other IDIOT Fellows will include Christopher Hitchens, Rush Limbaugh, Max Boot, Thomas Sowell, and Sean Hannity. With the Institute in place to exhaustively target all foreign countries, do not interpret omissions as implying approval.

We do not seek world domination; to this end, we are critical of the Bush administration. We are realists and understand that we will never be able to control some insubordinates. So instead of costly bureaucracy, why not achieve control over the entire globe by eliminating every other inhabitant of it? Half measures will avail us nothing. It is time to own up to the logical implications of our present foreign policy, not cringe at them.

America must become the “terrible swift sword” of the world — a smiter of all evil and ill will. This sword, of course in the form of nuclear warheads, will be directed against the following evildoers (among others):

China — Not only are these people trying to industrialize, but they are hosting the Olympics. Didn’t Hitler host the Olympics? By logical deduction then, the Chinese are crypto-Nazis. It’s 1938 all over again; we cannot appease Hitler. What’s more is that they are trying to be peaceful. Only democracies are allowed to be peaceful. Massive human rights violations obviously warrant massive human rights violations.

Canada — It is ham; there is no such thing as Canadian bacon. During our first great war, i.e., the French and Indian, they provided comfort to the enemy. Moreover, it has become exceedingly difficult to distinguish Canadians from dull, white Americans. They constitute a natural fifth column, which will one day overrun us. Better safe than sorry.

Russia — They are fooling no one with their “surrender.” The breaking up of the Soviet Union was one great political ploy designed at further freezing the Cold War. While we have been navel gazing, the Soviets have been assassinating foreign nationals. It’s hard not to admire the KGB, but IDIOT Fellow David Frum cautions us not to ignore “the evidence that the Russian government murdered a British citizen in the British capital with a radiological weapon.” Though Frum doesn’t go far enough. He says: “If we acknowledged that terrible reality, we would have to do something about it.” He fails to understand that if we do the sort of thing neo-conservatives are advocating for Iran, and defending for Iraq, there will be Russians who survive an invasion and conventional bombing.

Germany — One word: Hitler. As supreme enemies of liberty, Germans will never change. There are still legions of Holocaust deniers running around spouting their pernicious vitriol and singing “Du Hast.” What alternative do we have other than the bomb? Allowing this anti-Semitism to continue would be unconscionable.

Vatican City — Let us not forget that the leader of this country is a theocrat, installed by elitist oligarchs. The Catholic Church is not a democratic institution and dogma is decided upon by gospel missive, not majority.

Israel — Truly a socialist country. As pro-war libertarians, we resent their socialism. The latest chapter in this sorry story is that they have adopted price controls for bread. We’ll have to forcibly teach these people that free markets and private property are the last best hope for mankind.

South America — As noted political philosopher Randy Newman points out, “they stole our name” and thus a nuclear first strike is the only appropriate response to this unjust linguistic theft. Yet if the unpatriotic have further doubts, let us not forget that we would not have cocaine, Che tee shirts, and immigrants had it not been for this horrid land.

India — It’s now our turn to outsource. Why should Sanjay steal the job of Steve? Because it is more economical and conducive to a global division of labor? Because it engenders world peace? Those things are clearly anti-American. Just as the New Yorker should only purchase goods manufactured within his island or the Peorian only purchase Peorian products, so too should Americans buy American. Exportation is evil, importation, insidious.

Africa — They are continually killing each other in tribal genocidal warfare. Let us help them out, in this regard. Who says we are against foreign aid? No more people means no more genocide — we just choose to drop our foreign aid from 50,000 feet in the air in the form of tactical nuclear warheads.

Syria — This low-lying fruit of a country is ripe, but not for a picking, no, this would imply some sort of desire to govern this veritable Islamofascistan. Who are these Arabs to stand against U.S. aspirations? Let us show them, in the only way these heathens will understand, what it means to mess with the good old U.S.A.

We have the means to kill all these people; we simply lack the will.

George Bush, we implore you to accept our modest proposal! Don’t label us as traitors though; you have made a valiant effort. But your efforts so far should only be considered the first, timid steps. This is the fundamental problem with neo-conservatism — it’s a doctrine that takes too much pleasure in watching death up-close. It is true that our policy will lead to quick, painless extermination, and we can certainly understand the outrage over at National Review, but it is the only way. Bush can have his personal pleasure from Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, but this is a narrow, limited, and provincial strategy. We are the only true globalists.

Please note: this is another parody.

* * *

Published October 23, 2006.

Chapter 6

Let the South Go: St. Abraham’s War and Current Foreign Policy

A century and a half after the war against Southern secession, the foreign policy of our country is still hampered by this tragic event. That is, had the war of federal aggression not taken place, had the South been allowed to leave peacefully, America would be in a far better position to exert a positive direction on several events which trouble the globe at the present time.

This does not imply that a libertarian U.S. foreign policy would include the role of world policeman; organizing non-constitutional standing armies; stationing soldiers abroad in, literally, hundreds of other countries; posting battle ships in every sea and ocean known to man.

No. A proper foreign policy would be informed by George Washington’s “Farewell Address” advice: to aim for friendly commercial relations with all nations, but political relations with none; to wish for the safety and happiness of all counties, but to fight to protect only our own.

But this is not to deny that Americans can play a mediating and conciliatory role in foreign affairs. Yes, politicians, bureaucrats and other hirelings of the state would be precluded from any such activities. And this should go for weekends too. After all, they already have full time jobs that ought to prevent them from gadding about the globe, mixing into other people’s business. Executives in private firms are typically contractually prevented from doing anything on their free time incompatible with their full time commitments, and the same ought to apply to government “diplomats.”

However, there is nothing in the principles of libertarianism to prevent private citizens from being arbitrators and mediators on the world stage. Surely members of the American Arbitration Association, ex-judges, marriage counselors, etc., could make an important contribution in the direction of putting out some of the many conflagrations now besetting this sorry world.

Except for one thing.

Any American who tried to do so would be engaging in this task with one hand, not to say two, tied behind his back. This is because the clear, obvious, and just (partial) solution to most if not all of the problems of humanity is secession, and this country has a history of repudiating just that sort of occurrence. Nor have we as a society apologized for this moral outrage. Instead, Abraham Lincoln is still seen by most as a sort of secular saint. With the exception of Tom DiLorenzo, Jeff Hummel, David Gordon, Clyde Wilson — and just a very few others — our historians, political scientists, and other intellectuals are still defending the actions of the monster Lincoln. Consider a few examples indicating how such a stance would undermine any efforts at being honest brokers in curing the trouble spots of the earth.

1. Chechnya

Russia is in the midst of fighting a bloody war with this group of individuals, and has been for almost a decade. Tens of thousands of people have been killed. One of them might have invented the cure for cancer.

Is there any reason why the Chechens cannot be allowed to go their separate way? To deny this is especially problematic in view of the fact that some dozens of other former jurisdictions of the former Soviet Union have already been allowed to set up separate countries. What is the relevant difference between Chechnya, on the one hand, and Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikstan, to say nothing of East Germany, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Croatia, Albania, Poland, Romania, Armenia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Serbia, on the other, such that the latter should be allowed to secede and not the former?

One would be hard put to offer any justification for this different treatment. And yet, so deeply embedded is the notion that every country is perfectly constituted, just as it is, at any given time, that maniacal opposition to the departure of this little sliver of land has caused the needless death of thousands of precious human beings.

But could an American advocate the secession of Chechnya? Such a position would be undercut due to our own history with regard to the similar demand on the part of the Confederacy, which was squelched.

2. Kashmir

India and Pakistan have been at each other’s throats for decades over the fate of Kashmir. They have already fought three inconclusive wars to settle this issue. Thousands of precious human beings have perished in these skirmishes. One of them might have composed a symphony, the equal of any of Mozart’s. If a nuclear war between these two powers comes about as a result of this dispute, the estimates are that 12 million more will be murdered.

When England left this troubled subcontinent in 1947 the plan that was taken up was that the majority Hindu areas would go to India, and that similarly populated Muslim regions would be amalgamated into Pakistan. As a recipe for peace based on vast and in many cases forced migration, what can be said in behalf of this plan is that there were probably worse alternatives.

But Kashmir was ruled by a Hindu prince. He decided to “give” it to India, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of residents were Muslim. Pakistan has been trying, ever since, to incorporate this territory on the grounds that it is the rightful owner, and India has been struggling, with equal fervor, to uphold the doctrine that no political separation may ever take place, for any reason.

Now the obvious and just solution is to allow the Kashmiris to secede from India. Then, it could either join Pakistan, or remain as a separate political entity, along the Bangladesh model. But would such a course of action be recommended by any American with a straight face? To ask this question is to answer it.

3. Palestine

Jews and Arabs have been slaughtering each other for years in this troubled part of the world. One of these dead, conceivably, might have invented a travel machine or technique that could have allowed us to explore and colonize not only additional planets in this solar system, but in other galaxies as well.

One simple answer to this firestorm is a geographical and political separation of these two peoples. (This would not entirely solve the crisis; there would still remain the issue of which pieces of land would be controlled by which countries, an issue outside our present focus. But such partition would at least be a step in the right direction.)

However, no American, not even a private citizen, could recommend any such plan with clean hands while the Confederate states are still held by the U.S. Colossus. First we have to set straight our own house, before any of us can recommend separation to other jurisdictions, without fear of the justified charge of hypocrisy.

How far should secession go for the libertarian? To ask this is to ask: What is the optimal number of countries in the world? The bottom line answer is, one for each person, or six billion different nations. In the just society, we are each sovereign individuals.

The reigning ideology, of course, makes no such course of action practicable in the present day. But this principle still illuminates the issue, however politically infeasible. It at least establishes a presumption in world affairs: whenever a minority wishes to secede from a majority, they should be allowed to do so. Other things equal, the more countries the better. But more. Minorities should be encouraged to break into smaller political entities, if only this will bring us closer to the libertarian ideal number of countries. Further, voluntary separation is part and parcel of freedom of association. The extent to which a person is not free to associate with others of his choosing is the extent to which is he not free but rather a slave.

This principle has no logical, coherent, or ethical stopping point (short, of course, of the libertarian ultimate goal of one person per nation). That is, the seceding country may be, in turn, seceded from. If it is just for the Confederate States to leave the U.S., then it is equally licit for, say, Louisiana to depart from the Confederacy. And if this is legitimate, then it is also proper for Shreveport, for example, to get out from under the control of the Cajun State.

Applied to the Middle East, the result might well be a political archipelago, along the lines of a country comprised of parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, or what is now Pakistan plus Bangladesh, but if this is the will of the people, down to the neighborhood, or, even to the individual level, well then so be it, at least if we want to cleave to any notion of morality. Certainly, it should be applied to Ireland, to Quebec, to Somalia, and even to the suburbs of the city of Los Angeles.

Secession will not cure all the world’s ills, but it will bring us a step closer to this goal. When and if the U.S. ceases to imprison the Confederacy, we will be in a far better position to bring about world peace; or, at least, to help put out many local conflagrations.

* * *

Published June 20, 2002.



A. Microeconomics

Chapter 7

Market vs. State: It Is the Overriding Distinction in Economics and Politics

Just as an important difference in everyday life is that between a bathroom and a kitchen, so, too, does a crucial distinction in political-economic philosophy exist between government and private contractual arrangements. But here is where the analogy breaks down. There are other, even more important insights to be garnered in ordinary living than that between these two rooms (e.g., don’t eat poison, feed yourself, take care of babies); there is simply no more important delineation in libertarian theory than that which exists between coercion (the government) and voluntary cooperation (the market).

Yet, such is the parlous nature of our discipline that there are even people parading themselves around as libertarians who are unaware of this distinction. Worse, there are those who write articles in professional journals, and even books, which are dedicated in their entirety to the obliteration of the difference between the state and private market interaction.

They are not without an argument, paltry as it is. Exhibit “A” in their arsenal is the condominium agreement. These “libertarians” wax eloquent about the severity and comprehensiveness of such housing developments. For example, they typically require that all exteriors be painted in the same color; that fences be identical (e.g., everyone must have, say, a picket fence); that there be no window air conditioning units. Some even go so far as to stipulate the color of curtains that can be seen from outside, and either compel, or prohibit, such things as floor rugs, Venetian blinds, screen doors, types of foot mats and whether automobiles must, or cannot be, parked in garages. Some prohibit children entirely; others specify minimum ages for residents (e.g., 60 years old for retirement communities). And legion are the rules and regulations concerning noise at which hours, parties, where tricycles can be stored, etc. Compared even to some villages and small towns, the mandates of these private communities can be intrusive, comprehensive, and oft-times arbitrary.

Then, too, there is the fact that both kinds of organizations are typically run on fully democratic principles. And not only that: there is a sense in which, in both cases, it can truly be said that people agree to take part in the elections in the first place.

In the case of cooperative housing, this is easy to see. All members of the development sign a purchase contract, indicating willingness to be bound by the condo constitution and by a formula (majority, super majority, whatever) for altering its terms.

For towns, no one, of course, signs the constitution. (If you don’t believe this, go back and read Spooner’s No Treason.) However, argue these “libertarians,” by moving into a village the newcomer knows full well the rules of the political entity, or can easily learn them: no spitting on the street, the zoning specifications, speed limits, etc. And, in virtually all cases, town regulations are far less all encompassing than those of condominiums. True, concludes this argument, the city government garners “taxes” while the condo collects membership “fees,” but this is a distinction without a difference.

The first chink in this seemingly airtight case can be seen when we examine the position not of the new arrival in town, but rather that of a landowner who was located there before the town was incorporated; or, alternatively, when we look at the plight of the homeowner living just outside the village limits, when it expands to take into its jurisdiction people such as himself living in contiguous but previously unincorporated areas. (We consider the second of these cases not the first, since there are now far more individuals alive who have experienced the latter, not the former.)

So the mayor comes to this homeowner and says to him, “I’ve got good news for you, Zeke. You’re now part of the town. We’ll collect your garbage for you, we’ll provide city water and sewage services, policing, fire protection, membership in the library; heck, we’ve even got a municipal swimming pool. You’ll have to pay for welfare for the poor, too, of course, but you’ve always helped your down at their luck neighbors before, so that shouldn’t be any burden on you.”

Replies Zeke: “That really sounds wonderful. We’re really getting modern around her, aren’t we, Clem? But I tell you what. I’m going to take a pass on this wonderful opportunity. I see no reason for change. Thanks, but no thanks.”

Whereupon responds Mayor Clem: “I don’t think I’ve fully made my position clear. This really isn’t your choice. We took a vote on this, and your side lost. You’re in, whether you like it or not.”

At this point states Zeke: “Hitler came to power through an election. So don’t tell me about the ballot box. However, I’ll give you one thing, Clem. At least you don’t add insult to injury. At least you don’t compound naked aggression with outright lying, Clem, like those so called ‘libertarians’ who see no difference between being amalgamated into a town against their will, and buying into a residential community. Your demand for my tax money was refreshingly honest, albeit a bit brutal, for a person I used to think of as a good neighbor.”

So much for the first chink in the armor, the case where the property owner is forcibly incorporated into the town. There is indeed a relevant difference between being compelled to be part of the village, and voluntarily joining the condo.

But what about the stronger case for the “libertarian” side of this argument, the one where a new arrival moves into town, buys a house, etc., knowing full well what rules and taxes he will be bound by? Is it not true that at least in this case, the municipal government is indistinguishable from the strata council that runs the condominium?

Not at all. Consider the following case. I buy a home in a dangerous neighborhood, say, the South Bronx. I know full well that the crime rate there is high, and that I will be especially targeted, given the color of my skin. Perhaps I make this economic decision because of the cheaper real estate, or because I want to be closer to “the people,” the better to study their situation and help eradicate poverty. In any case, as soon as I move in, I am confronted by a street thug with a knife who says to me:

“Give me your wallet, you white mother f-----, or I’ll cut you, man.”

Whereupon I pull out my gun and say to the criminal: “My good man, you are overmatched, firepower wise. Cease and desist from your evil ways, and go about your legitimate business, if you have any.”

This street person, who, unbeknownst to me, is actually a bit of a philosopher, expounds as follows: “You don’t seem to understand. I’m one of those ‘libertarians’ who maintain that since you moved to the South Bronx with the full knowledge you would very likely be subjected to muggings of the sort I’m now pulling (or at least trying pull; I’ve never met a less cooperative victim than you; what’s this world coming to?), you in effect have agreed to be mugged by robbers like me. So, get with the program, man.

The point is, as we can readily see, the ability to foresee an event is not at all equivalent to agreeing to it. Yes, I can full well predict that if I move to the South Bronx, I’ll likely be victimized by street crime. But this is not at all the same thing as acquiescing in such nefarious activities. Yet, according to the “libertarian” argument we are considering, the two are indistinguishable.

Similarly, the individual who locates in a city with taxes, zoning, etc., can be expected to know he will be subjected to these depredations, just like everyone else there. But this is more than a country mile away from his having agreed to be coerced by these evil doers. The new arrival in town no more gives permission for the tax collector to mulct funds from him than does the newcomer to the South Bronx give permission to the mugger to violate his rights.

In very stark contrast indeed, the purchaser of a unit in a housing development not only foresees he will be subjected to a monthly membership payment, and to a welter of restrictions as to what he can do with his property, but actually consents to pay the former and be bound by the latter. The proof of this is that he signs a bill of sale, stipulating all of the above. In the town-citizen case, there is no such written contract.

It is no exaggeration to say that the most important distinction in all of libertarian theory is that between coercion and non-coercion. Obliterate this divergence and there is nothing left to libertarianism at all. This is so important, it bears repeating: libertarianism consists of nothing more than the implications of this one single solitary distinction. Without it, there is absolutely no theory.

* * *

Published July 19, 2002.

Chapter 8

What Do Boxing and Business Schools Have in Common?: The Problem of Ratings

It is one thing for pinkos, commies, demopublicans, republicrats, lefties, neo-cons, etc., to denigrate this distinction. That is, indeed, entirely fitting and proper. If they didn’t do this, they could hardly be characterized as I have just done. However, it is quite another thing for “libertarians” to make this mistake. They ought to give up this pernicious doctrine, or at least have the decency to stop characterizing themselves as libertarians. Everyone knows that the rating of pugilists by the various boxing authorities is, how shall we say this, highly problematic.

There are four main boxing associations: the International Boxing Federation (IBF), the World Boxing Association (WBA), the World Boxing Council (WBC) and the World Boxing Organization (WBO). This, alone, seemingly, would be bad enough; the fact that there are numerous other institutional ratings agencies — the International Boxing Association, the International Boxing Council, the International Boxing Organization, the International Boxing Union, the World Boxing Federation, the World Boxing Union, and FightNews — renders matters utterly chaotic.

But one does not have to resort to these others to show the depths of depravity to which ratings have sunk. The “Big Four” will do fine in this regard, thank you very much.

Consider the following (as of September 5, 2001):

• Mike Tyson is rated first contender by the WBC, 5th by the IBF, 6th by the WBA, and not at all by the WBO.

• Hasim Rahman is the WBC and IBF champ, but does not appear in the top ten of the WBA and WBO.

• The only heavyweights listed as elite in all four rankings are Vitali Klitschko, Lennox Lewis, and David Tua.

• As far as the WBC, WBA, and IBF are concerned, Roy Jones is the best light heavyweight; he is not included in the WBO top ten.

• Bernard Hopkins (WBC, IBF) and Felix Trinidad (WBA) are middleweight champions; but neither is listed even as an also ran by the WBO.

• Only Hector Camacho and Oktay Urkal make the top ten cut for all four Super Lightweights.

• Floyd Mayweather (WBC), Joel Casamayor (WBA), Steve Forbes (IBF), and Acelino Freitas (WBO) all have super featherweight championship belts; but none is so much as mentioned by any of the other three.

• Only Naseem Hamed is a top ten featherweight for all four boxing organizations; Julio Chacon (WBO), Frankie Toledo (IBF), Derrick Gainer (WBA) and Erik Morales (WBC) are champs, but none are included as contenders by any of the other big four.

Ok. So the fight game has always been not just a little bit unsavory. But what are we to make of a similar situation with regard to, of all things, graduate schools of business?

There are three widely respected periodicals which rate business schools by ranking them in terms of quality. They are the Wall Street Journal, Business Week magazine, and U.S. News & World Report. Despite the undoubted prestige of these three, sharp criticisms have been leveled at their treatment of the leading colleges of business.

For example, while Dartmouth College was ranked number one by the Wall Street Journal, it garnered only eleventh place as far as U.S. News & World Report was concerned, and slipped to sixteenth position in Business Week’s compilation.

If these widely disparate ranks for one institution of higher learning were not enough to cast doubt upon the veracity of the ratings, consider the following: the business schools of only Harvard, Chicago, Northwestern, and Michigan made top ten on the hit parade of all three magazines. None of the other preeminent places, not Stanford, not Yale, not the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, were posted in this category by all three sets of journalists.

Worse, not a one of these supposedly objective newspapers placed my own school, the Joseph A. Butt, S.J., College of Business at Loyola University New Orleans, in any of their top ten places.

However, something deeper than mere sleaze would appear to account for these obvious errors. The rankings disparity, as can be seen, is by no means limited to the “sweet science.” Further, Consumer Reports does not always agree with Good Housekeeping, and the two of them are often out of step with yet other ratings agencies.

The reason for all the diversity stems, ultimately, from the fact that ranking services are a private, for-profit industry. There is competition between firms, and differences of opinion almost necessarily arise in such contexts.

Some people call for the government to intervene in such circumstances, to rationalize matters, to bring order out of the chaos.

But this would be a step in precisely the wrong direction.

Competition always brings a better product than public sector socialism. Yes, things can get messy there, but that is the continually churning market for you. Governments, too, make mistakes (think thalidomide!). We get more and better information from a myriad of sources, than from one monopoly state enterprise.

If you think we should have only one boxing organization under state control, do you think there should be only one governmental magazine rating MBA programs? Such periodicals disagree with one another not just on business college prestige, but with regard to many other things as well. If mere divergence of opinion warranted public sector control, the road to socialism would be greased even the more.

* * *

Published September 27, 2001.

Chapter 9

The Motor Vehicle Bureau; Confronting It

Newly arrived in New Orleans from Arkansas, one of the first things I did after settling in was to attempt to register my automobile and get a Louisiana license plate (I can’t pass for a native with an out of town vehicle.)

I say “attempt” advisedly, because this quest, as it turned out, was quite a struggle.

On my first try, I went out to the Louisiana Motor Vehicle Bureau in Kenner, a 25-minute trip from my university. I saw a line of about 35 people, and took my place at the end of it. After 20 minutes, only two people had been served. This implied a wait of 330 minutes, or five and a half hours. Not having brought any work to do with me, I scurried back to my office, tail between my legs.

The next day I arrived with sandwiches and a book to read. There were only 20 people ahead of me. Hot diggity, I thought, this would take “only” 200 minutes at yesterday’s pace, or a little over 3 hours.

Happily, we were queued up in “snake” formation, instead of the more usual system — popular for public sector “services” — of a group of people waiting, separately, for each clerk. At least I didn’t have to worry about being at the slowest moving wicket.

But, did you ever stand around, trying to read a book, cheek by jowl with almost two dozen people, confined, sardine-like, to a space of about 10 feet by 10 feet? It was no picnic for me, and I’m a relatively young pup of only six decades; there were also some really old people on that line. This was cruel and unusual punishment for them.

Why couldn’t they give us numbers in order of arrival, and let us sit while we waited? For that matter, why does serving each “customer” take so long? And, if it really does, why not hire a few more clerks, or more efficient ones? Better yet, why not simplify the process? Are the opportunity costs of time of New Orleanians really that close to zero? Are we cattle? If they treated prisoners as badly as that, they would riot.

But the real problem is not with any of these considerations. It is, rather, that there is simply no competition for the provision of licensing and registry services. If there were an alternative (or two) available, I and at least several of my queue-mates would have patronized a competitor with alacrity.

The difficulty is, we have embraced the old Soviet system of economics in our so-called “public” sector. In the bad old U.S.S.R., there were long waiting lines for just about everything. In the land of the free and the home of the brave, we have sovietized such things as the motor vehicle bureau, the post office, and a myriad of other government bureaucracies.

It is time, it is long past time, to privatize these last vestiges of socialism, and allow the winds of free enterprise to blow away these cob-webs of inefficiency. The reason we have reasonably good pizza, toilet paper, and shoes, etc., — and don’t have to wait hours for them — is because there is competition in these industries. Those entrepreneurs who cannot cut it are forced to change the error of their ways through our marvelous profit and loss system. If they cannot, they are forced into bankruptcy, and others, more able, are eager to take their places. Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” assures quality service wherever competition reigns.

In the event, my second wait took only an hour and 45 minutes. The queue moved faster than I had thought it would. I was “lucky.” (Furious, I wrote this op-ed while waiting in line.) I am now the proud owner of a spanking new Louisiana license plate.

* * *

Published September 12, 2001.

Chapter 10

Want To Help the Poor and Oppressed? Encourage Laissez-Faire Capitalism, You Bleeding-Heart Liberal, You

Open Letter to the International Justice Mission

Dear Mr. Haugen:

I attended your speech at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada; I wanted to comment at that time, but the Q&A period was too limited. So I thought I would share my thoughts with you in this format.

If I had to summarize your speech, it was that callous acts are taking place on a massive scale all throughout the world at present, and it is the duty of Christians to try to stop these outrages. In order to do so, religious people should give up their self-centeredness, and increase their rate of charitable donations (both in terms of money and time) toward these ends.

According to Adam Smith, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.”

What I get from this is not that benevolence does not exist within the human breast. Rather, that it is in very scarce supply. Which means that rational men will want to economize on this rare and precious flower, instead of advocating that it be used promiscuously; realizing it will always be in short supply, instead of thinking it can be radically expanded.

And, there are good and sufficient sociobiological reasons why this should be so. Why we as a species are “hard wired” in this direction. If there were a tribe of cave men who were not primarily interested in number one, virtually to the exclusion of everyone else, they would have long ago died off. Better yet, if this theoretical tribe focused their limited benevolence widely, instead of narrowly, to their family members, friends, and neighbors, they would have gone extinct. We are descended from folk like those; that is why we are the way we are, in the main. Yes, there are some very few exceptions, but they only prove the general rule. We are focused on our narrow little lives, because this was required by our ancestors, as a matter of survival.

I entirely agree with your goals: to reduce or better yet eliminate the massive viciousness that now plagues us, such as the mass murder, slavery, etc., you mentioned so eloquently. But your means toward this end, increasing the level of benevolence in society, and widening its focus, I think are doomed to failure based on these considerations.

You may not have noticed, but all the countries you mentioned as examples of brutality were underdeveloped or retrogressing ones (you called them “developing countries” but that is just a bit of misleading political correctitude you might consider jettisoning). This leads to an alternative means toward eradicating the cruelty: economic development. Happily, Adam Smith again rides to the rescue. The full title of his most famous book is An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. His recipe for economic development was, in a nutshell, with some slight reservations: laissez faire capitalism. Murray N. Rothbard, my own mentor, goes much further, and criticizes Adam Smith himself for deviating too widely from this proper goal of full economic freedom in The Logic of Action: Applications and Criticism from the Austrian School.

The idea was that government which governs least governs best. Some of my research empirically supports the contention that economic freedom leads to prosperity and appears in Economic Freedom of the World, 1975–1995 (with James Gwartney and Robert Lawson). Given that greater wealth reduces man’s inhumanity to man, this is a course of action that should not be overlooked by you and your organization.

It is my contention that if your claim is true that to be a good Christian one must make an effort to stop the massive evils you mentioned, then it is no less true that it is also incumbent upon you to learn why some nations are rich while others are desperately poor. An aphorism might come in handy, here: “Don’t fight the alligators, drain the swamp.” You are fighting alligators; attempting to rescue little Marie or David or Jose. This is all well and good. I salute you for this. Someone has got to do this, as these injustices cry out to the heavens for redress. And, there is such a thing as specialization and the division of labor. But I think you should recognize that there is another and, yes, a better and more all-encompassing means toward this end: economic development based on free enterprise.

I emphasize this not so much because of what you said in your formal lecture, which ignored the points I am making, but based on your answer to the very last question asked of you. It was posed by a young lad who I took to be a Regent College seminary student, since his remarks were based on the usual Marxist claptrap taught in such establishments of higher learning. He asked if you were not concerned with systemic problems such as the “economic violence” based on unequal income distribution. (I don’t remember this verbatim, but this was the essence of his stance.) His implication was that western countries ought to increase their level of foreign aid to underdeveloped nations. But this is economic illiteracy of the highest order, as the work of Peter Bauer has stressed over and over again. Instead of verbally slapping down this young man as he richly deserved, you bought into his basic premises, but excused yourself from acting on his principles, properly I thought, on the grounds of the need for specialization and the division of labor. But his socialist premises were wrong, and if implemented, will increase not decrease, the level of brutality in these poor countries.

Now, I admit that there are also good and sufficient sociobiological reasons why free markets are not now the order of the day. If free markets were the normal, we would all be living in a laissez faire paradise. (It is my contention that in the caveman days, we became altogether too hard wired into following the orders of the tribal chief. Also, since we lived in very small communities compared to the present day, only direct cooperation seeped into the genetic pool. Cooperating indirectly, through gigantic markets, has come far too late in the history of our species to have been incorporated into our genes.) But this is no reason for intellectuals such as yourself to accept the siren song of socialism.

The rich western countries do not really need capitalism that much; this system in the past has set up the capital, and the legal system, to ensure relative wealth, and thus little internal mass murder. It is the poor nations in Africa and elsewhere that are in the greatest need of free enterprise. Thanks to their enjoyment of relative economic freedom for many years, the capitalist west can now afford a modicum of pernicious socialism. In contrast, free enterprise being virtually unknown in the third world, socialist egalitarianism is the death knell of their economy.

In closing, one last criticism of your presentation: lose that film clip showing a child buyer being tied up by the police. You may not have noticed it, but it also showed a television set in the background. This implies electricity, and a certain minimal level of prosperity — all totally incompatible with your story of people selling their kids motivated by dire poverty.

I hope you take these remarks in the spirit I mean them: as an attempt to help you with your very good works.

Mr. Gary Haugen did not see fit to respond to this open letter.

* * *

Published July 21, 2004.

Chapter 11

Want To Cure Poverty? Get the Government Out of the Market

Louisiana Governor Blanco is now holding hearings on the problem of poverty. Since she is a mainstream politician, she will likely arrive at the wrong answers for its cause and adopt fascistic solutions for its cure. Worse, this initiative will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars or more and thus exacerbate the very poverty she is supposedly fighting.

In 1776 Adam Smith wrote An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. The governor might do worse than cancel her meetings and read this book instead. Smith said that those countries that rely mainly on the free enterprise system of private property rights and the rule of law prosper, while those that do not are consigned to a life of grinding poverty.

Smith, who was not as free enterprise-oriented as his reputation implies, hedged on this basic insight with too many exceptions and too many concessions to government, but the general rule he articulated was as true in the eighteenth century as it is in our own and applies as much to countries as to states and cities.

Why do markets work to alleviate poverty and governments fail?

The main reason is the profit and loss system, the automatic feedback loop mechanism of free enterprise. If an entrepreneur does a bad job, people avoid his firm. If he does not mend the error of his ways, bankruptcy is the inevitable and usually swift result. In sharp contrast, if a politician makes mistakes in satisfying a constituency, he can stay in office for up to four years; a bureaucrat, practically forever.

The situation regarding pizza, pens, and pickles is pretty satisfactory; those who could not provide these goods at a competitive quality and price went broke. But what of the post office and the motor vehicle bureau? Poor service for decades, and nothing we consumers can do about it.

Why do free markets tend toward income equality? The only legitimate way to earn vast sums of money under free enterprise is by enriching others. Yes, Bill Gates, Sam Walton, Henry Ford and Ray Kroc make billions, but they do so by economically uplifting all those they deal with. If people did not benefit from dealing with Microsoft, Wal-Mart, Ford, and McDonalds, they would not continue to do so.

In contrast, in politics, vast fortunes are made not by attracting customers but by raising taxes and siphoning off the lion’s share of them. The wealth of the politician rises, and that of everyone else falls.

But do governments not give money to the poor in the form of welfare? Doesn’t that help the poor? First, only the crumbs go to the poor. The rich, after all, run the government. It would take quite a bit more benevolence than they have for them to orchestrate things against their own interests.

Second, what little money does go to the poor impoverishes them; it does not lift them out of poverty. The key to understanding the direction of causation in this paradoxical situation is the family: Anything that supports this vital institution reduces poverty; anything that undermines it increases poverty.

Family breakdown is causally related to all sorts of poverty indices besides lack of money: imprisonment, lack of educational attainment, unemployment, lower savings, illegitimacy, etc.

And what is the effect of welfare on the family? To ask this is to answer it. As Charles Murray has shown in his insightful book Losing Ground, the social worker makes a financial offer to the pregnant girl that the father of her baby cannot even come close to matching. But they do so on the condition that this young man be out of the picture. A recipe for family disaster if ever there was one.

Slavery was not able to ruin the black family (poverty is disproportionately a black problem), but insidious welfare had that very effect. The black family was just about as strong as the white in the years following the War of Northern Aggression, but fell apart after Johnson’s War on Poverty.

Similarly, social security weakens intergenerational family ties. Public housing, with its income cutoff points, evicts intact families. The remaining female heads of families are no match for gangs of teenage boys lacking adult male role models.

The government is also a direct source of poverty. Its minimum wage and union legislation makes it difficult if not impossible for poor youth to get jobs. Its rent control makes cheap housing scarce. Its tariffs make all basic necessities more expensive, and its subsidies to business have the same effect.

Want to cure poverty, Governor Blanco? Reduce government interference with the free enterprise system.

* * *

Published February 23, 2005.

Chapter 12

Airport Insecurity

Last week, I took an airplane from Vancouver to Atlanta, to give some lectures at the Mises Institute. I took a cab to the airport, since I would be away from my summer home for over two weeks, and this would be cheaper than parking the car at the airport for all that time. I had in my possession a letter, with a Canadian stamp on it, that I really wanted to get out into the socialist mail system. I had intended to mail it the day before, but in the rush of traveling, I had forgotten all about it, until I arrived at the airport.

Happily, there was a post office box right there at the airport, and I dropped the letter into it. But, then a thought occurred to me: this facility was one of those where you pull down a little door like contraption, put the letter in, close the door to make sure the letter was indeed posted, and then close it one last time. Although I only place in it a thin letter the opening was wide enough to mail off a package of a size sufficient to hold 3–4 hard cover books, or maybe a half dozen paper backs. Whereupon it suddenly hit me, far more disquieting: the opening was sufficient, more than sufficient, for a terrorist to place a bomb, a reasonably big one, into that container. He would not have even had to commit suicide to do so. A weight of explosives small enough to fit into that opening could have done a powerful lot of damage, murdering dozens if not scores of people in a crowded airport. Timed to explode ten minutes later, the perpetrator could have gotten off scot free.

Then, I noticed something else. Although I had to ask directions for the location of the post office box, the same was not true for trash cans. They were literally all over the place, in plain sight, dozens of them placed every 20 yards or so, as far as the eye could see. Each of them, in this particular airport, had a circular hole at the top, measuring more than my hand span (about 8 inches). These were in effect an open invitation to our friends from the terrorist community.

I thought about sharing this information with any one of the myriad of guards, busy bodies, uniformed gropers, policemen, checkers, x-ray people, who infest a modern airport. I did not do so for several reasons. One, although I had plenty of time before my scheduled departure (one of the “conveniences” of modern air travel is that you have to waste an inordinate amount of time arriving early), I anticipated the reaction of any of these worthies to whom I might confide my apprehension about post office boxes and waste receptacles, along the following lines: “Come with us, please.” Whereupon I would have been detained for hours at best, and days in jail at worst, for intensive questioning. “What business are you in?” “Have you ever published or said anything critical of the government?” (“Me? Certainly not,” might not have been able to withstand even the most cursory of scrutiny in such circumstances.) “Why are you so concerned about bombing?” “Are you a terrorist?” “Do you know anyone from Iraq?” “Do you profess the Muslim faith?”

As I say, speaking up in this public-spirited way would have made me miss the plane, or worse. Instead, I started writing up this column in the airport, while awaiting my departure. Paranoid that I am, I am now keeping my eyes peeled for shifty looking characters putting packages in waste cans (there being no post office boxes in sight, I’m not worried about them). I’m also worried about minions of the state. I am also busily looking over my shoulder as I write, making sure no one is looking at what I write, attempting to decipher my handwriting (I write by hand in airports and later type up what I have written).

But here I’m relatively safe. I can barely read my own handwriting. Then, too, there is something off-putting to me about aiding and abetting these inept airport guardians of ours. They are agents of an institution Spooner has called “a band of murderers and thieves.”

While I have no doubt that were I to see one of them drowning I would toss him a life raft (heck, I am an excellent swimmer with life guard training, I would probably jump in to save him even at some risk to my own life), I would do so only out of appreciation of our common humanity. I would do so despite his role as an agent of the state apparatus. Here, did I but make any suggestion to the police about postal boxes and trash cans being an invitation to terrorists, I would have been helping them in precisely this role. As I say, off-putting.

Why are these morons so stupid? Why do our “protectors” pat us down and search for, of all things, nail clippers? Why do they adopt the identical procedures at every airport? Do they not realize that this makes it easier for the bad guys? Why do they act so as to make it prudent for us to get to the airport two hours before a flight, wasting zillions of man-hours? Why don’t they focus their attention on young men of Arabic appearance, who have been responsible for a very high proportion of all such incidents?

This is surely due to a combination of political correctness run amuck, and to monopoly operation. As to the former, I once in a beknighted mood thought it would disappear under the pressure of life and death situations. Not so, not so. The evil Red Cross accepted blood donations from homosexuals without testing them for fear of offending them, and thereby infected with the AIDS virus hundreds of hapless and trusting hemophiliacs. And now, the forces of political correctness would rather see innocents blown to smithereens rather than engage in eminently justified racial (sexual, and age) profiling.

As it happens, however, looking askance at young male Arabs in airports and other such sensitive places is no such thing. It is, rather, criminal profiling. It would only be racial profiling if inspectors subjected to heightened security, say, Arab grandmothers, who have not at all been linked to terrorist acts. Why do airport security guards target young attractive women? (Okay, okay, we all know the answer to that one.)

The other element is lack of competition. Why is this so important? Well, there are imbeciles, also, in the private sector of the economy. Grocers who don’t wash their floors. Filling stations located on cul-de-sacs. Restaurants whose chefs can’t cook their way out of a paper bag. But what happens with such ineptitude? The market’s system of profit and loss, or weeding-out firms that cannot cut the mustard, is the difference between the two very, very different sectors of the economy.

Idiocy in the private sector exists, but it is continually being pared away. No such fail-safe mechanism underlies and supports government enterprise. Imagine if safety protection at airports were run under the free market sector, and one firm, the ACME agency, paid great attention to nail clippers and black grandmothers, but ignored garbage cans and Arab males of a certain age. There is a name for such companies, and the name is “bankrupt.” They would be eliminated, forthwith, through the competitive process.

It does not matter that our homeland security people wear uniforms. Or must pass civil service types of exams, where they answer theoretical questions theoretically. Or are forced to attend training sessions, where they see films of past events. There is simply no automatic mechanism that continuously improves quality, as occurs every day in the market place. We do not owe our reasonably good pizzas, shoes, and bicycles to geniuses. Rather, to this weeding-out system.

The people supposedly protecting us from terrorists at airports are cut from the same cloth as those who run the motor vehicle bureaus, the post office, and the alphabet soup regulatory agencies. Try reasoning with the denizens of these organizations.

I do not say that nothing will ever be done about potential dangers posed by the receptacles at airports. Even without a market system, common sense may yet prevail. But don’t hold your breath.

Maybe I should shut up about this entire topic. Maybe I should not be raising this particular safety issue, lest the terrorists add this new technique to their repertoire. After all, I am a member of the air-traveling public, and I have many loved ones who are, too. I thought about that. But, I believe that the terrorists are smarter than the air safety bureaucrats. If I publicize this potential danger in the manner I am now doing, maybe this threat will become officially recognized, anticipated, and dealt with: no receptacles of this type in airports any more. Or, maybe fully transparent ones.

On the other hand, if I keep silent about it, the murderers of innocents will undoubtedly adopt it. But in publicizing the matter, am I not violating my own principles, or, at least, my revulsion at supporting the government? No, I am not. There is all the world of difference between public speaking, or writing in a format such as the present one, knowing full well that agents of the state can access such information and analysis, on the one hand, and, on the other, helping them directly, for example by mentioning this concern to one of their ilk at an airport, or directly consulting with them on such a matter, whether for pay or not.

Take an analogy. In the next year or so, a book of mine on privatizing highways will be published. In it I state that a competitive system for roadways would likely engage in peak load pricing that would radically decrease traffic congestion, and would institute a number of safety devices which would greatly reduce highway fatalities. Will the authorities read this book and implement some of these suggestions? Possibly. This will not stop me from publication. But was I actually to consult with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as does an otherwise libertarian Reason Foundation, then I would, in my own opinion, be acting inconsistently with this philosophy.

I take that back. Did my “consulting” with them consist of no more than telling them to disband, and privatize all roads, streets, highways, etc., then that would be entirely compatible with the libertarian philosophy.

The other day I received a telephone phone call from the State Department of the U.S. They wanted to consult with me about how best to improve the Iraqi economy. I mentioned a consulting fee of $400 per hour, and not an eyelash was batted. Then, I said that I would consult with them only on the topic of the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. personnel from that country, since I opposed their incursion. The spokesman’s response was to politely hang up. But suppose he had persisted. Would I have acted improperly as a consultant? I think not, as long as I advocated nothing incompatible with libertarianism.

* * *

Published April 1, 2005.

B. Macroeconomics

Chapter 13

Keep the Penny, Toss the Fed: On the Criminals Who Killed This Once-Useful Coin

For some people, benighted souls, the passing of the copper-colored penny coin is long overdue. “Good riddance to bad rubbish,” they might say. After all, this bit of metal hardly buys anything, nowadays. Ubiquitous on the counters of shops around the country are cups holding pennies, there for the use of customers in order to help them make change. But a coin given away for free, these people might argue, can hardly be counted upon to conduct the nation’s business. To a great extent pennies just weigh down pockets and pocketbooks, and the sooner they are gone, the fewer tailor bills and pocketbook repair costs will be required.

There is no doubt that these people are correct. Using the penny to conduct today’s business is like a car with a rumble seat (don’t know what that is youngster? go look it up) or riding around in a horse and buggy. Strictly of antiquarian interest.

And yet, and yet …

’Twas not so long ago that the penny could pull its full financial weight. When I was a youngster in the 1940s, no one dared condescend to this coin. For a very few of them, one could purchase an ice cream cone, a comic book, a candy bar, or even a ticket to a matinee movie. Some restaurants featured menus from the early days of the turn of the last century (for those who have been Rip Van Winkling it for the last few years, I’m referring to 1899) when a penny was a robust coin indeed. A corporal’s guard of them would entitle someone to pretty much an entire meal.

What has happened? Why is it that the penny, to say nothing of the nickel, dime, quarter, 50 cent piece, and even, truth be told, the dollar (which will soon follow into oblivion), don’t seem to amount to very much in terms of purchasing power? In a word, it is all due to inflation. And who, in turn, is responsible for this reprehensible state of affairs? It is the government, specifically the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve System (since 1913), which have together conspired against the public interest. They have done so in effect by creating more money, at a faster rate of increase than that enjoyed by the goods and services we create. Too much money chasing too few products yields higher prices, the opposite side of the coin (excuse the pun) of inflation.

There used to be a TV series featuring the “T” men. Every week they would walk down a set of stairs, and attempt to bring to justice the counterfeiters who were responsible for inflating the currency. Had there been better (well, more accurate writers) they would have turned around, marched back up those steps, and arrested their bosses.

For before the advent of statist money, when people were free to choose the means to intermediate their financial affairs, they had typically resorted to gold (sometimes silver). There has been no inflation at all in terms of gold. Centuries ago one could purchase an expensive suit of clothes for an ounce or two of this metal, and the same applies today.

The only reason governments horned in on this essentially free enterprise industry was to disguise their insatiable, greedy, and excessive demands for our money. They have only three ways of raising funds: taxes, borrowing, and inflating the currency. But they are widely and properly reviled when they resort to the first two to excess. The third alternative is embraced by them because the causes of inflation are so well hidden from the public that the blame for it can be readily placed on businessmen and workers.

Yes, the penny is now obsolete. But rather than getting rid of it, we should instead throw out those rascals in Washington who have so debased it. Then we should return to the gold standard (three decades ago the evil Nixon tore asunder our last ties to this system), and once again allow the penny to take its rightful place as the conductor of small scale — but important — commerce. Don’t throw out this coin! Toss out Alan Greenspan and his Fed instead.

* * *

Published August 29, 2001.

Chapter 14

Private Enterprise and the Fed; What Should Be the Relationship?

Several years ago I attended a meeting of the Association of Private Enterprise Educators (APEE).[1] This group was initially started by a group of holders of free enterprise chairs at various universities (I suppose I now qualify under that rubric) but membership had been long before open to all those academics and other scholars who favor, and work for the promotion of, free enterprise and economic freedom. (This is my own description of that group, but I doubt that any member of it would object.)

Much to my surprise, and even dismay, the high point of the program, the plenary after dinner speech, was given by a member of the Dallas Fed, who described his organization as the “free-enterprise” Fed. I also learned that this organization was one of the major financial supporters of APEE, or at least of that particular meeting.

This gave me pause for thought, to say the least. At the conclusion of his speech, skunk at the garden party style, during the question and answer period, I got up on my hind legs and declaimed that this was more than passing curious. How is it possible to reconcile participation of the Fed, any Fed, in a group ostensibly devoted to laissez faire capitalism? Would not the money supply in an economically free country consist of something chosen by market participants, for example, gold, rather than of fiat currency imposed, from above, by government of all institutions, of which the Fed was part?

I also appended to my remarks a gratuitous, or, perhaps, not so gratuitous attack on Alan Greenspan, for having known these truths during his Randian days, for still claiming free enterprise credentials, and yet continuing to preside over the Fed. In response the speaker said that Greenspan could defend himself — a reasonable enough proposition, I suppose — followed by a litany of all the great free enterprise things done by the Dallas Fed — which I thought very much beside the point.

My queries were met by stunned silence from the crowd. There were no publicly made follow up supportive questions or comments from the audience. Only one person approached me afterward, with support for my position.

In the intervening years, I have had time to reflect upon this curious situation, and hence a few thoughts.

1. The “free enterprise” of APEE as constituted in the nineties did not extend so far as to include money, macroeconomics, business cycles, etc. APEE espoused a rather narrow conception of economic liberty. Were there many members of the group who included such issues in their vision of the free marketplace, they would likely either cutoff affiliations with the Fed or at the very least have speakers advocating free enterprise in this realm. It would be unlikely in the extreme that they would highlight a Fed speaker in this manner, with no opposition on the program.

2. Is it even compatible with libertarianism for APEE to accept funds from a tainted statist agency such as the Fed? Although this will be controversial within libertarian circles, I maintain that it is.

Let us consider this under two rubrics: deontology, or strict libertarian theory on the one hand, and what might be called libertarian utilitarianism (will an act promote liberty) on the other.

Under the latter category, better that these monies go to APEE which is a pretty good organization all things considered (apart from this one lacuna), than to conduct ordinary Fed business, that is, to further debauch the currency. On the other hand, publicly accepting money from this source sends out a mixed message to the citizenry. It implies that there is nothing incompatible between laissez faire capitalism and government involvement in the money supply.

What about pure libertarian principle? Is it illegitimate to ever accept, or even to seize government property, money, or wealth? Yes, certainly, it is. Ragnar Danneskjold, a fictional character in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, did precisely this. Of course, this was only the first in a two-part act; the second of which was to return the, not stolen but rather liberated money, to its rightful owner, in this case Hank Reardon, representing for present purposes victimized taxpayers.

What about acquiring government property and not returning it to its rightful owner, either keeping it or destroying it? Yes, surely, this, too. Let us first consider keeping it, not returning it. Is such a person a thief, and therefore acting incompatibly with libertarian principles, per se? No. A robber is by definition someone who grabs property from the rightful owner.

The government in this scenario cannot possibly qualify in that regard. Rather, the position occupied by APEE in this scenario (or anyone who accepts a pay check from a statist entity such as a public university, or even from a private university which, in turn, accepts such largesse, or anyone who walks on a public street, or uses the post office) is not that of a thief, since he is by stipulation taking money or property from a wrongful owner.

* * *

Published January 10, 2003.

[1] The criticisms of APEE mentioned below concern that organization solely as it functioned in 1996–1998, the only period of my experience with them. They are entirely irrelevant to the organization as it is now constituted.

C. Environmental Economics

Chapter 15

Heroic Hunt Farms

Quick, why do you call left-wing environmentalists watermelons? Because while they are green on the outside, they are also red on the inside.

No better illustration of this political mindset can be seen in the controversy involving hunt farms in Canada. In these game ranches — now legal only in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Quebec, they have just been banned in neighboring Montana — fees are charged to customers who shoot deer, elk, and sometimes other such trophy animals.

But the watermelons are livid at the prospect. A spokesman for the International Fund for Animal Welfare is trying to ban these en