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Posts Tagged ‘Murray Rothbard’

This Is a Sign that Price Inflation Will Soon Get Worse | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on September 4, 2021

Slowly, but surely, the public began to realize: “We have been waiting for a return to the good old days and a fall of prices back to 1914. But prices have been steadily increasing. So it looks as if there will be no return to the good old days. Prices will not fall; in fact, they will probably keep going up.” As this psychology takes hold, the public’s thinking in Phase I changes into that of Phase II: “Prices will keep going up, instead of going down. Therefore, I know in my heart that prices will be higher next year.” The public’s deflationary expectations have been superseded by inflationary ones.

https://mises.org/wire/sign-price-inflation-will-soon-get-worse

Connor Mortell

Recently here on Mises Wire, Sammy Cartagena wrote a brilliant article demonstrating that Two Percent Inflation Is a Lot Worse Than You Think. In it, he demonstrates that the manageable 2 percent inflation year over year we all have gotten used to is a whole lot less manageable than we tend to think. But in it, he also cited explaining that “over 23 percent of all dollars in existence were created in 2020 alone.” From that he explains that while future inflation is important, he is focused on past inflation for the sake of his article, which is where these two articles diverge because this will be questioning future inflation. Anyone paying attention has seen that there has obviously been inflation this past year whether through price increases or more subtle ways to sneak inflation into the economy. However, when we look at the massive spending bills and the aforementioned fact that over 23% of dollars have just recently been ushered into existence, it leaves many asking why has there not been proportionally drastic inflation?

The major piece that is holding back even more inflation than we’ve already seen is a public expectation of a return to normal. The economy is exceedingly complicated and there are countless causal factors effecting this so I cannot say this is the only reason, but we can turn to The Mystery of Banking where we see Murray Rothbard go as far as claiming that “Public expectation of future price levels” is far and away the most important determinant of the demand for money. Rothbard goes on to cite his intellectual predecessor – Ludwig von Mises – to explain just how strongly expectations played a role in the German hyperinflation in 1923:

The German hyperinflation had begun during World War I, when the Germans, like most of the warring nations, inflated their money supply to pay for the war effort and found themselves forced to go off the gold standard and to make their paper currency irredeemable. The money supply in warring countries would double or triple. But in what Mises saw to be Phase I of a typical inflation, prices did not rise nearly proportionately to the money supply. If M in a country triples, why would prices go up by much less? Because of the psychology of the average of the average German, who thought to himself as follows: “I know that prices are much higher now than they were in the good old days before 1914. But that’s because of wartime, and because all goods are scarce due to diversion of resources to the war effort. When the war is over, things will get back to normal, and prices will fall back to 1914 levels.” In other words, the German public originally had strong deflationary expectations. Much of the new money was therefore added to cash balances and the Germans’ demand for money rose. In short, while M increased a great deal, the demand for money also rose and thereby offset some of the inflationary impact on prices.

As Rothbard explains, prices not rising in proportion to a radical increase in the money supply is not only understandable, it is actually to be expected. Sure, this current situation is not a wartime economy, however, as far as Rothbard’s explanation of the psychology of the average person goes, it is not all too different from the expectations during the war. Today the psychology of the average American leads to him thinking to himself “I know that prices are much higher now than they were in the good old days before 2020. But that’s because of the pandemic, and because all goods are scarce due to the unemployment from people who had to stay home during this dangerous time. When the pandemic is over, things will get back to normal, and prices will fall back to 2019 levels.” The problem with this expectation is that it cannot last forever. As Rothbard explains

Slowly, but surely, the public began to realize: “We have been waiting for a return to the good old days and a fall of prices back to 1914. But prices have been steadily increasing. So it looks as if there will be no return to the good old days. Prices will not fall; in fact, they will probably keep going up.” As this psychology takes hold, the public’s thinking in Phase I changes into that of Phase II: “Prices will keep going up, instead of going down. Therefore, I know in my heart that prices will be higher next year.” The public’s deflationary expectations have been superseded by inflationary ones.

Rothbard explains that these new expectations will intensify the inflation rather than holding it back. Rothbard also claims that there is no way of knowing when these expectations will finally shift because so many cultural, technological, geographical, and other factors affect any given population. As a result, we unfortunately can’t say when modern Americans will realize that prices are not headed back to their pre-pandemic levels and start having intensifying expectations. But however long it does take, the last point that we have to remember from Rothbard is his claim that “When expectations tip decisively over from deflationary, or steady, to inflationary, the economy enters a danger zone. The crucial question is how the government and its monetary authorities are going to react to the new situation.” While it is too late to not have created all that new money supply, when the day does come that we enter that danger zone, it is not too late for us to react appropriately and avoid that final phase III of hyperinflation but rather allow for a healthy deflationary bust allowing the economy to recover as it so desperately needs. Author:

Connor Mortell

Connor Mortell graduated from Texas Christian University with a BBA in finance, minoring in Chinese language and culture. After graduation he worked as a legislative aide in the Florida House of Representatives for just shy of two years. Currently he is an MBA student at Florida State University. As well he will be attending Mises University in summer 2021.

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The Secret Ronald Reagan Told Me about Gold and Great Nations | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on August 21, 2021

Ronald Reagan once told me that no nation has abandoned gold and remained great. As president, he supported the creation of the Gold Commission. However, he did not stop the establishment from stacking the commission with defenders of the monetary status quo.

https://mises.org/wire/secret-ronald-reagan-told-me-about-gold-and-great-nations

Ron Paul

Today [August 15] marks 50 years since President Richard Nixon closed the “gold window,” ending the ability of foreign governments to exchange United States dollars for gold. Nixon’s action severed the last link between the dollar and gold, giving the U.S. a fiat currency.

America’s experiment with fiat has led to an explosion of consumer, business, and—especially—government debt. It has also caused increasing economic inequality, a boom-bubble-bust business cycle, and a continued erosion of the dollar’s value.

Nixon’s closure of the gold window motivated me to run for office. Having read the works of the leading Austrian economists, such as Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard, I understood the dangers of abandoning gold for a fiat currency and wanted a platform to spread these ideas.

When I first entered public life, support for restoring a gold standard, much less abolishing the Fed, was limited to so-called “gold bugs” and the then tiny libertarian movement. Even many economists who normally supported free markets believed the fiat system could be made to work if the Federal Reserve were forced to follow rules.

These rules were supposed to provide the Fed with clear guidance as to when to increase or decrease the money supply. This may sound good in theory, but a “rules-based monetary system” still allows the Federal Reserve to manipulate interest rates, which are the price of money, causing artificial booms and very real busts.

The stagflation of the Carter era did increase interest in monetary policy. The rise of the “supply-siders,” who supported a limited role for gold, helped increase interest in the issue.

Ronald Reagan once told me that no nation has abandoned gold and remained great. As president, he supported the creation of the Gold Commission. However, he did not stop the establishment from stacking the commission with defenders of the monetary status quo.

The commission’s two pro-gold members, Lewis Lehrman and myself, produced a minority report, written with the aid of Murray Rothbard, making the case for a gold standard. The report was published as The Case for GoldIt can be downloaded at Mises.org.

By the mid-1980s, any interest among the political and financial elites in questioning the Fed’s power had disappeared. This was due to acceptance of the myth that Paul Volcker tamed inflation. In the 1990s, a virtual cult of personality arose around the “Maestro” Alan Greenspan, who once told me that the Fed had learned how to “replicate” the results of a gold-backed currency.

While my warnings that the Fed was leading the American economy over the cliff were dismissed in Washington, they found a receptive audience outside the Beltway. The response to my 2008 presidential campaign led to a birth of a new liberty movement that put monetary policy front and center.

The 2008 meltdown, big bank bailouts, and the Fed’s subsequent failure to reignite the economy despite unprecedented money creation fueled the growth of the new movement. My Campaign for Liberty organization mobilized the new liberty movement to make Audit the Fed a major issue in Congress.

Fifty years after Nixon closed the gold window, prices are heading toward 1970s-era increases. Yet the Fed cannot increase interest rates as long as the politicians keep creating billions of new debts.

It is clear that America is heading toward another Federal Reserve–created economic crisis. The good news is the impending crisis gives us an opportunity to spread our message, grow our movement, and finally force Congress to audit and end the Fed.

Originally published by the New York Sun. Author:

Ron PaulDr. Ron Paul is a former member of Congress and Distinguished Counselor to the Mises Institute.

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Wisdom from Rothbard | Mises Institute

Posted by M. C. on August 17, 2021

https://mises.org/power-market/wisdom-rothbard

David Gordon

The collapse of the American-backed state in Afghanistan brings home the wisdom of Murray Rothbard’s essay “The Death of a State,” written in July 1975. The lessons that Rothbard drew from the fall of South Vietnam apply equally to the present crisis. Among these were the importance of guerilla warfare, the dependence of all states on majority support, and the blow to US imperialism with its false doctrine that “the United States has the moral duty, and the permanent power, to install, prop up, and rule governments and peoples throughout the world. We are being forced into a policy of ‘neo-isolationism,’ unfortunately not through the adoption of moral principle, but through the concrete realization that imperialism is no longer realistically viable.” We should follow Rothbard’s advice and end all American overseas military commitments.

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Paying People Not to Work Won’t Make Us Richer | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on July 19, 2021

I am reminded of a saying by one of my favorite economists, Murray Rothbard, “It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.”

https://mises.org/wire/paying-people-not-work-wont-make-us-richer

Paul T. Prentice

One of the most important principles of economics is that people respond to incentives. You get more of whatever you incentivize. You get less of whatever you disincentivize. This is irrefutable. The supplemental unemployment payment does both—it incentivizes people not to work, and simultaneously disincentivizes them from working.

See the rest here

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The Beauty and Freedom That Is Anarchy – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on March 17, 2021

It seems that the modern understanding of the terms “anarchy “ and “state” have been intentionally twisted around so as to be opposite of reality. In essence, the state reeks of lawlessness, chaos, and disorder, while anarchy is steeped in the concepts of freedom and liberty. This could never be more obvious than it is today.

Government is never legitimate; it is always an exercise of force, it is always corrupt, it is always a murderer, it is always a thief, and it is always evil. It can only exist if the majority of people allow it to exist, and in the process give it a false legitimacy so that its stolen power over society can be protected and retained. Anarchy is still a governing system of sorts; it just relies on self-government instead of a state prison system perpetuated by force and dehumanization of all individual thought and action in order to rule.

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2021/03/gary-d-barnett/the-beauty-and-freedom-that-is-anarchy/

By Gary D. Barnett

Will Durant once said: “As soon as liberty is complete it dies in anarchy.”  This statement is incorrect in my view; as it relies on the false assumption that anarchy means chaos. It does not. I say that once anarchy is complete, freedom lives in the individual, and therefore it lives in society. True anarchy is liberty.

From the Greek root anarkhos comes anarchy, and it simply means “without a ruler.” Those that control and worship the state have not only bastardized the honest meaning of the word, but that meaning has been literally eliminated in favor of what I describe as progressive language manipulation, which is simply a devious way to achieve control over others through confusion and deceit.

So anarchy is “society without a state,” as Murray Rothbard so clearly stated in a talk he delivered long ago. Properly accepting this true meaning of anarchy means that it is necessary to define the ‘State.’ Again, the eloquent and brilliant Rothbard defined the state as “that institution which possesses one or both (almost always both) of the following properties: (1) it acquires its income by the physical coercion known as “taxation”; and (2) it asserts and usually obtains a coerced monopoly of the provision of defense service (police and courts) over a given territorial area.  Once again, the great Rothbard is a gentleman, but what this means to me is that the state is full of liars, thieves, and murderers; all with the desire to rule over and control all of society.

It seems that the modern understanding of the terms “anarchy “ and “state” have been intentionally twisted around so as to be opposite of reality. In essence, the state reeks of lawlessness, chaos, and disorder, while anarchy is steeped in the concepts of freedom and liberty. This could never be more obvious than it is today. In our obnoxious postmodern world, the masses have been trained to think and act due to conceived perceptions instead of reality.  Therefore, state claimed truths are lies, and state claimed lies are truth. It does appear that all has been reversed in order to fool those are easily fooled.

As Orwell put it by the use of a slogan attributed to the English Socialist Party of Oceana in his Novel “1984”: “War is peace; Freedom is slavery, Ignorance is strength.” The new United States of “doublethink” has arrived, and has been fully embraced, and is being acted out by the people as ordered.

Considering our current state of affairs, and the asinine absurdity of compliance to idiotic and draconian ‘Covid’ mandates issued by state goons, any alien landing on this planet today could only describe the scene as one where the most cowardly, submissive, and pathetic species on earth were the masses of common human beings. Most would be wearing masks, walking around like zombies, staying at distance from one another, locking themselves in home prisons on orders, shaming any that refuse to submit, seeking permission slips to live normally, abandoning their families and friends, injecting toxic mind-controlling poison into their bodies on demand, and watching as state criminals destroy their property, their livelihoods, and their very way of life. They would watch as the state enforcers harassed, beat, and jailed those that resisted while the majority stood by and watched and did nothing to stop it. This is not science fiction, it is not a movie; it is reality in America.

In order for freedom to ever exist, it must come to pass and be fully understood by the people that ‘legal’ force is always and forever the enemy of liberty.  So long as the public lives and exists under the presumption that the force of government is necessary in order for society to function, then freedom can never be achieved, and slavery will be the only result. All advocates of government (the state) expect and accept the initiated force of government, whether it comes in the forms of theft by taxation, the only solution to disputes, social or otherwise, through government courts, the enforced management of all health and medicine, forced control of all ‘education,’ restrictive laws and licensing in order to function, waging aggressive war with standing armies at the expense of American lives and money, and the heavily enforced control of all commerce. In essence, what the people are really accepting is a total monopoly of force by the government that claims to be the people’s ‘representatives.’ That is and has always been a lie.

All indications are that the state and its governing bodies are nothing more than an organized crime syndicate. It is even worse than this description, because organized crime (Mafia) works within its own area and networks, and of course uses and pays off politicians in order to stay in business, but it does not wage world war, and does not seek to gain control of all humanity and the entire planet. The state and government on the other hand, are certainly organized criminal organizations, but they want to gain control of everything and everybody. The state desires to control all money, all commerce, all property, all markets, all military, all theft, all health choices, all employment, all everything.

Government is never legitimate; it is always an exercise of force, it is always corrupt, it is always a murderer, it is always a thief, and it is always evil. It can only exist if the majority of people allow it to exist, and in the process give it a false legitimacy so that its stolen power over society can be protected and retained. Anarchy is still a governing system of sorts; it just relies on self-government instead of a state prison system perpetuated by force and dehumanization of all individual thought and action in order to rule.

In any anarchist society, all power rests in the sovereign individual, and only so long as the non-aggression principle is followed. Each individual in a truly free society such as anarchy provides, can live and pursue their dreams and interests, and can choose the path that is unique to them and their family. This will allow the opportunity to live in harmony with others in a world where cooperation, passion, and love can prosper.

The beauty and freedom that is anarchy is the better way forward.

“The State is, and always has been, the great single enemy of the human race, its liberty, happiness, and progress.”

~ Murray Rothbard

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To Understand Economics, First Understand Private Property | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on March 10, 2021

https://mises.org/wire/understand-economics-first-understand-private-property

Chris Calton

In Man, Economy, and State, Murray Rothbard expounds the principles of economics by reconstructing an economy from the ground up. Following the practice of classical economists, he opens the book by imagining Robinson Crusoe alone on an island. After identifying the operative laws that apply even to isolated individuals, Rothbard’s second chapter considers Crusoe on an island with one other person, introducing the concept of direct exchange, or the barter economy. In the third and fourth chapters, Rothbard considers the origins of money and prices in an economy of indirect exchange.

For a treatise on price theory, Rothbard recognizes the need to explain the origins of money prices, as Carl Menger and Ludwig von Mises did before him. In The Theory of Money and Credit, Mises built on Menger’s original explanation for the origin of money by formulating the regression theorem. When considering price changes back through time, Mises theorized, we must naturally come to points of origin and departure. Paper dollars today have no commodity foundation, but we can easily identify the point at which they were disconnected from specie. Going further back, we may not be able to identify empirically the moment at which specie, or any other commodity, was first used as a medium of indirect exchange, but we can logically deduce that such a moment must have occurred as primitive economies grew increasingly complex.

Mises’s theorem offered a number of important insights for price theorists. Perhaps the chief insight is that even though modern money may have no commodity base, the origins of any money could only have been a commodity with some original value in use. No new media of exchange can undermine this history. Even cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, can be traced back to a point at which they were first exchanged for dollars. Dollar prices then trace back to a point of disconnect from a commodity foundation, and those prices trace further to a point of original indirect exchange. Another insight derived from the regression theorem is that money prices depend on exchange. This may seem like an obvious truism, but in the early twentieth-century debates over socialism, the necessity of market exchange highlighted the crucial distinction between technical calculation (What do we need to build a given item?) and economic calculation (What should we build given the resources available?).

In chapter 2 of Man, Economy, and State, before Rothbard summarizes Mises’s insights about the origins of money prices, he considers the origins of property rights. With a citation of John Locke, Rothbard asserts the principle of self-ownership and argues that the original appropriation of property comes from mixing labor with yet-unowned resources, such as clearing land for cultivation. Only after establishing a basis for property rights, does Rothbard turn to considerations of exchange and money prices.

Even friendly scholars, happy to acknowledge the value of Rothbard’s treatise, often consider this passage an unwarranted deviation from value-free economic analysis. Rothbard, they claim, is importing libertarian ethical theory into his economic analysis. John Egger, for example, accuses Rothbard of putting on his “political scientist hat,” arguing that “the ethics adopted by . . . Rothbard cannot be derived from Austrian-school principles and are not necessary to Austrian economic analysis.”1

Even sympathetic Austrians rarely pay much attention to Rothbard’s explanation for the origin of property rights except to occasionally dismiss it as a libertarian deviation from scientific analysis, but I believe Rothbard is offering underappreciated economic insights. Mises recognized that money prices depended on exchange, and he saw the need to explain the origins of monetary exchange. Rothbard took Mises’s idea a step further, recognizing that the prerequisite for market exchange is private property and the origin of property norms is therefore just as relevant to economic analysis as the origins of money and monetary exchange. “Before we examine the exchange process,” Rothbard writes in no unclear terms, “it must be considered that, in order for a person to exchange anything, he must first possess it, or own it.”2

Critical readers might object that we cannot take it for granted that property rights originate in the way that Rothbard describes. Governments, of course, can establish property rights, even if in violation of Lockean ethics, that suffice to provide the conditions for market exchange. But such considerations would be inappropriate for Rothbard’s second chapter, as he is considering an unhampered market economy—one in which governments, as yet, play no role. For markets to exist sans government, then, private property norms must emerge spontaneously.

To this last point, Rothbard never asserts that the Lockean rule of first appropriation is the proper means of establishing property rights (though he certainly believed that and made genuinely ethical arguments along those lines in other works, such as The Ethics of Liberty). In Man, Economy, and State, he simply considers the way property norms could logically emerge in an unhampered market.

Man in a “free, unhampered market … may exchange any type of factor … for any type of factor,” Rothbard writes, but “it is clear that gifts and exchanges as a source of property must eventually be resolved into: self-ownership, appropriation of unused nature-given factors, and production of capital and consumers’ goods, as the ultimate sources of acquiring property in a free economic system” (emphasis in original).3

Rothbard’s argument follows a similar logical structure to Mises’s regression theorem, and in fact even extends the continuum of exchange that Mises outlines. When constructing his theorem, Mises views the end point of his analysis as modern monetary prices, and his point of origin is that moment when a commodity was first used as a medium for indirect exchange. Rothbard has the same end point in mind, but realizing that property rights are (1) necessary for exchange and (2) not a given for any society and therefore warrant explaining, he finds the origins of money prices in the original emergence of private property norms.

Of course, people can provide alternative theories for the origin of private property, but the mere fact that Rothbard recognizes the need to explain property norms is itself a valuable contribution to economics that continues to go unappreciated. The most obvious objection people might offer to counter Rothbard’s theory is no different than the alternative explanation to Mises’s and Menger’s theories for the origins of money: the state must construct property rights and introduce money, thus creating markets.

But as historians and anthropologists learn more about prehistory (the history of man prior to documentary evidence), the statist theories for both property rights and money crumble. Yale political scientist James C. Scott, for example, notes that evidence for the domestication of plants precedes the formation of the earliest states, arguing that states could not exist without a taxable base (grain, most commonly), and the domestication of plants and primitive commerce preceded state formation. Although he doesn’t address property rights directly, Scott notes that the formation of early states “required a host of products that originated in other ecological zones: timber, firewood, leather, obsidian, copper, tin, gold and silver, and honey,” which they obtained through long-distance trade of “pottery, cloth, grain, and artisanal products.”4

Recognizing that economic exchange preceded the state, both Rothbard and Mises raised valid considerations for the origins of money, exchange, and property norms. In offering their theories, they were in fact engaging in a common exercise among classical economists known as “conjectural history.” In the absence of empirical historical evidence, classical thinkers such as Adam Smith and Turgot speculated on the origins of observable, modern institutions based on assumptions about human nature. Although speculative, this method of history was not unscientific. The test of a good theory was that it explained more of what we can observe (both in terms of present society and extant evidence) and omitted less. Historians today who deal with areas of history that have scant documentary evidence, such as Africanists, still engage in conjectural history (even if they may not be aware of its roots in classical political economy).

In this light, Rothbard’s explication for the origins of property norms is not a value-laden prescription for how societies should establish private property rights. Instead, Rothbard is recognizing that early societies must have established some system of private property rights, which individuals recognized reciprocally with respect to each other, and he provides a theory for how this system most likely emerged. It is not an uncontestable idea (no scientific theory is), but scholars dismissing it as a libertarian sidestep from proper economic analysis fail to understand the important economic contribution Rothbard was actually making.

  • 1. John B. Egger, “Comment: Efficiency Is Not a Substitute for Ethics,” in Time, Uncertainty, and Disequilibrium: Exploration of Austrian Themes (Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1979), p. 119.
  • 2. Murray N. Rothbard, Man, Economy and State, with Power and Market, 2d scholar’s ed. (Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2009), p. 91.
  • 3. Rothbard, pp. 92–93.
  • 4. James C. Scott, Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017), pp. 68–92, 125. Although Scott does not address the question of property rights or exchange, he does reference the role of exchange prior to the establishment of the state

Author:

Chris Calton

Chris Calton is a 2018 Mises Institute Research Fellow and an economic historian. He is writer and host of the Historical Controversies podcast.

See also his YouTube channel here.

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Murray Rothbard on War and “Isolationism” | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on March 4, 2021

Well, the Progressive period begins around 1900 with Teddy Roosevelt and so forth. Woodrow Wilson cements it with his so-called reforms, which totally subject the banking system to federal power, and with the Federal Trade Commission, which did for business what the Interstate Commerce Commission did for the railroads. In other words, he imposed a system of monopoly capitalism, or corporate state monopoly, which we now call the partnership of the government and of big business and industry, which means essentially a corporate state, or we can call it economic fascism. It culminated in World War I economic planning, for the war consisted of a totally collectivized economy headed by the sainted and revered Bernard Mannes Baruch, head of the War Industries Board.

https://mises.org/wire/murray-rothbard-war-and-isolationism

Murray N. Rothbard

[These edited extracts, from an interview in the February 1973 issue of Reason magazine, first ran in the June 1999 issue ofthe Rothbard-Rockwell Report.]

Q: Why, in your view, is isolationism an essential tenet of libertarian foreign policy?

A: The libertarian position, generally, is to minimize state power as much as possible, down to zero, and isolationism is the full expression in foreign affairs of the domestic objective of whittling down state power. In other words, interventionism is the opposite of isolationism, and of course it goes on up to war, as the aggrandizement of state power crosses national boundaries into other states, pushing other people around etc. So this is the foreign counterpart of the domestic aggression against the internal population. I see the two as united.

The responsibility of trying to limit or abolish foreign intervention is avoided by many conservative libertarians in that they are very, very concerned with things like price control—of course I agree with them. They are very, very concerned about eliminating taxes, licensing, and so forth—with which I agree—but somehow when it comes to foreign policy there’s a black out. The libertarian position against the state, the hostility toward expanding government intervention and so forth, goes by the board—all of a sudden you hear those same people who are worried about government intervention in the steel industry cheering every American act of mass murder in Vietnam or bombing or pushing around people all over the world.

This shows, for one thing, that the powers of the state apparatus to bamboozle the public work better in foreign affairs than in domestic. In foreign affairs you still have this mystique that the nation-state is protecting you from a bogeyman on the other side of the mountain. There are “bad” guys out there trying to conquer the world and “our” guys are in there trying to protect us. So not only is isolationism the logical corollary of libertarianism, which many libertarians don’t put into practice; in addition, as Randolph Bourne says, “war is the health of the state.”

The state thrives on war—unless, of course, it is defeated and crushed—expands on it, glories in it. For one thing, when one state attacks another state, it is able through this intellectual bamboozlement of the public to convince them that they must rush to the defense of the state because they think the state is defending them.

In other words, if, let’s say, Paraguay and Brazil are going to get into a war, each state—the Paraguayan government and the Brazilian government—is able to convince their own subjects that the other government is out to get them and loot them and murder them in their beds and so forth, so they are able to induce their own hapless subjects to fight against the other state, whereas in actual practice, of course, it is the states that have the quarrel, not the people. The people are outside the quarrels of the state and yet the state is able to generate this patriotic mass war hysteria and to call everybody up to the colors physically and spiritually and economically and therefore, of course, aggrandize state power permanently.

Most conservatives and libertarians are very familiar with—and deplore—the increase in state power in the American government in the last 50 or 70 years, but what they don’t seem to realize is that most of these increases took place in giant leaps during wartime. It was wartime that provided the crisis situation—the spark—which enabled the states to put on so-called emergency measures, which of course never got lifted, or rarely got lifted.

Even the War of 1812—seemingly a harmless little escapade—was evil, and also in the domestic sense, in that it ruined the Jeffersonian Party for a long time to come, it established federalism, which means monopoly state-capitalism in essence, it imposed a central bank, it imposed high tariffs, it imposed domestic federal taxation, which never existed before, internal taxation, and it took a long time to get rid of it, and we never really did get back to the pre–War of 1812 level of minimal state power.

Then, of course, the Mexican War [Mexican-American War, 1846–48] had consequences of slave expansion and so forth. But the Civil War was, of course, much worse—the Civil War was really the great turning point, one of the great turning points in the increase of state power, because with the Civil War you now have the total introduction of things like railroad land grants, subsidies of big business, permanent high tariffs, which the Jacksonians had been able to whittle away before the Civil War, and a total revolution in the monetary system so that the old pure gold standard was replaced first by greenback paper, and then by the National Banking Act—a controlled banking system. And for the first time we had the imposition in the United states of an income tax and federal conscription. The income tax was reluctantly eliminated after the Civil War as was conscription: all the other things—such as high excise taxes—continued on as a permanent accretion of state power over the American public.

The third huge increase of power came out of World War I. World War I set both the foreign and the domestic policies for the twentieth century. Woodrow Wilson set the entire pattern for foreign policy from 1917 to the present. There is a total continuity between Wilson, Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, Johnson, and Nixon—the same thing all the way down the line.

Q: You’d include Kennedy in that?

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Author:

Murray N. Rothbard

Murray N. Rothbard made major contributions to economics, history, political philosophy, and legal theory. He combined Austrian economics with a fervent commitment to individual liberty.

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Are There Any Limits to Natural Rights? | Mises Institute

Posted by M. C. on February 20, 2021

Natural rights of the sort that Rothbard favors are prepolitical. In other words, these rights aren’t dependent on the state for their existence. Each person is a self-owner and may acquire property in the “state of nature,” before there are states and state-created legal systems. Indeed, in Rothbard’s anarcho-capitalism, there aren’t any states: people hire private defense agencies to protect their rights.

https://mises.org/library/are-there-any-limits-natural-rights

David Gordon

I’d like to discuss today an argument that is popular among some contemporary political philosophers. If this argument is correct, it undermines the sort of natural rights found in Murray Rothbard’s The Ethics of Liberty. I hope that I am not spoiling the surprise by telling you immediately that I think the argument is wrong.

Natural rights of the sort that Rothbard favors are prepolitical. In other words, these rights aren’t dependent on the state for their existence. Each person is a self-owner and may acquire property in the “state of nature,” before there are states and state-created legal systems. Indeed, in Rothbard’s anarcho-capitalism, there aren’t any states: people hire private defense agencies to protect their rights.

According to the argument I wish to examine, prepolitical rights make no sense because there are no ways to define the boundaries of these rights. If each person is a self-owner, when does self-ownership begin? Are children self-owners? What about abortion—is a woman, as the owner of her body, entitled to abort a baby she doesn’t want? What are the permissible limits of self-defense? Is your right to life entirely negative, i.e., other people must not use force against you, or threaten you with force, unless you have aggressed against them, or do you in some cases have the right to the aid of other people to preserve your life? If you are accused of a crime, what (if any) rights do you have to be tried by fair procedures? The questions multiply when we reach property rights. What is the correct principle of initial acquisition? What about intellectual property?

Given the lack of clear boundaries to natural rights, it is argued, the notion is useless in practice. Instead, we must start with the notion of autonomous persons who in particular societies decide what legal rights people have, being guided in so doing by local practices. As an example, the notion of property is in this view entirely a social construct. The government in taxing you is not taking away what you rightfully have acquired, because it is the government (backed by democratic decision) that has decided what you own in the first place.

There’s an obvious objection to this argument, but the defenders of the argument have a reply to it. The objection is that proponents of natural rights don’t set clear boundaries for these rights. But if you read Ethics of Liberty, you will quickly discover that Rothbard does answer the questions about boundaries posed above. You may accept or reject what he says, but how can it be reasonably maintained that his natural rights are useless because they lack clear boundaries?

The reply that the opponents of natural rights would offer is that other supporters of natural rights often disagree with Rothbard’s answers. Rothbard, e.g., is critical of patents, but Objectivists regard intellectual property as an essential right. Given such disagreements, don’t even supporters of natural rights have to rely on social convention to decide what the proper natural rights are? If so isn’t it the agreement of people within a society that is doing the work rather than the natural rights?

This reply is very weak. People may disagree, but that doesn’t show that one opinion can’t be correct and the others wrong. That is something that needs to be settled by argument. If you think Rothbard is wrong about strict liability, for instance, it won’t do just to point out that some people accept the “reasonable man” standard at odds with it. You need to show that Rothbard’s arguments don’t settle the issue if you want to push the claim that social convention must play the primary role in settling disputed questions about rights. It’s an interesting point, I think, that showing Rothbard is mistaken doesn’t help the social conventionalist. If you did that, you would be merely eliminating one option, Rothbard’s, from consideration, not showing that the remaining options require a convention-based resolution. For the conventionalist position to remain intact, you would need to show that Rothbard’s arguments for his position aren’t dispositive and also that other arguments don’t show that he is wrong. Then, strict liability would still be in the running but not a clear winner.

But suppose that it can’t be shown that there is a correct theory of natural rights that settles all important issues and that people in a particular society must rely in part on convention to fix the boundaries of these rights. It hardly follows from this that natural rights are useless and everything important rests on the social practices of a particular society. Suppose that we don’t know the exact boundaries of the correct principle of initial acquisition. We do know, though, that people have a natural right to acquire property, so that social conventions that altogether deny people the right to own property are ruled out.

Supporters of the conventionalist view usually don’t like private property rights very much, but they support the right to free speech. The same sort of problems they raise for property rights arise also for free speech. Does free speech cover libel and slander? False advertising? Disclosure of trade secrets? The fact, if it is one, that the concept of “free speech” leaves these questions unsettled does not throw everything open to social decision. A law that prohibited political speech would violate people’s free speech rights, even granting the conventionalist point. Why are property rights subject to different treatment? Further, as Rothbard has pointed out, once property rights are settled, that resolves controversies about free speech rights. People do not have a vague and unlimited right to free speech but rather the right to set regulations for speech on their own property. If you are on someone else’s property, you must follow his rules about speech.

There is another problem with the social conventionalist view, and it is a glaring one. Even if people in a society need in part to rely on social practices to settle disputed issues, how does the state, democratic or otherwise, enter the picture? Why couldn’t those in a stateless society settle such problems through negotiation? People in the grip of the view I’m criticizing tend to assume without argument that we must accept the framework of the modern national state. Murray Rothbard shows us a different way to proceed, and that is a principal element in his greatness as a political philosopher.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.

Author:

Contact David Gordon

David Gordon is Senior Fellow at the Mises Institute and editor of the Mises Review.

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The New Right Is All about the Left | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on February 9, 2021

The clear religious nature of progressivism that emerges is clear. Replacing God with “the saving grace of progressivism,” the Left has found that racism is the default setting of man, and a person “is able to escape that fallen state” only through their leftish repentance. Another key element of progressive beliefs is to feel good rather than do good:

https://mises.org/wire/new-right-all-about-leftJoakim Book

Joakim Book

The ironic thing about Michael Malice’s book The New Right: A Journey to the Fringe of American Politics is that it mostly deals with the Left. What unites the Right, argues Malice, is that they all hate the Left. His definition of the New Right reads:

a loosely connected group of individuals united by their opposition to progressivism, which they perceive to be a thinly veiled fundamentalist religion dedicated to egalitarian principles and intent on totalitarian world domination via globalist hegemony.

Everyone from radical conservatives to Murray Rothbard–following anarchists to those whom the press sloppily calls “alt-right,” all get lumped into the same category—hence the label. While almost everyone in those groups would strongly object to the affiliation, Malice has found the common denominator among them: they all hate the evangelical left. The New Right, as he sees it, is formed and fueled by this opposition, and so Malice spends page after page describing the progressive power that rules the social, intellectual, and political world.

It works remarkably well, partly, I suspect, because Malice is extraordinarily well versed in the hidden world of internet trolls and the intellectual dark web, as well as more conventional conservative and libertarian ideas. He tells of secret meetings, of invites-only events for trolls and white nationalists, of conversations he’s had, online and offline, with prominent figures of the movement he describes. Skillfully, too, he manages to dissect what it means to be a progressive in America today—a necessary step to even begin to understand this right-wing contramovement.

Malice captures the progressives’ extreme attachment to equity: the dissecting of and the overturning of hierarchies, power, privilege, and, above all, fairness. Elitism and natural hierarchies are inevitable, but the Left won’t have it. Even in the mundane, say, jokes in the locker room or jokes on a stand-up scene, “for the evangelical left, with humor as with everything else, if it’s not for everyone then it’s not for anyone.” This idea, institutionalized and universalized, is the core of what it means to be left-wing in America today.

The distinguishing feature of a left-leaning ideologue, as shown in the Jonathan Haidt research that Malice discusses, is a strong focus on fairness and harm to the exclusion of everything else. Malice eloquently shows that fairness isn’t well defined, and that it is mostly devoid of meaning; it “simply means “what I approve of.'” A discussion over fairness is therefore useless.

A person on the left in the late 2010s, and increasingly so in the 2020s, tries to “impose meaning rather than to understand.” Picking illustrative examples from Hillary Clinton and those more extreme than her, Malice shows that progressives usually ascribe ideas and values to their opponents, dismiss their words as “hate speech,” and then “end the conversation before it has even begun.”

The clear religious nature of progressivism that emerges is clear. Replacing God with “the saving grace of progressivism,” the Left has found that racism is the default setting of man, and a person “is able to escape that fallen state” only through their leftish repentance. Another key element of progressive beliefs is to feel good rather than do good:

Since the progressive religion is based on salvation through faith and not via works, there are often no positive achievements to demonstrate one’s salvation—either to others or even to oneself. Progressives are thereby forced to “do something” without actually doing anything.

Think pins on your jacket, various in-group messages on bags, or the piercing red X taped across the Apple logo of your computer—since, as a good person, you obviously don’t support Apple but still happily use their products. Jeff Deist’s review of Malice’s book is spot-on:

The Left’s religiosity, complete with canonical texts and an ever-narrowing range of faith based opinions, is a key point of Malice’s argument: debate is passé on the Left, if not verboten. The science is settled, and to hell with those outside the faith. Convert or be cast out.

Echoing Orwell’s classic Politics and the English Language, progressive language use is tremendously important. Not only regarding the sensitivity of those who hear it, but as a measure of signaling that the speaker is on board with the Party program. Malice argues that replacing “black” with “African American” or “people of color” isn’t so much a sign of respect or a more accurate description of the group one is discussing, but an in-group signal that the speaker “is on the correct team.”

While clever, it’s easy for outsiders to just say the words: “it costs nothing,” writes Malice, “for someone to adopt the correct term in their speech.” Instead, it becomes an arms race between those who invent new politically correct terms to signal their progressive goodness and those who merely want to get by without vitriol and accusations of being a “white supremacist” (or want to avoid detection).

The ingenuity of the system is that while it costs an outsider almost nothing to co-opt the latest correct word, to avoid tripping any of the many progressive wires, one must internalize a full language. In time, one supposes, a full ideology.

The Members of the New Right

What sits most odd for someone not involved in the world Malice depicts is how normal it is; filled with internal quibbles and breaks along sectarian lines, with regular people doing regular things up until they reveal some of their controversial opinions. What most stood out to me were Malice’s personal stories, and how utterly polite many New Righters are: at an event with big-time pundit Ann Coulter attending, everyone was mesmerized by her but too shy to approach.

That’s not the kind of aura that New Right events conjure up in your mind. Another time Malice describes how attendees to an “NRx gathering” were tentatively “eyeing one another to see what was safe to say. As thought-criminals, we were used to biting our tongues.” This is familiar territory for all of us who hold opinions that diverge even a tiny bit from otherwise allowable opinion.

What emerges is a display of and some in-depth interviews with commonly held crazies—Gavin McInnes, Milo Yiannopoulos, Jim Goad, Alex Jones—that make them seem surprisingly humane. Indeed, that’s the point of Malice’s book: “to present logical, rational explanations for the New Right’s foundational beliefs. They’re not crazy. They’re not suicidal. They’re as American as apple pie.”

Most progressives mistakenly think that with the end of Trump, it’ll be the end of the nefarious factions he spawned and justified. With the evil leaders goes the evil tribe and now America is finally back on its divine, progressive track. That couldn’t be further from the truth. To the New Right, politics is downstream from culture, and whoever rules Washington at any given time is unimportant; all that matters is the larger battle, the long-term fight, the wars over culture. Cutting the head of the snake does nothing, as the New Right is more akin to a scattered hydra, growing new heads in new places whenever an old one is severed.

While a delight to read, some chapters of the book are thoroughly odd. You wouldn’t think that Milo, the effective media provocateur and now forgotten New Right troll, has much to do with the founding of the American Economic Association in 1885, or the moral supremacy (“degeneration”) of the universities. The connection, Malice asserts briskly before ending the chapter, is Christian social gospel.

No explanation; full confusion. And Malice is often all over the place: Pat Buchanan’s and Murray Rothbard’s political campaigns in the 1990s, the pickup artists of Neil Strauss’s The Game, and human nature as explored by Thomas Sowell’s great A Conflict of Visions. On the same page he then briefly mentions the Silk Road operator Ross Ulbricht and calls bitcoin “magic internet money.”

Still, captivating and hard to put down.

Drawing to a close, the book ends with a somber reflection that “nation after nation in Europe is finding it impossible to form consensus on virtually anything.” The unstated implication is that if we can’t agree with one another, perhaps we shouldn’t have to…?

The Hoppe-inspired meme to “physically remove” socialists and democrats from a free society might be upside down: perhaps we must not remove deviants, but merely disassociate and self-segregate away from those we cannot stand. After the mad political and cultural fights of 2020, does anyone think that’s such a bad idea? Author:

Joakim Book

Joakim Book is an economics graduate of the University of Glasgow, and is currently a graduate student at the University of Oxford. He writes regularly at Life of an Econ Student

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“The Progressive Era” Author Murray Rothbard

Posted by M. C. on January 24, 2021

John Swett 100 years ago in San Francisco on public education-

“school children belonged not to parents, but to the State, to society, to the country”.

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