June 30, 2003

Hillary's History

P.J. O'Rourke on Hillary Clinton's memoir book:

Let's take a deep one. Boring others is a form of aggression, and Hillary attacks her public with the weapon of brutal dullness. Ms. Clinton has led a busy, meddlesome life from an early age. "I was elected co-captain of the safety patrol. . . . This was a big deal at our school." But until page 440 of her memoir, nothing happens. You know the nothing I mean. Any number of Clinton friends and supporters told us it was nothing. And, as a result of nothing happening, nothing--as you may remember--happened. So, starting on page 440, that nothing happens, and by page 472 (that is to say immediately, given the high-speed laser-printing prolixity of "Living History"), Hillary is announcing, "Life moved on, and I moved with it."


UNLIKE ORDINARY HUMANS, Hillary had a choice about that move. After all, life revolves around Hillary. "In my own life I have been a wife, mother, daughter, sister, in-law, student, lawyer, children's rights activist, law professor, Methodist, political advisor, citizen and so much else." So very much else. "I was raised to love my God and my country, to help others, to protect and defend the democratic ideals that have inspired and guided free people for more than 200 years," a slap in the face to those of us who were raised to say please and thank you and not track mud into the house. Little wonder that when Hillary meets Queen Elizabeth, "She reminded me of my own mother."
A Poison Pill

Tom Miller says the approved Medicare "reform" in the US is going the wrong way:

Market reformers hold a limited hand of cards because of the way in which the political deck has been dealt. The best thing would be probably just to stop at the interim plans for a drug discount card and low-income cash assistance, and then get out of town. We have two more years before the real prescription-drug entitlement machinery fully kicks in. Although Congress remains highly unlikely to renege quickly on the full package that's approved to start in 2006, it would be fine if it did just that. A simple combination of a limited-discount card, additional protection for low-income seniors, and a very modest catastrophic-coverage benefit actually would solve the key problems of access to necessary drugs.
Drugs for the Elderly, Taxes for the Children

Cato's director of fiscal policy Chris Edwards explains how the expansion of Medicare and other elderly entitlements will force young Americans to pay much higher taxes:

In just five years, a demographic tidal wave will begin that will forever alter the federal government. The large baby boom generation will start retiring and cause the costs of Social Security and Medicare to explode. Unfortunately, Congress seems blissfully unaware of the coming crisis as it works to create another elderly entitlement in the form of a $400 billion Medicare prescription drug benefit.

Ironically, many in Congress support an expansion of elderly entitlements, but also claim to be champions of childrens' interests as well. But children, as tomorrow's taxpayers, will be the losers as the costs of unreformed elderly programs balloon. Even before a new drug benefit is added, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid spending will almost double as a share of gross domestic product by 2040. Federal spending will be pushed up from 19.9 percent of GDP to at least 27.1 percent. That 36 percent expansion in government's share of Americans' income will come at the expense of today's children when they become middle-aged taxpayers.

June 29, 2003

Asian Americans: Guilty of Success in America

Michelle Malkin on how the definition of what constitutes a "minority" group is now purely ideological:

Out of political expedience, you see, "minority" has been redefined by racial-preference promoters. It is no longer an objective statistical category, but an ideological status. Members of minority groups who have overcome barriers to success -- and who oppose being tallied by race -- are no longer viewed as people with valuable heritages, diverse life experiences, or raw memories of discrimination and prejudice. They are effectively "white" and simply don't count.
Your Shout: Vive la union basher, Sabine

A report on the Telegraph finds substantial local support for Sabine Herold's stance against the powerful public sector trade unions and her criticism of President Chirac's weakness:

Nowhere is this belief that the older generation has been misguidedly generous more marked than in relation to the maximum 35-hour week.

Mlle Herold has bewailed the decline of the work ethic in France, but many people said they wanted to work much harder than they are allowed to do.

Sandrine Watelier, 28, who works in a video shop, regretted the fact that "in France it is not allowed to have two jobs, even for those who would be well able to do them".


If popular support for liberalization continues to grow in France that will be good news not only for the French but for all Europeans.

June 28, 2003

Kudlow says the US economy needs more money (again)

As usual, Larry Kudlow asks for more monetary pumping by the Fed:

This current rate of liquidity expansion is inadequate - and it may help to explain recent slumps in the price of gold, the most liquidity-sensitive market indicator. Gold has slumped to $344 today from $380 a few months ago. Industrial metals have also stalled in commodity land.

Transaction demands in a rising economy, including powerful new investment tax incentives from Washington and a new spate of Wall Street deal-making activity in software, biotech, entertainment media, and financials, must be fully accommodated by the Fed. But in the last month, base money created by the Fed has inexplicably flattened out - exactly the opposite of what one might expect from a deflation-fighting central bank.


The NRO Economics editor apparently believes a loose monetary policy (which was at the root of the artificial boom that lead to the following bust) can solve all economic problems...
The National Interest

Gene Callahan argues that the idea of "national interest" is incoherent:

But nations are not the sorts of entities that have interests, just like they don't have crushes or daydreams or urges to go out for a beer. It is individuals who have those things. All thoughts, of which interests are a sub species, occur in the minds of particular people, and do not float around in some sort of "national consciousness."

June 27, 2003

"Weird, sick and twisted reasons"

Thanks to Tim Swanson for the mention to Human Conduct.

The "weird, sick and twisted reasons" he was put on the links list, however, shall remain unrevealed...

June 26, 2003

Page Three girls face veto from Brussels feminists

A piece in the Telegraph reports:

Advertisements that affront "human dignity" by demeaning women would be prohibited under proposals being drafted by the European Commission.

Television programmes would also be censored to ensure there was no promotion of gender stereotypes.

The plans, still in their infancy, are already provoking bitter dispute in Brussels and were described by one commission official yesterday as "lunatic".


There is at least one reason for hope: one commission official still has some common sense...
Upholding liberty in America

Edward Crane and William Niskanen warn against the dangers of Americans losing basic liberties and the neo-conservative influence:

In the aftershock of September 11 2001, there is a greater awareness among most Americans of how precious their freedom is. They also realise the need for better government intelligence work to fight terrorism. But they should not let the government usurp basic liberties.

This is a danger as more and more anti-terrorist laws and rules strait-jacket the nation. There is a congruent danger: the rise of neo-conservatism on the right. The movement is using the threat of terrorism to expand government at home and abroad. America must safeguard its freedoms in the fight against terrorism, but protect itself from pernicious policies that erode freedom in the name of liberty.
Bring Back the Guild System?

Thomas Woods has an excellent article on guild systems and guild mentality.

His discussion of the American Medical Association licensing monopoly is particularly enlightening:

Government regulations on the chiropractic profession, lay midwifery, and on the freedom of nurse practitioners to offer services within their competence, all of which make perfect sense from the point of view of the medical guild that lobbied for them, make no sense at all from the point of view of consumer wishes (as repeatedly expressed in polling data) or from economic considerations. In many cases, such people can provide health services far more cheaply than can licensed physicians (or, in the case of chiropractors, can provide services that licensed physicians do not provide at all), but consumers are prevented from making their own decisions regarding their medical care. Given the logic of the guild structure, no one has the right to be surprised to find that the AMA has put so much effort into undermining its professional opposition.

Private certification boards, providing certification to physicians who meet certain standards, would of course be welcome and extremely likely in a society without state-imposed licensing requirements. Lacking a coercive element, such boards would be limited to providing information to consumers of health care services and would be unable to use their position to transform the entire profession into a guild or cartel able to crush all competition.
Most Euros in Germany Carry Cocaine Traces?

"Almost all euro banknotes circulating in Germany contain traces of cocaine, scientists said on Wednesday, as notes rolled up by users to snort the illegal drug contaminate the cash system."

June 25, 2003

NGO Watch
(via Merde in France)

The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research and the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies have launched a new project to promote transparency and accountability in the increasingly influential world of non-governmental organizations. Here is an excerpt from their mission statement:

Recent years have seen an unprecedented growth in the power and influence of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). While it is true that many NGOs remain true to grassroots authenticity conjured up in images of protest and sacrifice, it is also true that non-governmental organizations are now serious business. NGO officials and their activities are widely cited in the media and relied upon in congressional testimony; corporations regularly consult with NGOs prior to major investments. Many groups have strayed beyond their original mandates and assumed quasi-governmental roles. Increasingly, non-governmental organizations are not just accredited observers at international organizations, they are full-fledged decision-makers.

Throughout much of the world, non-governmental organizations are unregulated, spared any requirement to account for expenditures, to disclose activities or sources of funding or even to declare their officers. That is not the case in the United States, where the tax code affords the public some transparency about its NGOs. But where is the rest of the story? Do NGOs influence international organizations like the World Trade Organization? What is their agenda? Who runs these groups? Who funds them? And to whom are they accountable?
Shut Down the Public Libraries

R. Cort Kirkwood argues that the only way to settle disputes about access to pornography in public libraries is to cut federal funding:

For one thing, this fight is yet another example of what happens when we use public money for private purposes. In this case it was reading, and mostly reading for pleasure at that.

The inappropriate use of public money energizes the ceaseless debates over sex and evolution curricula in public schools, pornography subsidized by the federal National Endowment of the Arts, or in this case, federal library funds, and on and on. No one agrees on how tax money should be spent. Yet if we weren’t spending it on illegitimate projects, we wouldn’t have the debates or the lawsuits.
EU farm support blocks global trade deal

"The European Union's inability to reform its common agricultural policy is blocking the global trade liberalisation talks, concluded trade ministers from around the world on Saturday."

June 24, 2003

Wish Fulfillment: The EU Constitution lays down NGOs' ideals in stone.

Iain Murray, in a National Review article, argues that the proposed EU constitution looks like a NGO wish list, with its full range of "positive" rights, entrenching special interest groups, limiting member states' powers, promoting centralization and blocking welfare and economic reform:

Discrimination based on birth is prohibited, which puts those countries with monarchies in an interesting position. Equality between men and women is ensured in employment, work, and pay specifically, except that 'the principle of equality shall not prevent the maintenance or adoption of measures providing for specific advantages in favour of the under-represented sex.' Children 'may express their views freely' - so much for the days of silence in movie theaters!

Then comes the 'solidarity' title, which grants labor unions an entrenched constitutional position, giving workers the right to collective bargaining and to take strike action. The welfare state is also entrenched, with welfare benefits guaranteed, including 'social and housing assistance so as to ensure a decent existence for all those who lack sufficient resources.' The charter thereby reverses many of the union and welfare reforms introduced into Britain by Margaret Thatcher - reforms that have been instrumental in lifting that country back into the ranks of strong economies - and forbids Germany and other nations from embracing them at a time when they desperately need to do so.
More on Sabine Herold

Sabine Herold's speech at the June 15 demonstration can be read here.

Excerpt:

Qui peut croire que la France est aujourd'hui un pays de Liberté ?
Quelle est la liberté de celui qui est empêché de passer ses examens par ses propres professeurs ?
Quelle est la liberté de celui qui comptait sur un métro, un train, un avion, paralysé périodiquement ?

Qui peut croire que la France est aujourd'hui un pays d'Egalité ?
Quand l'Etat maintient pour la fonction publique et pour les salariés des grandes entreprises publiques des privilèges indécents en matière de pension de retraite, où est l'Egalité ?
Qui peut accepter sans broncher que les fonctionnaires et assimilés travaillent moins longtemps et cotisent moins pour bénéficier de retraites supérieures à celles du privé ?

Qui peut croire que la France est aujourd'hui un pays de Fraternité ?
La CGT, FO ou le SNES se sentent-ils réellement concernés par les conséquences de leurs actes ? Se sentent-ils préoccupés par ceux qui passent le bac en ce moment sans avoir recu l'aide de leurs professeurs pendant les révisions ?


Sabine Herold will be in Milan, this Friday, June 27, to report on the current situation of the welfare state in France in a panel discussion moderated by Alberto Mingaldi with Chile's former secretary of labor and social security and co-chairman of Cato's Project on Social Security Choice José Piñera. The event, "The Crisis of the Welfare State in Europe", is jointly organized by the Centre for the New Europe and Leonardo Facco Editore. More information can be found here.

June 23, 2003

José Bové arrested
(via Merde in France)

Anti-globalization radical activist José Bové has been taken into custody to begin serving a 10-month jail term for destroying genetically modified crops.
Nadine and Me

Reason's Ronald Bailey explains why he decided to join the ACLU:

"Anyway, when I received another ACLU solicitation last month, I decided to send in my check and sign up. Why now? I still disagree with the ACLU's official positions on the death penalty and freedom of association, so perhaps this column can be regarded as a kind of personal "side letter" similar to those that often accompany treaties in which countries except themselves from provisions they dislike. Nevertheless, the ACLU is oh-so-right on the vital and timely constitutional issues of free speech and protection of people from unreasonable and intrusive government action."

"As it turns out I am far from alone in seeing new value in ACLU membership. The organization is moving out of its leftwing ghetto and is attracting a wider spectrum of members. Look people, we are far from living in a police state, but it is time to roll back the encroachments on our liberties that we have already endured. Many Americans are alarmed at what they regard as an erosion of their civil liberties, so it's not surprising that the ACLU's membership is the highest it's ever been, totaling over 400,000 and growing. The ACLU recognizes, as do most Americans, that there is no tradeoff between liberty and security. That's why I agree with the ACLU's slogan "Keep America Safe AND Free" and that's why I'm a card carrying member of the ACLU today."
Krugman Watch
(via PrestoPundit)

Poor and Stupid remembers Paul Krugman's analysis of the last market bubble:

Here's what Krugman was really saying then about the market and the economy. On January 5, 2000, just nine days before the Dow Jones Industrial Average topped out at the never-seen-again level of 11,723 Krugman wrote in his still brand new New York Times column,

"...current stock prices already have built in the expectation of economic performance that not long ago we would have considered incredible; performance that is merely terrific would be seen as a big letdown. So which will it be -- terrific or incredible? We all have our opinions -- being a pessimist by nature, I think that things will be merely terrific..."

"Merely terrific"? You can't make this stuff up. This classic top-of-the-market epiphany for Krugman came after a decade of singing in a Greek chorus of Ivy League economists who were forecasting that Japan and Europe would take over the world economy and leave American industry in the dust (see Krugman's The Age of Diminished Expectations). Several weeks later, on February 27, after the Dow had drifted lower while the NASDAQ and the S&P 500 were still climbing toward their March 2000 peaks, Krugman said to ignore the falling Dow, and offered this apologia for the economy in his Times column:

"The social and psychological hallmarks of a bubble -- like the fact that the TV in my local greasy pizza place is now tuned to CNBC, not ESPN -- are plain to see, but so is the spectacular pace of technological progress. I'm not sure that the current value of the Nasdaq is justified, but I'm not sure that it isn't. In any case, the fall in the Dow is not a verdict on the economy as a whole. As long as we have full employment and low inflation, I say let the blue chips fall where they may."
Europe's New Constitution: No Superstate, yet
(via CapitalismoSecXXI)

Srdja Trifkovic argues Euro-skeptics have little to celebrate:

"Furthermore, a legally binding Charter of Fundamental Rights, including labor and social policies, forms the entire second part of the document and presents as great a threat to national sovereignty and good life as any overt federalist declaration. It introduces references to equality and non-discrimination, specifically with reference to homosexuals, and invokes the need to combat 'social exclusion' and respect 'diversity'. The Constitution and EU law are to have 'primacy over the law of member states' formally making the EU superior to national constitutions and parliaments. Member-states can only act 'to the extent that the Union has not exercised, or has decided to cease exercising, its competence.' In case of doubt, the European Court will have the power, under Article 28, to 'ensure respect for the Constitution and Union law' and to rule on the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which is to be made legally binding."

"Even if it is subsequently subjected to a test of electoral acceptability - and nine out of ten Britons demand a referendum - it is clear that the EU constitution in its present form cannot significantly impact, let alone overhaul, the current structure of the Union’s institutions. That structure will remain inherently bureaucratic rather than democratic, reflecting the aspirations and interests of the post-national, post-Christian ruling elites rather than the people. This was amply demonstrated in the Convention’s specific support for unnatural lifestyles in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and in its refusal to include Christianity in the Preamble as part of Europe’s 'cultural, religious and humanist inheritance.'"
Advocates meet to plan Big Mac attack on fat

With much the same methods and claims that were used to sue tobacco companies, social engineering and interventionism is about to reach the fast food industry:

"Trial lawyers, public health officials and consumer advocates chewed the fat yesterday about how to successfully sue and regulate the fast-food industry for serving unhealthy foods.
At an obesity litigation conference in Boston, about 120 attendees discussed planned lawsuit methods similar to ones used to sue tobacco companies. Those methods included using guerrilla lawsuits - several types of unexpected filings - against food companies, fast-food chains and restaurants, and pushing the envelope with cases that appear "frivolous" to get bigger results and larger settlements."

June 22, 2003

NZ flatulence tax outrages farmers
(via Samizdata)

In order to comply with the Kyoto Protocol, the New Zealand government will impose a new tax on ... cow flatulence:

"Flatulence from cows, sheep and other ruminants is a serious environmental problem, accounting for about 15% of worldwide emissions of methane - one of the most potent of greenhouse gases."

"The proposed flatulence tax is expected to raise NZ$8.4m a year ($4.9m) from next year."
Lessons from the US Anti-Federalist movement

The Articles of Confederation were in effect from 1781 until 1789 when the US Constitution took effect.

In the debate over the European "Constitution", a growing number of references and comparisons have been made to the US constitutional process. It is now perhaps adequate to remember that notable men such as Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine and George Clinton were actually opposed to the US Constitution.

One of the most influential Anti-Federalist Papers were the "Cato" letters. Here is a small excerpt from "Cato" Letter VII, that remains as relevant now as when it was first published in The New-York Journal of January 3, 1788:

"Hitherto we have tied up our rulers in the exercise of their duties by positive restrictions_if the cord has been drawn too tight, loosen it to the necessary extent, but do not entirely unbind them. -- I am no enemy to placing a reasonable confidence in them but such an unbounded one as the advocates and framers of this new system advise you to, would be dangerous to your liberties; it has been the ruin of other governments, and will be yours, if you adopt with all its latitudinal powers -- unlimited confidence in governors as well as individuals is frequently the parent of deception [despotism?]. -- What facilitated the corrupt designs of Philip of Macedon, and caused the ruin of Athens, but the unbounded confidence in their statesmen and rulers? Such improper confidence Demosthenes was so well convinced had ruined his country, that in his second Philippic oration he remarks "that there is one common bulwark with which men of prudence are naturally provided, the guard and security of all people, particularly of free states, against the assaults of tyrants -- What is this? Distrust. Of this be mindful; to this adhere; preserve this carefully, and no calamity can affect you." -- Montesquieu observes, that "the course of government is attended with an insensible descent to evil, and there is no reascending to good without very great efforts. " The plain inference from this doctrine is, that rulers in all governments will erect an interest separate from the ruled, which will have a tendency to enslave them. There is therefore no other way of interrupting this insensible descent and warding off the evil as long as possible, than by establishing principles of distrust in your constituents, and cultivating the sentiment among yourselves."

June 21, 2003

Alan Greenspan likely to set US interest rates at historic lows

As Dr. Greenspan seems set to once again lower US interest rates, it is a good opportunity to remember some of the things the same Dr. Greenspan wrote in a 1966 article, entitled "Gold and Economic Freedom":

"When business in the United States underwent a mild contraction in 1927, the Federal Reserve created more paper reserves in the hope of forestalling any possible bank reserve shortage. More disastrous, however, was the Federal Reserve's attempt to assist Great Britain who had been losing gold to us because the Bank of England refused to allow interest rates to rise when market forces dictated (it was politically unpalatable). The reasoning of the authorities involved was as follows: if the Federal Reserve pumped excessive paper reserves into American banks, interest rates in the United States would fall to a level comparable with those in Great Britain; this would act to stop Britain's gold loss and avoid the political embarrassment of having to raise interest rates. The "Fed" succeeded; it stopped the gold loss, but it nearly destroyed the economies of the world, in the process. The excess credit which the Fed pumped into the economy spilled over into the stock market-triggering a fantastic speculative boom. Belatedly, Federal Reserve officials attempted to sop up the excess reserves and finally succeeded in braking the boom. But it was too late: by 1929 the speculative imbalances had become so overwhelming that the attempt precipitated a sharp retrenching and a consequent demoralizing of business confidence. As a result, the American economy collapsed."

And further down, Dr. Greenspan concluded:

"In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation. There is no safe store of value."

Wise words, indeed...
Further reading on the EU "Constitution"

The european convention website can be found here.

Emotional Over Europe (from Airstrip One) discusses British Euro-scepticism.

Mata-Mouros has an interesting note on the discussion of the european "constitution" and the issue of references to Christianity.

Jacques Garello discusses L’Europe du compromis at an editorial at Libres.

June 20, 2003

The EU "Constitution", Christianity and some minor issues

At a time when the proposed EU "Constitution" seems destined to further reduce the number of policy areas subject to the safeguard of national vetoes, centralize exclusive powers in Brussels over a number of key subjects and create a unified department to support a EU foreign minister, the biggest topic of discussion appears to be whether the document should include an explicit reference to Christianity...

The fundamental problem of taking a major legal and symbolical step towards the creation of a single European political entity composed of 25 separate states (some of which already have problems for being composed of different nations) does not appear to trouble more than a few minds, who are quickly labeled as anti-European (or worse) if they voice their discontentment over this defining issue.

Oblivious to the dangers of political centralization and unwilling to analyse history with common sense, most European leaders seem engaged in the process of taking a significant leap forward towards the creation of a pan-European super-state. Perhaps the discussion over the reference to Christianity is more important than it might appear at first sight, as coping with the problems generated by a European unified state will certainly be beyond mere human capabilities...
Neoconservatism explained

The Neoconservatism entry from Wikipedia is excellent for those interested in getting a reasonably unbiased account of the origins and evolution of the (American) Neoconservative movement.

Excerpts:

"Generally they supported a militant anticommunism, minimal social welfare (to the consternation of extreme free-market libertarians), and sympathy with a traditionalist agenda. Its feud with the traditional right, especially William F. Buckley's National Review over the welfare state (although the staff of the present National Review are recognisably neo-conservative) and the nativist, protectionist, isolationist wing of the party, once represented by ex-Republican Pat Buchanan, separated them from the old conservatives. But domestic policy does not define neoconservatism; it is a movement founded on, and perpetuated by a hawkish aggressive foreign policy, opposition to communism during the Cold War and now opposition to Middle Eastern states that pursue foreign and domestic policies which do not align with U.S. interests. Thus, their foremost target was the old Nixon approach to foreign policy, peace through negotiations, diplomacy, amd arms control known, Détente and containment (rather than rollback) of the Soviet Union, and the beginning of the process that would lead to bilateral ties between China and the US. There is still, today, a rift between many members of the State Department, who favor established foreign policy conventions, and the neoconservative hawks."

"There is conflict between neoconservatives and libertarian conservatives. Libertarian conservatives are distrustful of a large government and therefore regard neoconservative foreign policy ambitions with considerable distrust.

There has been considerable conflict between neoconservatives and business conservatives in some areas. Neoconservatives tend to see China as a looming threat to the United States and argue for harsh policies to contain that threat. Business conservatives see China as a business opportunity and see a tough policy against China as opposed to their desires to make money there. Furthermore business conservatives appear much less distrustful of international institutions.

There has been a sharp conflict over the years with "paleoconservatives", whose very name is taken as a rebuke to their "neo" (new) brethren. There are many personal issues but effectively the paleoconservatives view the neoconservatives as interlopers who deviate from the traditional conservative agenda on issues as diverse as States Rights, free trade, immigration, isolationism and the welfare state. All of this leads to their conservative label being questioned. They furthermore tend to see the methods of the neo-conservatives as simply those of right wing Trotskyites and not more civilised Conservatives."

My only problem with the article is that I'm not sure what is a "business conservative" supposed to be...
Libertarian Socialists? (3)

Perry de Havilland has published an article at Libertarian Alliance where he exposes the The Fallacy of 'Libertarian Socialism' that is well worth reading.

Here is one of the key points he makes:

"It seems to me that one thing all forms of collectivism share is that individual choice is always subordinate to The Group, be it the fascist volk or a local soviet or an anarcho-syndicalist people's council or whatever other fiction of 'society' the state decides to use. So talk of individual rights within the context of a collectivist 'society' is either incoherence or if not is nothing more than a tactical ploy to conflate a violence based system of total governance with its antithesis in a manner well understood."
On using state power to prevent harm to others

On his classic essay "On Liberty", one of the most important documents of political liberalism, John Stuart Mill eloquently warns us of the dangers of using state power in violation of each individual's sovereignity over his own body and mind:

"the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil, in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him must be calculated to produce evil to someone else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign."

June 19, 2003

Smoking and Property Rights

William Anderson explains here how the state imposed smoking bans are a dangerous assault on property rights:

"While many libertarians have fashioned the argument as a contest between the rights of smokers and nonsmokers, it is a mistake to stop there. There are no doubts that conflicting rights exist here, but legislation targeting tobacco use is not the answer. The real issue here is not whether the law will be used as a mediation device between smokers and nonsmokers, but rather the fact that activists are using the state as a vehicle to hijack private property rights and to take choices away from individuals who are quite capable of thinking for themselves.

"If one abolishes man's freedom to determine his own consumption, one takes all freedoms away," writes Mises.

The decision of whether or not to ban smoking on private property should be solely left up to the property owner, period. Furthermore, individuals who choose to work or patronize such places should not be permitted to claim later that secondhand smoke made them sick (and then have a jury make them multimillionaires)."

Kind words

I thank my Portuguese friends at Mata-Mouros for the kind reference made to this humble blog.
New 'Joan of Arc' wows the strike-weary French

Like The Agitator wisely asked, maybe there is still hope for the French...

"HAILED as the new Joan of Arc on a crusade to stop France’s powerful unions holding the silent majority hostage over pension reform, Sabine Herold, 21, a politics student, has become an instant heroine to those who are fed up with seeing their country crippled by seemingly endless strikes.

Shouting into a microphone to loud applause, Ms Herold delivered a stirring message to the tens of thousands of followers who gathered in the Place du Chatelet in the centre of Paris at the weekend, to hear her speak on behalf of her association, Liberté, j’écris ton nom.

"How numerous we are today. More than I would ever have dared hope for just a month ago, when the strike was all around us," she said.

"We have put a full stop to decades of silent submission. This time, for the first time, we have told them no," she added, referring to the strikers she calls "reactionary egotists". "

June 18, 2003

Libertarian Socialists? (2)

The misconception that the word "libertarian" was originally used by socialist anarchists is apparently very widespread.

A brief account of the history of the word "libertarian" can be found here.

"The term "libertarian'' goes back at least to the 17th and 18th century religious debates regarding free-will versus pre-destination, and was used at that time to refer to persons who believed that individuals had full liberty to act as they saw fit."

"Around the end of the 19th century the term began to be used by some splinter socialist groups. The literature I have been able to find does not bother to define the term explicitly, so one has to divine the meaning from context and usage. However, it is very clear that the usage, even by those calling themselves "socialist", was very much anti-authoritarian and pro-individual liberty. This is consistent with both the words' origins and with the contemporaneous usage by various writers, as well as with the modern usage, so we can't fault the socialists too much. (Note that some "libertarian socialists" vociferously claim to be anti-authoritarian themselves, which is difficult to credit at best -- but to the extent that they really are against authoritarianism and favor individual free will, then of course they are libertarians.)"
The proposed EU constitution fundamentally changes the union

David Heathcoat-Amory, Tory party representative on the convention, in the Daily Telegraph:

"Instead, the convention became a forum for institutional bargaining. Each of the existing EU bodies jostled for more power. And they succeeded. There is to be a full-time European President, elected by heads of government for a renewable two-and-a-half-year term. The European Parliament gets full law-making powers, shared equally with the Council of Ministers. More than 30 policy areas have been moved from national vetoes to qualified majority voting - a dramatic reduction in the powers of governments and parliaments to block unwelcome proposals."

"The truth is that the European Constitution founds a new union, with a single unified structure and legal personality. The existing structure, which secures the rights of member states to make their own decisions and collective arrangements about foreign policy and criminal justice matters, will disappear. The EU will have "exclusive competence" over trade, competition rules, common commercial policy, fisheries conservation and the signing of all international agreements."
Libertarian Socialists?

The appearance of Paul Anderson's blog, provocatively subtitled "democratic socialism with a libertarian punch", has motivated this commentary from Samizdata's David Carr.

I find myself mostly in agreement with David Carr and his "hijacking thesis". It wouldn't be the first time either...

Referring to the "hijacking" of the term "Liberal" that took place more or less at the beginning of the twentieth century, Joseph Schumpeter wrote:

"As a supreme, if unintended, compliment, the enemies of private enterprise have thought it wise to appropriate its label."

It does appear as if socialists, not satisfied with constantly inventing new labels for old ideas ("Third Way" anyone?), keep trying to appropriate the ones used by their opponents.

I hope they don't succeed this time, as the reason English speaking libertarians stopped using the word "liberal" to describe their views was precisely because the word had slowly but steadily took on a new (and opposite) meaning to the original one.

Harry Hatchet makes an interesting analysis in defense of the expression "libertarian socialist" here. While it's true that some extreme left people have used the term libertarian for quite some time, it is also undeniable that words, if they are to be of any use, must have precise meanings.

Then again, maybe the time for absolute Newspeak is upon us....
Bush pressed to pursue 'regime change' in Iran

Unsettling news from Washington:

"Conservative US Republicans, backed by some Democrats, are seizing on anti-government protests in Tehran as an opportunity to press the Bush administration to adopt "regime change" in Iran as official policy."

June 17, 2003

Prodi drawn into 'looting' scandal at Eurostat

According to the Financial Times, Mr. Prodi, the EU Comission president, and other commissioners may be involved in the Eurostat scandal:

"The Financial Times has learnt that Mr Prodi, Commission president, and at least three other commissioners knew more than they have so far admitted about a growing scandal at Eurostat, the Commission's statistical arm.

In spite of promising to stamp out fraud and protect whistleblowers, Mr Prodi's team failed to act decisively in the face of warnings about wrongdoing."
The Euro Menace: The USE Vs The USA

Andrew Sullivan writes about the Euro menace:

"What can the United States do about this new threat? The sad answer is not much. Attempts to intervene and prevent the new USE from taking shape could backfire. One thing that could unify Europe is a clumsy U.S. intervention to prevent it. But the United States can and should strengthen its military ties to the new Europe, especially Poland and Hungary, and keep an independent relationship with all the Eastern European states. In trade negotiations, the United States could also try harder and harder to unravel European agricultural subsidies. It's this system that keeps some countries dependent on Brussels and could enhance France's leverage over a highly rural country such as Poland. Above all, the United States can let its most reliable European ally, Britain, know that it prizes the relationship, that it does not necessarily believe British adoption of the euro is a good or necessary thing, and that it values Britain's independent military capacity immensely. Keeping Britain both in the USE and outside of it militarily, diplomatically, and monetarily should become a prime U.S. objective in foreign policy. Without it, the United States could lose its most valuable military and diplomatic ally. If you think that's unimportant, imagine the Iraq war--diplomatically and militarily--without the fig leaf of British support."

Frankly, I'm more worried about the potential threat the European Union poses to Europeans.
Pour it on

Larry Kudlow once again makes his favorite monetary policy prescription:

"Most supply-siders disagree, but Alan Greenspan & Co. should turn the money spigots wide open that day -- more than they have thus far in this reflation cycle. I'm talking about shock-and-awe level accommodation from the Fed."

I think even Keynes would be "shocked-and-awed" by this level of Keynesianism.

June 16, 2003

Is the Neoconservative Moment Over?

Pat Buchanan makes a compelling case for the possibility that the neoconservative movement may have achieved too much public recognition for its own good.

"Moreover, for a movement that is small in number and utterly dependent on its proximity to power, the neocons have made major mistakes. They have insulted too many U.S. allies, boasted too much of their connections and influence, attracted too much attention to themselves, and antagonized too many adversaries. In this snake pit of a city, their over-developed penchant for self-promotion is not necessarily an asset."
LRC Blog 2.0

A brilliantly funny "remixed" version of the LRC Blog.

Simply unmissable!

June 15, 2003

Who Was Right About the Soviet Union?

Tim Starr (responding to Lew Rockwell) argues that both the CIA's 1976 Team "B" assessment of the Soviet Union as a strategic threat to the U.S and the Reagan administration's policy of achieving global military superiority over the Soviets were right.
Italy's Tyranny of Labor Protection

An interesting piece by Alberto Mingardi about the Italian labor market legislation.

"Italy's reformers have shown no aptitude for stressing the morality of the market system and the importance of individual freedom. As a result, the moral and beneficial role of the entrepreneur is overlooked. Rather, reformers stick to factually correct, but dully technical economic arguments about the costs of the current restrictions. For the average Italian voter, choosing between "marginal occupation increment rates" and "social justice" isn't a tough call. Mr. Berlusconi, a master of political communication in other fields, has clearly failed to make his case for a reform that more than anything will determine the success of his tenure as prime minister."
Is your weight the government's business?

Overweight?

Don't know what to do?

Sue those who sell you food.
The Bright Side of Merde.

Matt Welch finds some hopeful signs in the French public's reaction to the national strikes.
Philosopher of Contentment.

An excellent article on Oakeshott by Joseph Sobran.