Rothbard's Man, Economy, and State: a Memoir

Rothbard's Man, Economy, and State: a Memoir

04/13/2018Gary North

In October 1962, I was given a lifetime advantage: a copy of Murray Rothbard’s Man, Economy, and State. In the language of journalism, it was hot off the presses. It had just been published. I was sent a copy by F. A. Harper, known as Baldy, who was not bald. At the time, he ran the Institute for Humane Studies. Until early that year, he had managed the William Voker Fund. The Volker Fund had put up the money that subsidized the publication of Rothbard’s book. It was published by Van Nostrand, a small but respectable mainstream publishing house located in Princeton, New Jersey. Van Nostrand was also the publisher of a series of books that had been financed by the Volker Fund over the previous two years.

I was in my final year of college as an undergraduate. I had written to Harper the previous year about some questions I had about Ludwig von Mises’ Human Action (Yale University Press, 1949). Harper responded in a letter. I still have the fragments of that letter. For some unknown reason, I cut off the introduction to the letter, which would have had the date on it. I suspect this was in the summer of 1961.

By 1962, Harper was serving as my part-time mentor. I did not fully understand this at the time. In November 1961, he paid for me to fly to Burlingame, California, in order to spend a few hours with him. This was one of the turning points in my life, although I did not know this at the time. He gave me a copy of Israel Kirzner’s book, The Economic Point of View, which had been published by Van Nostrand in 1960. I wrote this on the front page: “presented by F. A. Harper November, 1961.” He was recruiting me. I have been grateful for this ever since. When he sent me Man, Economy and State, he was still in the process of recruiting me.

Within a few months after my visit, Harper was fired by the man who controlled the Volker Fund, Harold Luhnow, the nephew of William Volker, who died in 1947. Luhnow took over the management of the Fund in 1947. He shifted its focus from charitable activities in Kansas City, Missouri to financing the remnants of classical liberalism. In early 1962, he replaced Harper with Ivan Bierly, who had received his Ph.D. under Harper at Cornell years before. The Volcker Fund was renamed “The Center for American Studies.” That shift turned out to be crucial in my career. Bierly hired a new staff. One of the people he hired was R. J. Rushdoony. I wrote to him in the spring of 1962. I met him when he lectured for two weeks at a summer seminar sponsored by the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists. Rushdoony continued to recruit me in my senior year. He brought me to work for the Center as a summer intern in 1963, and I lived at his home. I spent the whole summer reading the basic texts of Austrian School economics, including Man, Economy, and State.

ACADEMIC GUILDS

Rothbard’s book was a masterpiece, both conceptually and rhetorically -- the art of persuasion. He had a rigorously systematic mind. He also had a stupendous memory regarding materials he had read, which he demonstrated in the book’s footnotes. He had an unmatched ability to write clearly. I mentioned this in my article in the 1988 Festschrift for Rothbard, Man, Economy, and Liberty. In my article, “Why Murray Rothbard Will Never win the Nobel Prize,” I said that he wrote much too clearly to win it.

Mises was a clear writer. But in Human Action, he offered fewer footnotes than Man, Economy, and State. He also did not use the paraphernalia of modern economics. There are no equations and no graphs in anything Mises ever wrote. The famous supply and demand scissors are absent in his books. In terms of presentation, Rothbard in Man, Economy, and State was far closer to the mainstream academic community than Mises was. But he was not close to the mainstream community with respect to the content of what he wrote. He was an academic pariah in 1962, and he remained a pariah all his life. He shared this position with Mises.

This was not a liability in the long run. One of the important points made by Thomas Kuhn’s paradigm-shifting book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, also published in 1962, was this: major shifts in the worldview of intellectuals are usually generated from either the fringes of an academic guild or from outside the academic guild. If they are generated from inside, they are generated from young men who are reacting against the outlook of the guild. They are on its fringes. The other source of change in perception comes from brilliant outsiders who are in no way under the authority of a particular academic guild.

Mises was funded from outside of academia. New York University paid him no salary for a quarter of a century. He retired in 1969. He may have been the oldest professor in the nation. The money to pay his salary had been put up by rich friends of Mises, most notably Lawrence Fertig, who was on the board of New York University. He donated through the Foundation for Economic Education after its founding by Leonard E. Read in 1946. The Volker Fund also put up money for Mises and Hayek at the University of Chicago. The Volker Fund had put Rothbard on its payroll, mainly to review books, beginning in the mid-1950's. Rothbard was not on any university or academic payroll in 1962. Only after the demise of the Center for American Studies in 1964 did he get his first teaching position, which was at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. The school did not offer an economics major. He taught budding engineers. He was on the fringes.

Mises and Rothbard were outsiders. That was their great advantage. This was not clear to me in 1963, but after I read Kuhn’s book in 1968, I understood. The economics guild had no control over either of them. Neither of them published in professional journals. Rothbard had published a few essays, but after 1960 he never bothered again. He made a wise decision. He did not have to conform to what any editor believed.

CLARITY AS A STANDARD

I have always appreciated clarity of exposition. In 1963, as today, I was of the opinion that an author had two primary responsibilities: accuracy and clarity. Persuasion is in third place. Rothbard was tremendous at all three. In this sense, he became my literary model. To the extent that I am known for my writing, I gained this skill more from Rothbard than anybody else.

In 1966, I took a graduate seminar on the American Revolution from Douglass Adair. He had been the editor of The William and Mary Quarterly. He had personally transformed it from a journal that published regional memorabilia into the premier journal of colonial history. He told us that he always used this criterion for screening manuscripts. If an article did not stand on its own merits without the footnotes, he would not publish it. He said that the footnotes were important to validate the thesis, but if the article was heavily dependent on the footnotes to make its point, it was not worth publishing. That impressed me at the time. I see in retrospect that everything scholarly/academic that Rothbard ever wrote would have qualified for publication in terms of Adair’s rule.

Adair made another observation. He said that every scholar would benefit from a year of editing a scholarly journal in his field. Why? Because he would discover how few of his colleagues have the ability to write clearly.

Rothbard had a huge advantage over his peers. He was the master of clarity in the field of economics. He was even more clear than Hazlitt. As a friend of Hazlitt's, I guarantee you that Hazlitt would have been the first to admit this. He was a humble man. For a man who achieved so much, he was an astoundingly humble man. He had an enormous respect for Rothbard.

F. A. Hayek was a clear writer, but as he admitted, he was not a systematic thinker. He divided schools of thought into two groups: systematizers and puzzlers. Hayek called himself a puzzler. In economic thought, this is clearly seen in Austrian School economics from the beginning. Carl Menger and Eugen Böhm-Bawerk were systematizers. Friederich Wieser was a puzzler. Not many people have ever read Wieser. Puzzlers are harder to read than systematizers.

Hayek gained attention in the English-speaking academic world beginning in the early 1930's. Mises was not well-known in academia outside of Austria. Hayek is still the best known Austrian School economist. He won the Nobel Prize in 1974. But Hayek never wrote a treatise on economics.

Henry Hazlitt was a clear writer. He was rhetorically gifted. He had the ability to sustain long, complex arguments, as he demonstrated in his refutation of Keynes, The Failure of the “New Economics.” It was published in 1959. We never see it footnoted in any scholarly journal. There are few people who have ever read it. Hundreds of thousands of people have read his little masterpiece, Economics in One Lesson (1946), but he wrote it in just a few months, and it is not systematic in the way that treatises are supposed to be. It was not meant to be a treatise. It was meant to be a popular book that introduced people to free-market principles. It succeeded. Nothing that Hazlitt ever wrote was a comprehensive treatise.

In 1949, the world of economic theory was waiting for a clear, comprehensive, systematic treatise.

PIECES OF THE ECONOMIC PUZZLE

Most of the pieces of the economic puzzle had been lying around in an unorganized pile ever since Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations (1776). They had been refined and trimmed by Carl Menger in 1871 in his Principles of Economics. The British economist Alfred Marshall in 1890 attempted to put the pieces together in his Principles of Economics, but as is true of so many British thinkers, he was something of a puzzler, not a systematizer. The British intellectual tradition is inductivist, not deductivist. It does not begin with first principles. The pieces in his textbook did not fit together well because they were not systematically based on methodological individualism in the way that Human Action is.

I will now make an admission. It was not until just a few years ago that I recognized what should have been screamingly obvious to me and everybody else. Human Action was the first comprehensive treatise on economics. This may seem like a preposterous statement, but if you look back over the books on economics prior to Human Action, there is no book that starts at the beginning – the acting individual – and develops a comprehensive theory of all aspects of the market process in terms of just a few principles, which Mises called axioms and corollaries. No other economist called them axioms and corollaries. That was what made Mises unique.

Rothbard was an a priorist (deductivist) in epistemology, just as Mises was. In 1962, this made a grand total of two economists. In Man, Economy, and State, Rothbard laid out the chapters of the book in a systematic fashion. From Chapter 2 on, each chapter is a development of the previous chapter. This is what a prioristsare supposed to do. They start with axioms, and they develop the axioms, point by point. Mises had done the same thing in Human Action. Rothbard did it with greater precision. He also did it with greater clarity.

The first person to understand the uniqueness and comprehensive nature of Human Action was Rothbard. He saw this in 1949. This gave him an edge over all of his contemporaries. That is why Man, Economy, and State, which took him over a decade to write, was so important to my generation of budding economists. He systematized what was already a systematic introduction to economic theory. He made it easier for us to grasp the importance of what Mises had done.

Mises put together pieces of the puzzle. Rothbard took that completed puzzle and made it more palatable for younger economists who wanted to see graphs. Fortunately, he never used an equation. That would have sullied the product.

Rothbard never claimed uniqueness for his book. He fully understood that it was a derivative product. But as an introductory treatise that uses the paraphernalia of the modern economic textbook, Rothbard’s book is more serviceable than Mises’s book. In 1962, the enormous volume of his footnotes represented a survey of almost everything that had been published in the journals over the last 50 years. I have never seen anything like it. Admittedly, this dates the book. But that was inevitable, given Rothbard’s strategy. He wanted to introduce the basics of Austrian economic thought, and he wanted it within a framework of the sweep of economic opinion as of 1960 or thereabouts.

CONCLUSION

I don’t know if younger scholars read Man, Economy, and State before they read Human Action. In retrospect, I’m not sure whether I finished Man, Economy and State before I finished Human Action. I do know that I read quite a bit of Human Action in 1961. I wrote to Harper about the book in 1961. But I don’t remember if I read the whole book before the summer of 1963. I had finished both books by late August 1963. But there is no question in my mind that Rothbard opened the categories of economics more clearly to me than Mises had done. Rothbard’s literary style and his approach to economics was exactly what I needed in 1963. His book gave me an edge on my contemporaries. It shaped my work dramatically both in graduate school and subsequently. I even wrote a term paper for a course in apologetics – the philosophical defense of Christianity – on Rothbard’s epistemology. That was in 1964.

If someone has never read any economics, and he wants to start at the top, I recommend that he read Human Action first. But if he is in graduate school as an economics major, he probably would be wise to read Man, Economy and State first. If you like supply and demand graphs, read Rothbard’s book first. If you don’t like graphs, read Mises first.

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Why Trump’s Iran Isolation Plan May Backfire

07/10/2018Ron Paul

In May, President Trump pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal despite Iran living up to its obligations and the deal working as planned. While the US kept in place most sanctions against Tehran, China and Russia - along with many European countries - had begun reaping the benefits of trade with an Iran eager to do business with the world.

Now, President Trump is threatening sanctions against any country that continues to do business with Iran. But will his attempt to restore the status quo before the Iran deal really work?

Even if the Europeans cave in to US demands, the world has changed a great deal since the pre-Iran deal era.

President Trump is finding that his threats and heated rhetoric do not always have the effect he wishes. As his Administration warns countries to stop buying Iranian oil by November or risk punishment by the United States, a nervous international oil market is pushing prices ever higher, threatening the economic prosperity he claims credit for. President Trump’s response has been to demand that OPEC boost its oil production by two million barrels per day to calm markets and bring prices down.

Perhaps no one told him that Iran was a founding member of OPEC?

When President Trump Tweeted last week that Saudi Arabia agreed to begin pumping additional oil to make up for the removal of Iran from the international markets, the Saudis very quickly corrected him, saying that while they could increase capacity if needed, no promise to do so had been made.

The truth is, if the rest of the world followed Trump’s demands and returned to sanctions and boycotting Iranian oil, some 2.7 million barrels per day currently supplied by Iran would be very difficult to make up elsewhere. Venezuela, which has enormous reserves but is also suffering under, among other problems, crippling US sanctions, is shrinking out of the world oil market.

Iraq has not recovered its oil production capacity since its “liberation” by the US in 2003 and the al-Qaeda and ISIS insurgencies that followed it.

Last week, Bloomberg reported that “a complete shutdown of Iranian sales could push oil prices above $120 a barrel if Saudi Arabia can’t keep up.” Would that crash the US economy? Perhaps. Is Trump willing to risk it?

President Trump’s demand last week that OPEC “reduce prices now” or US military protection of OPEC countries may not continue almost sounded desperate. But if anything, Trump’s bluntness is refreshing: if, as he suggests, the purpose of the US military – with a yearly total budget of a trillion dollars - is to protect OPEC members in exchange for “cheap oil,” how cheap is that oil?

At the end, China, Russia, and others are not only unlikely to follow Trump’s demands that Iran again be isolated: they in fact stand to benefit from Trump’s bellicosity toward Iran. One Chinese refiner has just announced that it would cancel orders of US crude and instead turn to Iran for supplies. How many others might follow and what might it mean.

Ironically, President Trump’s “get tough” approach to Iran may end up benefiting Washington’s named adversaries Russia and China — perhaps even Iran. The wisest approach is unfortunately the least likely at this point: back off from regime change, back off from war-footing, back off from sanctions. Trump may eventually find that the cost of ignoring this advice may be higher than he imagined.

Reprinted with permission.

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What the ‘Dumpster Fire’ D.C. Metro Says About Federal Bureaucracy

07/10/2018James Bovard

The District of Columbia Council voted in June to impose a tax increase of almost 500 percent on Uber and Lyft users to help fix the Washington Metro transit system.  Anyone who summons a Lyft or Uber ride inside D.C. will now be hit with a 6 percent fee to bankroll a subway that a top Obama administration official aptly labeled an “ongoing dumpster fire” two years ago....

The skewering of Uber and Lyft riders was spurred by the D.C. government’s promise to ante up $178 million a year in “dedicated funding” for the subway system. Virginia and Maryland are also chipping in massively for this “solution” that threw the Washington Post editorial board, which retains boundless faith in the magic of government spending, into ecstasy. Metro managers had long claimed that dedicated funding would sway passengers from comparing the subway to Dante’s Inferno. But as soon as the funding deal was done, Metro stunned riders with plans for a vast array of new service disruptions, including shutting down subway lines south of Reagan National Airport for more than three months.

Much of the prolificacy and inefficiency in local transit systems is the result of federal mandates. As a Heritage Foundation analysis noted, “Federal subsidies decrease incentives…to control costs, optimize service routes, and set proper priorities for maintenance and updates.” Transportation scholar Randal O’Toole observed, “Innovative solutions are bypassed and high costs are guaranteed because of the requirement that transit agencies obtain the approval of their unions to be eligible for federal grants.” And the unions often don’t give a damn about the traveling public. Unions representing DC Metro workers blame riders for the system’s problems and denounced as “diabolical” a plan to contract out custodial jobs. But union campaign contributions make politicians happy, which trumps reducing costs.

If money could solve Metro’s problems, the heavily-subsidized system never would have commenced a death spiral.  But neither the feds nor local politicians have the courage to compel radical changes to curb the power of unions, end anti-work rules, and vastly reduce a bureaucracy that makes endless excuses for the system’s other failings. Nor is it likely that Metro employees will even learn the art of non-shiftless shovel leaning.

Read the full article at The American Conservative 
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Donald Trump's Supreme Court Nominee Helped Defend Obamacare

07/10/2018Tho Bishop

Donald Trump has made his second Supreme Court nomination: Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Relative to the other names that were discussed, Kavanaugh’s selection could be seen as a win for the establishment.

For one, he will uphold the Court’s record of Justices with law degrees from either Harvard or Yale.

Two, he has a very swamp-friendly resume, including a long history of doing legal work for the Republican Party and a particular closeness with the Bush family. Having worked on matters including the Clinton Impeachment, the 2000 Florida Recount, and challenges to Obamacare, he has been described by Senator Dick Durbin as the “Forrest Gump of Republican politics.”

Interestingly, a decision he made regarding the Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act is what troubles many on the right. Though he dissented to the question of whether the bill was Constitutional under the Commerce Clause, his minority opinion made it clear that it his objection was to the court’s jurisdiction and not the law itself. He viewed the individual mandate as a tax, logic used by Chief Justice John Roberts in upholding the law.

As Christopher Jacobs wrote for The Federalist:

In Kavanaugh’s view, the mandate could fit ‘comfortably’ within Congress’ constitutional powers,” Even as he ‘do[es] not take a position here on whether the statute as currently written is justifiable,’ Kavanaugh concludes that ‘the only potential Taxing Clause shortcoming in the current individual mandate provision appears to be relatively slight.

Attention now will turn to Kavanaugh’s views on Roe vs. Wade and whether his appointment will challenge that decision. On Fox News this morning, Judge Andrew Napolitano thought Kavanaugh’s explicitly pro-life track record as a Justice would make the nomination process more difficult, possibly pushing Trump to nominate someone different. We will now see how moderate Republicans, such as Senator Susanne Collins, react to the decision. 

Of course, the fact that the appointment of a single Supreme Court Justice warrants nationwide protests now erupting is simply a reminder of the inherent failures of a system which gives so much power to nine people in black robes.

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If Hillary Hates Populism, She Should Love the Electoral College

07/06/2018Ryan McMaken

Hillary Clinton was at it again the other day, complaining about how, if it weren't for that darned electoral college, she'd be president now. The Daily Mail reports on Clinton's remarks in her recent speech in the UK:

"Populists can stay in power by mobilizing a fervent base. Now, there are many other lessons like this," she said, adding that she had "my personal experience with winning three million more votes but still losing."

But there's nothing really novel about this. Clinton has been whining about the Electoral College since 2016.

The real news here, as Ed Morrissey at Hot Air notes, is that Clinton was condemning populism while at the same time condemning the electoral college. In other words, Clinton doesn't realize the electoral college is an anti-populist measure. In her speech

And why did the framers of the Constitution create it? To act as a buffer against populism, at least in form. The Electoral College reflects the popular vote on a state-by-state basis to prevent a handful of the most populous states from controlling the executive through the nationwide popular vote, which creates a buffer against the very impulse Hillary decries in this speech.

In other words, the purpose of the electoral college is to ensure that a successful presidential candidate appeals to a broader base of voters than would be the case under a simple majoritarian popular vote.

This makes it harder to win by doing what Clinton did during the campaign: focus on a thin sliver of rich Hollywood and business elites, coupled with urban ethnics.It's true that those two groups can offer a lot of votes and a lot of campaign dollars. But they also tend to be limited to very specific regions, states, and metro areas. The groups Clinton ignored: the suburban middle class and working class make up a much larger, more geographically diverse coalition. This can be seen in the fact that Trump won such diverse states as Alabama, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

In 2016, the electoral college worked exactly as it's supposed to — it forces candidates to broaden their appeal. Or as a cynic like myself might say: it forces politicians to pander to a broader base.

Clinton complains that a fervent group of voters can take over the machinery of government. But that's harder to do with the electoral college than without it. So, Clinton is making a mockery of her own argument by one minute complaining about populism, and then complaining about the electoral college the next.

But it was the Clinton team that had the more populist strategy. For example, in the US the 4 largest states (California, Texas, New York, and Florida) constitute one-third of the US population. The top-ten largest states total 54 percent of the US population. Hillary thought she could just focus on the larger states and that would be enough. Her strategy was to ignore half the country, call them "deplorables," and just count on the resentments of people in some big cities to carry her to victory. It's hard to see how that's somehow less "populist" than what Trump did.

elecmap.png

For Hillary Clinton though, everything is personal, and the fact that the electoral college came between her and the presidency means it must be a bad thing.

The fact that it also guards against Clinton-style demagoguery, however, doesn't make the electoral college "anti-democratic" as is thought my many who so tiresomely chant "we're a republic not a democracy." 50 separate presidential elections (plus DC and the territories) is not somehow less democratic than holding one big national election. It's simply a democratic method designed to ensure more buy in from a larger range of voters, not less. Other similar tactics include "double majorities" as used in Switzerland. And for all these reasons, as I note here, the electoral college should be expanded:

Double-majority and multiple-majority systems mandate more widespread support for a candidate or measure than would be needed under an ordinary majority vote.

Unfortunately, in the United States, it is possible to pass tax increases and other types of sweeping and costly legislation with nothing more than bare majorities from Congress which is itself largely a collection of millionaires with similar educations, backgrounds, and economic status. Even this low standard is not required in cases where the president rules via executive order with " a pen and ... a phone ."

In response to this centralization of political power, the electoral college should be expanded to function as a veto on legislation, executive orders, and Supreme Court rulings.

For example, if Congress seeks to pass a tax increase, their legislation should be null and void without also obtaining a majority of electoral college votes in a manner similar to that of presidential elections. Under such a scheme, the federal government would be forced to submit new legal changes to the voters for approval. The same could be applied to executive orders and treaties. It would be even better to require both a popular-vote majority in addition to the electoral-vote majority. And while we're at it, let's require that at least 25 states approve the measures as well.

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A Cup of Coffee in Venezuela Now Costs 1 Million Bolivars

Two years ago it was 450 bolivars.

Inflation over the past 3 months has been 482,000%, on an annual basis.

bolivar coffee.png Source: Bloomberg Cafe Con Leche Index

For more, see "How Socialism Ruined Venezuela" by Rafael Acevedo and Luis B. Cirocco:

So, what are the results of socialism in Venezuela? Well, we have experienced hyperinflation. We have people eating garbage, schools that do not teach, hospitals that do not heal, long and humiliating lines to buy flour, bread, and basic medicines. We endure the militarization of practically every aspect of life.

The cost of living has skyrocketed in recent years.

Let’s look at the cost of goods in services in terms of a salary earned by a full college professor. In the 1980s, our “full professor” needed to pay almost 15 minutes of his salary to buy one kilogram of beef. Today, in July 2017, our full professor needs to pay the equivalent of 18 hours to buy the same amount of beef. During the 1980s, our full professor needed to pay almost one year’s salary for a new sedan. Today, he must pay the equivalent of 25 years of his salary. In the 1980s, a full professor with his monthly salary could buy 17 basic baskets of essential goods. Today, he can buy just one-quarter of a basic
basket.

And what about the value of our money? Well, in March 2007, the largest denomination of paper money in Venezuela was the 100 bolivar bill. With it, you could buy 28 US dollars, 288 eggs, or 56 kilograms of rice. Today, you can buy .01 dollars, 0.2 eggs, and 0.08 kilograms of rice. In July 2017, you need five 100-bolivar bills to buy just one egg.

RELATED: "Hyperinflation Has Venezuelan Merchants Weighing Cash, and Now It's Breaking Their Scales" by Tho Bishop

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Apoplithorismosphobia translated into Polish

07/06/2018Mark Thornton

My paper "Apophorismosphobia" has been translated into Polish by the Mises Institute of Poland.

Here is the original.

 

 

 

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Trumping to Serfdom

07/05/2018Doug French

Ryan Murphy of SMU has confirmed what F.A. Hayek wrote decades ago. It turns out Washington D.C. has more psychopaths per capita than anyplace else in the country. Insert my shock face here.

The best chapter of the seminal “Road to Serfdom” is ‘Why the Worst get on Top,’ where Hayek wrote,

Advancement within a totalitarian group or party depends largely on a willingness to do immoral things. The principle that the end justifies the means, which in individualist ethics is regarded as the denial of all morals, in collectivist ethics becomes necessarily the supreme rule. There is literally nothing which the consistent collectivist must not be prepared to do if it serves ‘the good of the whole’, because that is to him the only criterion of what ought to be done.

The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd quotes the study,

“psychopaths are likely to be effective in the political sphere” and that “the occupations that were most disproportionately psychopathic were C.E.O., lawyer, media, salesperson, surgeon, journalist, police officer, clergyperson, chef, and civil servant.

Hayek wrote that psychopaths, er politicians, have to “weld together a closely coherent body of supporters”...appealing “to a common human weakness. It seems to be easier for people to agree on a negative programme – on the hatred of an enemy, on the envy of the better off – than on any positive task.”

Think, the media, immigrants, the FBI, and now, gulp, Canadians.

Hayek continued,

The contrast between the ‘we’ and the ‘they’ is consequently always employed by those who seek the allegiance of huge masses. The enemy may be internal, like the ‘Jew’ in Germany or the ‘kulak’ in Russia, or he may be external. In any case, this technique has the great advantage of leaving the leader greater freedom of action than would almost any positive programme.

Trump’s surrounding characters are right out of central casting, starting with Rudy Giuliani, who, as Burt Blumert wrote, “Politically, Giuliani is like the horror film monster who refuses to stay dead.” Murray Rothbard said Giuliani was his least favorite politician.

As for Trump himself, when asked about comments made of Michael Milken’s sentencing, in a speech given in 1989 at the Libertarian Party convention, Rothbard said , “The other was Donald J. Trump, of all the nerve, saying ‘You can be happy on less money than that.’ What gall, what chutzpah!"

Chutzpah indeed. But, Rothbard hadn’t seen anything yet. Dowd, writes,

We knew Trump was a skinflint and a grifter. But the New York attorney general deeply documented just how cheesy he and his children are with a suit accusing the Trump charitable foundation of illegal behavior and self-dealing. It was just what Trump always accused the Clintons of doing.

Donald’s constant fibbing and contention that news is fake was anticipated by Hayek.

And the most efficient technique to this end is to use the old words but change their meaning. Few traits of totalitarian regimes are at the same time so confusing to the superficial observer and yet so characteristic of the whole intellectual climate as this complete perversion of language.

America’s road to serfdom continues on.

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Who’s Afraid of the Trump/Putin Summit?

07/03/2018Ron Paul

President Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton was in Moscow last week organizing what promises to be an historic summit meeting between his boss and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Bolton, who has for years demanded that the US inflict “pain” on Russia and on Putin specifically, was tasked by Trump to change his tune. He was forced to shed some of his neoconservative skin and get involved in peacemaking. Trump surely deserves some credit for that!

As could be expected given the current political climate in the US, the neoconservatives have joined up with the anti-Trump forces on the Left -- and US client states overseas -- to vigorously oppose any movement toward peace with Russia. The mainstream media is, as also to be expected, amplifying every objection to any step away from a confrontation with Russia.

Bolton had hardly left Moscow when the media began its attacks. US allies are “nervous” over the planned summit, reported Reuters. They did not quote any US ally claiming to be nervous, but they did speculate that both the UK and Ukraine would not be happy were the US and Russia to improve relations. But why is that? The current Ukrainian government is only in power because the Obama Administration launched a coup against its democratically-elected president to put US puppets in charge. They’re right to be nervous. And the British government is also right to be worried. They swore that Russia was behind the “poisoning” of the Skripals without providing any evidence to back up their claims. Hundreds of Russian diplomats were expelled from Western countries on their word alone. And over the past couple of months, each of their claims has fallen short.

At the extreme of the reaction to Bolton’s Russia trip was the US-funded think tank, the Atlantic Council, which is stuck in a 1950s time warp. Its resident Russia “expert,” Anders Åslund, Tweeted that long-time Russia hawk Bolton had been “captured by the Kremlin” and must now be considered a Russian agent for having helped set up a meeting between Trump and Putin. Do they really prefer nuclear war?

The “experts” are usually wrong when it comes to peacemaking. They rely on having “official enemies” for their very livelihood. In 1985, national security “expert” Zbigniew Brzezinski attacked the idea of a summit between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. It was “demeaning” and “tactically unwise,” he said as reported at the time by the Washington Times. Such a meeting would only “elevate” Gorbachev and make him “first among equals,” he said. Thankfully, Reagan did engage Gorbachev in several summits and the rest is history. Brzezinski was wrong and peacemakers were right.

President Trump should understand that any move toward better relations with Russia has been already pre-approved by the American people. His position on Russia was well known. He campaigned very clearly on the idea that the US should end the hostility toward Russia that characterized the Obama Administration and find a way to work together. Voters knew his position and they chose him over Hillary Clinton, who was also very clear on Russia: more confrontation and more aggression.

President Trump would be wise to ignore the neocon talking heads and think tank “experts” paid by defense contractors. He should ignore the “never Trumpers” who have yet to make a coherent policy argument opposing the president. The extent of their opposition to Trump seems to be “he’s mean and rude.” Let us hope that a Trump/Putin meeting begins a move toward real reconciliation and away from the threat of nuclear war.

Reprinted with permission. 

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The Spirit of '76: Radicalism and Revolution

07/03/2018Ryan McMaken

In the final chapters of his masterful history of the American Revolution, Conceived in Liberty, Murray Rothbard takes to examining the political and social repercussions of the American Revolution's success. He notes the revolution accelerated the elimination of old feudal laws, the disestablishment of churches, and the confiscation of lands from the old Tory ruling classes. Confiscated lands were sold by state governments to "patriots." In other words, the "land redistribution" programs we so often hear about taking place during other revolutions, were not alien to the American one.

The war changed race relations in many areas as well. In 1776, Congress authorized the enlistment of blacks in military units, and some especially anti-British masters began to offer freedom to slaves that enlisted. Meanwhile, the "American navy — Continental, state, and privateer — welcomes Negro sailors from the very beginning of the conflict." Among the colonies, only South Carolina and Georgia refused to participate in this new option for blacks in the war. Indeed, so strong was the devotion to slavery among South Carolina and Georgia officials, Rothbard concluded, "they preferred defeat in the war to allowing that sort of subversive license." Not surprisingly, these new legal and social realities accelerated the abolition of slavery in many states, although total abolition crashed upon the rocks of the slave economy in the Deep South. 

There is no denying, then, that the American Revolution was very much a revolution, as Rothbard wrote in Chapter 80

Especially since the early 1950s, America has been concerned with opposing revolutions throughout the world; in the process, it has generated a historiography that denies its own revolutionary past. This neoconservative view of the American Revolution, echoing the reactionary writer in the pay of the Austrian and English governments of the early nineteenth century, Friedrich von Gentz, tries to isolate the American Revolution from all the revolutions in the western world that preceded it and followed it. The American Revolution, this view holds, was unique; it alone of all modern revolutions was not really revolutionary; instead, it was moderate, conservative, dedicated only to preserving existing institutions from British aggrandizement. Furthermore, like all else in America, it was marvelously harmonious and consensual. Unlike the wicked French and other revolutions in Europe, the American Revolution, then, did not upset or change anything. It was therefore not really a revolution at all; certainly, it was not radical.

This view, Rothbard writes "displays an extreme naiveté on the nature of revolution." The American revolution was radical, indeed, and 

It was inextricably linked both to the radical revolutions that went before and to the ones, particularly the French, that succeeded it. From the researches of Caroline Robbins and Bernard Bailyn, we have come to see the indispensable linkage of radical ideology in a straight line from the English republican revolutionaries of the seventeenth century through the commonwealth men of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, to the French and to the American revolutionaries.

In spite of all of this, the mainstream continues to devalue the Revolution and its revolutionary nature. On the left, pundits claim that the war was a reactionary attempt to preserve slavery, or that it was fought to advance the views of authoritarian retrograde religious zealots. The truly revolutionary nature of the conflict — because it was radically laissez-faire — is ignored altogether. On the right, we are told to conveniently ignore all the revolutionary aspects of the war beyond the a vague opposition to taxes. Sedition and secession in 1776? That was OK. The same thing today? That's not OK. "Follow the law!" seems to be a frequent mantra of modern "patriots."   

We are fortunate, though, that this new radicalism was not guided by ideologies such as socialism, nationalism, or any sort of totalitarianism. It was instead — as we see in the thinking of the Anti-Federalists — guided by radical decentralist views, by radical suspicion of the state, by radical opposition to commercial controls, and by a radical opposition to a national military establishment. 

Although now greatly reduced, bastardized, and diluted, these revolutionary views, to a limited extent, continue to allow for a relatively robust amount of freedom in private and commercial life. How much of that freedom will be preserved a generation from now remains to be seen. 

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The Fed Helped Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley Cheat "Stress Test"

07/02/2018Tho Bishop

Last week the Fed released the results of its regular "stress tests" given the large banks. It outright failed the US branch of Deutsche Bank which, as Thorsten Polleit recently noted, has problems so severe they could risk the whole Eurozone.

While the rest of America's 35 largest banks were cleared by the Fed, two banks had their ability to increase stock buybacks restricted as a result of them: Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. As the Wall Street Journal reported today, this outcome was the result of phone calls between the Fed and two of the most powerful banks on Wall Street. By agreeing to feeze their shareholder payouts, the banks were able to avoid their own failing grades.

As Liz Hoffman and Lalita Clozel explain: 

The arrangement—allowing the banks to keep their capital payouts level while dodging a public rebuke by the Fed—is the first of its kind in the eight years of the Fed’s annual tests and will steer billions of dollars to shareholders of both banks. Other banks in the past have been able to keep their capital payouts steady after failing the quantitative portion of the stress test. Put another way, Goldman and Morgan Stanley got the same outcome without the black eye of a formal failing grade.

It also will boost a profitability measure that helps determine how much Goldman Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein and Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman are paid.

While it is true that this is yet another example of Donald Trump being far kinder to Wall Street as a president than what his campaign rhetoric indicated, it worth pointing out that entire design of stress tests always had as much to do about benefiting Wall Street than it did economic stability. After all, the tests are done using the Fed's own secret measurements, keeping useful data away from consumers to make their own informed opinions. Instead, the primary goal is for the central bank to project strength in the financial sector, which benefits banks by keeping depositors content. 

Unfortunately these stress tests have little real world value, as demonstrated by the fact that the ECB cleared 3 out of Greece's 4 major banks shortly before they became insolvent. As Paul-Martin Foss wrote at the time:

 

If we now know that the ECB’s stress tests of Greek banks were absolutely worthless, why then should we trust the Federal Reserve’s stress tests any more?

We can only conclude that the stress tests have two purposes: 1.) to reassure the public that the banking system is safe and sound so that depositors will continue to deposit their money; and 2.) to punish any banks who fall afoul of the Fed for any reason by giving them a negative assessment after a stress test, thus tarnishing their reputation in the public eye. The former is probably more important than the latter, as the overall health of the banking system depends on the existence of deposits. Without money deposited in banks, banks cannot lend and make money. Thus, ensuring that depositors don’t flee the system is one of the primary aims of central banks and banking regulators.

Bank stress tests then are really nothing more than a dog and pony show, especially if the stress test models aren’t being made public so that their relevance (or lack thereof) can be ascertained. Rather than serving as any sort of benchmark or indicator of the health and strength of the banking system, they are yet another tool that the Federal Reserve uses to “manage expectations” – to manipulate people into believing that banks are safer and sounder than they actually are. The citizenry will faithfully continue to deposit their money into bank accounts, not once doing due diligence to see just how sound their banks actually are. And the whole rotten system will continue to lurch from crisis to crisis until its final collapse.

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