Saturday, May 27, 2006

Column on Political Radicalism

Political Radicalism

Tibor R. Machan

A radical is one who reconsiders the most basic aspects of some issue, so
a political radical would fret a great deal about fundamental
constitutional principles, trying to get them right and then champion
their implementation.

In the current parlance of politics radicals, like progressives, are
supposed to be located on the Left, while conservatives or traditionalists
on the Right. But in our time all this needs rethinking because some ideas
associated with America?s founding are very radical?they overturn
centuries of what was the normal in governance of societies. The notion
that individual human beings are sovereign and government is an
institution established to serve them in securing that sovereignty is
wildly new, even today. Most of human history lived with the statist
habit, with decisions made by some few on top and the rest following or
having to dodge their orders, in any area of life?most of the time,
although here and there the absolute sovereignty of governments started to
be challenged.

In our era there is a great deal of confusion about just how governance
is supposed to line up. There are still those aspiring to be kings and
even emperors, and even the few democracies fail to fully acknowledge the
sovereignty of individuals. Instead they practice more or less constrained
mob rule. The thinking about what is the proper constitution of a human
community is all over the place, at least among mainstream commentators
and players. There is nothing close to a consistent idea about this as a
live option.

No wonder, given that the true radicalism of individualism has still not
been fully acknowledged, let alone accepted. It is not the Left that is
radical?indeed, the Left is firmly reactionary, what with the belief that
government is all, that society is some ?organic body? (or ?whole,? to use
Karl Marx?s term). There is no progress going on with those who have
appropriated the label ?progressive,? quite the opposite?their ideas are
nearly all regressive.

The Right, especially in America, is a combination of a bit of
radicalism?since the American founder had certain very radical notions?and
some traditionalism?given that the method of relying on past wisdom mainly
is embraced by Rightists. They are so distrusting of most people that
radicalism is rejected by them on principle.
So neither the Left, nor the Right has a clue as to how to accommodate
the revolutionary finding that it isn?t tribes, societies, countries,
nations, ethnic groups, but individual human beings who are sovereign.
This is very tough for all of them to adjust to?it means relinquishing the
most traditional of political concepts, namely, power over other people.

The habit of relying on such power is imbedded in the institutions?laws,
regulations, customs?as well as the frames of mind of those who are
players in the game of politics. All one needs to check this is to listen
to how these folks speak?always it is ?we? this and ?we? that, referring
to one or another of hundreds of different groupings of people but caring
not a whit about the individuals making up those groups.
Will it ever get sorted out? Perhaps?there is no historical necessity
about this, although some, like Herbert Spencer, believed it will and in
time individualism will be the mainstream viewpoint. (In contrast, Marx
believe just the opposite?history is driving us toward world wide
collectivism.) In fact, however, history isn?t doing squat?it is people
who do stuff and they are basically free to think any way they want, even
if most of it is nonsense.
Sure, there are some pressures to move in feasible directions, to embrace
human life-supporting approaches even in politics, but they do not have
the force of necessity about them by a long shot. That?s the point of that
wonderful motto, coined by Wendel Phillips in 1852, that ?Eternal
vigilance is the price of liberty."
In short, it?s up to us. And we can do it or screw it up. And right now,
with the confusion of readjustment still in full force, screwing it up
seems likely to be in our future much more than less. Though in time there
could be a turnabout and the radicalism of American individualism, the
humanist, classical kind, could well sweep the globe.
Machan teaches business ethics and history of political philosophy at
Chapman University. He is the author of Neither Left nor Right (2004) and
a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford, CA.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Column on Holmes' Lochner Dissent

A Source of Liberty?s Curtailment

In his influential but insidious dissent in the Lochner decision
(LOCHNER v. PEOPLE OF STATE OF NEW YORK, 198 US 45 [1905]), Justice Oliver
Wendell Holmes, Jr. said:

...the word liberty in the Fourteenth Amendment is perverted when it is
held to prevent the natural outcome of a dominant opinion, unless it can
be said that a rational and fair man necessarily would admit that the
statute proposed would infringe fundamental principles as they have been
understood by the traditions of our people and our law....

So, Holmes held, if the majority??dominant opinion??wants it, it may be
done, period. Only if a measure formally contradicts the Constitution is
it prohibited. By this Holmes meant that if what the legislature intends
doesn?t directly, formally contradict the constitution, it should get a
pass from the courts.

A direct contradiction is rare?only if Congress tried to regulate
religion or censor speech would we have such a thing, since the First
Amendment states explicitly that no such thing may be done. Many of our
individual rights, however, are only implicit in the U. S. Constitution.
That accounts for all the fuss about no mention of a ?right to privacy,?
leading the followers of Holmes to argue that this makes is quite OK for
governments to meddle in our private lives if ?dominant opinion? (i.e.,
the legislators) approves.

We are all aware of the famous case of the lynch mob taking democracy too
far. That?s because lynch mobs, albeit expressing ?dominant opinion,?
violate due process. That means they abrogate principles of (procedural)
justice, they smash civil liberties.

But by Justice Holmes? influential opinion, what lynch mobs do is just
fine. If ?dominant opinion? is behind it, why not violate due process and
individual rights (unless they are explicitly mentioned)? Just think of
it?by this judicial philosophy everyone is completely subject to the will
of the majority other than when speaking and worshiping.

Now what kind of freedom is this that can be squelched so easily, by the
majority (which means those who claim to represent it by way of having
been elected by some small fraction of the majority, actually, namely,
some of the voters)? Hitler was so elected, too, so one may suppose that
if he had not stopped people from talking and worshipping, everything else
he perpetrated would have fit with Justice Holmes? influential judicial
philosophy, one that, sadly, too many legal theorists and, indeed,
justices accept.

Sadly it takes generations for radical, albeit excellent, ideas to take
hold. Americans, no less than others across the globe, have the
governmental habit pretty badly that Holmes' remark rationalizes. It is,
indeed, not oil we are "addicted to," as President George W. Bush would
have it, but government. Whenever there?s a problem, too many of us run to
politicians and bureaucrats to fix it.

But that way lies tyranny. Of course, when that tyranny comes into clear
sight, many draw back and try to remedy matters. Still, most of the time
they are oblivious to the fact that the role of government?of a legal
order?is to protect, not to violate, our basic individual rights and when
a law is enacted that does violate such rights, it must not be accepted
but struck down immediately.

The U.S.A. is supposed to be a country of free men and women, not of
serfs ?bound to the land? by taxation and bureaucratic regulation. We are
supposed to solve our social and private problems without resorting to
coercive measures. (Even funding government must ultimately come from some
voluntary measure, not taxation, a form of extortion the Mafia could be
proud of.)

But it takes generations for people to acknowledge some of the most basic
truths, especially when there are so many who love living by lies such as
those told by the likes of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. in his
egregious Lochner dissent.

Column on Enron Convictions (TIME VALUE)

The Enron Case in Focus

Tibor R. Machan

After the jury came back with a guilty verdict against the two major
players in the massive Enron fraud case, Kenneth L. Lay and Jeffrey K.
Skilling, there could have been cheers going up around the country
concerning how well justice is pursued in a relatively free market,
capitalist society. For that is one of the major lessons here.

A free market, capitalist society is the best place where corporate?or
white collar?criminals are prosecuted. Indeed, it is in such a system
alone that it?s possible to identify bona fide crimes and distinguish them
from mere regulatory infelicities that are too often nothing but
pre-emptive, precautionary measures politicians and bureaucrats undertake
in defiance of due process and civil liberties.

Unfortunately, too many didn?t focus on the way justice managed to be
served in the context of a largely free society but, instead, cheered how
big corporations en masse have been dealt a significant blow. As a report
in The New York Times put it,

...the testimony and the documents admitted during the case painted a
broad and disturbing portrait of a corporate culture poisoned by hubris,
leading ultimately to a recklessness that placed the business's survival
at risk. "Enron is one of the great frauds in American business history,"
said James Post, a professor of management at Boston University. "But it
is also a symbol of a particular era of management practice. The excesses
of Enron point pretty clearly to what was going on in mainstream companies
across the business landscape in the 1990's."

I am no attorney and am not familiar enough with the details needed so as
to give a confident assessment of whether justice was fully served here.
The trial of Lay and Skilling, did appear to bring to light that the
defendants perpetrated massive fraud and clearly violated both their moral
and legal fiduciary duties. From the perspective of business
ethics?namely, the set of standards that guide professionals such as Lay
and Skilling?these men appear clearly to have engaged in malpractice.

Yet these kinds of cases are sadly marred by mixing standards of
unethical versus illegal conduct. Government regulation subjects the
profession of business more than most others?and certainly more than, say,
journalism and the ministry, the two fields the U. S. Constitution
unjustly picked for special protection when it should have provided all
profession with it?to policies of prior restraint and, accordingly,
government harassment. Such government regulations help to confuse bona
fide crime with unethical behavior. The two are different in a free
society?the first must involve violation of the rights of others, the
second the violation of standards of professional propriety.

Even apart from this confusion, there is in the present case the
unfortunate eagerness with which too many influential commentators?such as
The Times?s analysts and those they call upon to comment on the
case?condemn the entire profession of corporate managers on the basis of
what happened at Enron. It is just false that the ?excesses of Enron point
pretty clearly to what was going on in mainstream companies across the
business landscape in the 1990's." Justice and morality demand that cases
be considered individually and only those who have been subjected to
careful investigation and subsequent prosecution be treated as legally
guilty if so found by a jury. It is scandalous, and indeed a form of
professional misconduct itself, for a professor of management to rush to
judgment about all ?mainstream companies across the business landscape?
who were not charged, let alone convicted, of any crimes.

Alas, business has been the black sheep of the professions from time
immemorial. History is replete with major and minor cases of prejudice
against traders, merchants, and other members of the profession of
business. So, much of the bluster following the conviction of Lay and
Skilling is, sadly, par for the course.

In a recent column I noted the contrast between the nuanced treatment
terrorists received in Steven Spielberg?s movie Munich and the crude
picture given of business professionals in the 2005 movie Enron: The
Smartest Guys in the Room. You can add to this the contrast between how
crime is viewed when it occurs at various universities?such as the
University of California at Irvine where last November, the liver
transplant program had been suspended after the government revoked UCI?s
certification in the wake of a report by the Los Angeles Times concerning
some 32 patients who died over the past two years and UCLA hospital?s body
parts selling scheme?and when it occurs at business corporations. Did what
happen at UCI and UCLA amount to ?excesses [that] point pretty clearly to
what is going on in mainstream [university hospitals] across the [medical]
landscape?? QED.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Column on why philosophy matters

Why Philosophy Matters

Tibor R. Machan

So you think this column is motivated by my vested interest in having
philosophy taken seriously? OK, that?s part of it. But then so what? Some
things are in my interest and this alone would suffice to justify
championing them. In this case there is also the fact that all of us have
a stake in the issue at hand.

The free society is best suited to living a human life here on earth and
yet the free society is getting a bum rap in may circles. As best as I can
tell, the reason is in part philosophical. That is to say, certain
widespread philosophical convictions are standing in the way of
appreciating the importance of the free society.

One main obstacle is what people understand freedom to be. For some it is
a matter of not having others intrude upon us and what belongs to us. If
they don?t, we are free, if they do, we aren?t, at least to the extent
they do intrude or, more precisely, to the extent the law enables them to
do so with impunity. This idea of being free is very familiar?a slave
isn?t free, nor is a serf, nor is someone locked up for thinking or saying
things others do not like or trading stuff others do not want to be
traded. (It goes without saying that other people may not be subject to
being traded?it is people who are traders and never what is to be traded.
Kidnapping isn?t trade!)

But for too many others?especially political thinkers in our time?freedom
means not having to cope with burdens in one?s life. Thus, such folks
consider a free society one that reduces the burdens on us all quite apart
from other people?s intrusions. The idea is that if one is burdened by
poverty, illness, disability, ignorance, and so forth, one isn?t free. To
become free, the idea goes, these burdens would need to be removed. And to
remove these burdens, what is needed is a powerful group with the
authority to attempt to rid us all of these burdens. After all, it takes
all sorts of resources to do this and such a group, say a government,
would need the power to secure those resources via taxation and other

Those who take freedom to mean not having others intrude upon anyone and
those who see it as getting rid of burdens are serious adversaries. That?s
because if one?s freedom from intrusion is secure, that means government
may not obtain, through taxation and other forms of coercion, the
resources to unburden us of whatever stands in our way to do what we want
to, even should, do. And if one?s freedom from burdens is the first thing
to be secured, this would have to involve intruding on many people whose
resources would be needed to remove these burdens.

Those championing freedom from other people?s intrusion don?t deny the
existence of burdens on us but tend to hold that once such intrusion is
prohibited by law, the burdens that stand in our way will be removed
through voluntary effort?productivity, creativity, innovation, invention,
entrepreneurship, cooperation, and so forth. Those championing freedom
from burdens tend to think that unless others are conscripted into the
effort to remove the burdens, they will not be removed, that without the
support of government?s powers, being free from burdens will not be

At the base of this dispute?a philosophical dispute, indeed?lies the
controversy about whether human beings have the capacity to move
themselves?to freely choose to advance in their lives, to take measures to
flourish. If they do, it makes sense to think that once others are stopped
from intruding on them?once their chains are cast aside, once slavery and
oppression have ended?people will most likely come around to help
themselves by various peaceful means. But if they lack this capacity, then
unless they are pushed by some force to advance, they will remain
stagnant, poor, ignorant, sick and so forth.

No doubt there are some human beings who need a boost from their fellows
in order to get going with their lives?they need help and support from
others. But these are not in the majority?indeed, if they were, it would
all be lost anyway. So most people can make progress in their lives once
others do not oppress them, once they are free from others? intrusions. If
this were not so, it is difficult to fathom how anyone could attempt to
remove the burdens that some cannot cope with. Where would their capacity
to step up to the plate and help others come from? But if they do have
such a capacity, why wouldn?t the rest of us?

This is, of course, an ancient controversy but it bears keeping in mind
that it lies at the base of the more familiar political and public policy
disputes about the size and, especially, scope of governmental power in
human affairs.

Column on Government Historians

History and The FDR Wars

Tibor R. Machan

When I went to college I had my biggest problem with the discipline of
history. It may have started when I was a kid in Hungary and first ran up
against official ?scholars? who rewrote Hungary?s history?renamed the
streets in Budapest, rewrote all the textbooks, and reshuffled the
holidays, and even completely recast Western intellectual history. Also,
under Marxism there was room for just one account of the development of
philosophy, namely, what Karl Marx and his epigone wrote.

At first I thought that in a relatively free society historians could be
trusted a lot more than under Marxism. But I am not so sure about this
now. To begin with, the one major institution of American and much of
Western society that?s very similar to what it had been under communism is
education. Elementary schools, high schools, the majority of junior and
community colleges as well as of colleges and universities?these are all
arms of government. They obtain the funding by the extortionist means of
taxation; many of them conscript their students, and the textbooks used
are products of the political process, not of independent scholarship.

Now don?t get me wrong. Independent scholarship is difficult to come by
even under the most idea circumstances, namely, a totally free educational
system. Scholars would have axes to grind even if education were, like
journalism and religion, completely separated from government. But there
wouldn?t be a monopoly of governmental influences in education, whereas
now there is.

This monopoly clearly influences scholarship, including the reporting and
study of history. Books selected by scholars and teachers employed by
government schools have a tendency to suppress uncomfortable truths, so
the major publishers and the reviewers and boards working for them are
inclined to interpret the past in favor of the political ideology that
dominate in the schools.

A good case in point is the volumes of work appearing on Franklin D.
Roosevelt?s political economic leadership. The most recent of these,
Newsweek journalist Jonathan Alter?s Defining Moment: FDR?s Hundred Days
and the Triumph of Hope (Simon & Schuster, 2006), follows in the footsteps
of others, such as Cass Sunstein?s Second Bill of Rights: FDR?s Unfinished
Revolution and Why We Need it More than Ever (Basic Books, 2004), in
unabashedly tooting FDR?s horn. There isn?t even a pretense of
evenhandedness in these works?both are histories used to pitch a highly
partisan rendition of FDR?s political outlook and the measures he
implemented. Were this outright political advocacy it would be less
insidious because that would be honest. But being disguised as histories,
these works put a perverted reading of history in the underhanded service
of pushing on ideology.

A good case in point is the refrain that FDR?s ?rescued capitalism? and
saved us from its worst form, laissez-faire. As Alter made clear in a
recent interview, before FDR, critics of government intervention in the
economy and society would not have been intimidated. So, for example, with
an event such as hurricane Katrina, back before the time of FDR there
would have been many who would have noted that it isn?t the job of the
federal government to address hurricanes. As Alter gleefully announced,
this is no longer the case?which is why he called FDR?s era the ?defining

But why did it become widely palatable to have government become so
interventionist? (It clearly has little to do with its record of
successes, both before and after FDR!) Because most government employed
historians managed to sell the idea that FDR remedied the damage done by
laissez-faire economics. FDR is credited by these apologists with rescuing
the American economy after laissez-faire caused the Great Depression, bank
failures, and so forth.

Yet this is all false, as has been shown by numerous economists who have
bucked the statist trend of mainstream education and scholarship. However,
their works do not receive the support of major publishers that know on
which side their bread is buttered. James Powell?s FDR?s Folly: How
Roosevelt and his New Deal Prolonged the Depression (Crown Forum, 2003),
for example, was not reviewed in the prominent forums, such as The New
York Review of Books, The New York Times, The New Republic, The Atlantic,
and so forth?he was not widely interviewed on such programs as Charlie
Rose and Oprah.

Alter and Sunstein are only some of the great many who carry on a
political campaign under the cover of historical scholarship. But because
most of these folks are protected by government?s near complete monopoly
of education, the normal forces of competition aren?t at work in their
area of scholarship.

Can we hope to see any improvement? Not really, not so long as the
government?s monopoly on education remains basically unbroken.

Column on Limited Government

Limited Powers to Govern

Tibor R. Machan

One of the most ridiculous claims about government was made by Justice
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., in his famous?or, by my count infamous?Lochner
dissent. He basically said that unless what government did necessarily
contradicted the U. S. Constitution, it had the authority to do it. That
means almost ulimited government.

Imagine this. You go to the dentist and take your seat for having your
teeth cleaned. Instead of simply proceeding with his work, the dentist
decides to extract a bunch of perfectly healthy teeth. In addition, he
fondles you a bit, while you are knocked out asleep. When you awake and
realize all this abuse, you naturally protest, even take the man to court.
His defense, however, is informed by Justice Holmes? wisdom and he claims
that since what he did wasn?t necessarily, as a matter of pure logic,
precluded by his being a
dentist?after all dentists can and do often extract teeth and, moreover,
they are humans and so they can and do often fondle other people?there was
nothing wrong with what he did to you.

Clearly this defense is nonsense. Yet that is just what has been the
judicial excuse for governmental overreach of power ever since Holmes?
Lochner dissent became famous. And in a certain tradition of politics this
makes sense, namely, in the sense associated with monarchy and other forms
of top down rule whereby governments are taken to be in charge of
everything. That indeed used to be the idea?the king or emperoro or tsar
owned the realm and
could, of course, rule it at his or her heart?s content. That?s what is
by ownership. You own something, so it is yours to rule. If you are the
king and own the realm, you get to rule it.

The revolutionary idea of the American founders, following the innovative
new political theory that had been developed by classical
liberals?starting, slowly, with Hobbes and Spinoza, moving on faster with
Hume, Smith, and others?went against all this. Instead of seeing the king
or government
as the owner?and therefore, ruler?of the realm, government started to be
viewed as an agent for certain limited purposes. People themselves, the
individuals who lived within a realm, began to be viewed as the (self)
with government as one of the employees to do certain jobs. Like the
dentist, doctor, plumber, dress designer, barber and other professional
people hired to do certain specific (but no other) jobs for them,
government was now understood as in charge of certain specific work the
people who hired it wanted done.

One can fruitfully view a constitution, then, as a kind of job
description and employment contract. It spells out what government may do.
Everything else it may not do. If it does do something else, it is engaged
in malpractice,
not unlike that dentist who, instead of doing the cleaning job for which
he or
she was hired, decided to pull a bunch of your healthy teeth and even
fondle you.

Holmes and his ilk completely perverted the new idea of government as the
servant of the people. He and his followers?and there are many now who
take his
views for granted and justify the inordinate scope of governmental powers
along lines he rationalized?are the reactionaries among political and legal

Yet just the other day when I was attending a faculty meeting, one of my
colleagues made the offhand point that there are two factions among the
faculty, conservatives and progressives. You know what makes a
progressive? A progressive is one who wants government to butt into
everything in society with its coercive power so as to promote some goal
certain people in society think will advance some important purpose.

It turns out, however, that this is just what the
reactionary political
theorists thought is the king?s job. Some conservatives share this view,
although when so called progressives in American politics call others
conservatives, they have in mind that these folks wish to conserve the
limitations the American founders and framers had placed on government.

What was to be novel in the American political system is that the
government was to be like any other professional and do only its job,
nothing else, the one it was hired to do. It simply has no authority to do
anything else. Now that was progressive!

Column on another phony FRD "right"

Another Phony Right from FDR

Tibor R. Machan

Let me take a bit of time once again to examine another one of Franklin
D. Roosevelt?s so called rights, on his list of ?The Second Bill of
Rights.? Each of these rights reflects a political outlook that?s totally
alien to what was sketched in the Declaration of Independence, although
admittedly there have always been some important figures on the American
political scene who championed FDR?s position.

Take this right all of us are supposed to have: ?The right to adequate
protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and

Once again, the issue isn?t whether having such protection is of value to
most of us?it clearly can be and often is. But just because something is
of value to one it doesn?t follow at all that one has a right to it.

Take a simple case but illustrative case. The love of a beloved person is
of immense value to the lover but, alas, it is not always forthcoming.
Unrequited love is very widespread indeed, and has been and probably will
always be. Yet, it is utterly ridiculous to hold that the lover has a
right to the love of the beloved. How could that be? How could one have
such a right without literally conscripting the beloved as one lover,
which is plum impossible? Oh, yes, there are those rare case when someone
who has been kidnapped by a deranged lover comes to love him (or her), but
these are so rare that they are very likely best construed as bizarre and
certainly abnormal.

Of course many other examples can be listed. People value all sorts of
things to which they have no right unless they have managed to obtain them
free and clear?got them as a gift, purchased them, etc. Only thereafter do
they have a right to these valuable items and do with them as they choose.

Treating various valued items and services as something to which one has
a right has certain truly vile consequences. Having rights to such things
basically implies that those who own or would provide them may be coerced
to part with or provide them.

If I have a right to my life, it implies that anyone who would try to
deprive me of my life may be forcibly resisted. If such a person succeeds,
he or she may be severely punished. But if others have a right to valued
items, such as my resources, monetary or otherwise, or my skills, that
would also mean that those who do not respect such a ?right? may be
severely punished. So if I do not provide others with the resources needed
to obtain adequate protection of the kind FDR?s ?right? specifies, I may
be severely punished.

Now that is exactly what happens if I refused to cough up the funds the
government says I owe, funds from which these rights to adequate
protection are secured. Indeed, this is all current reality?government has
turned into an enforcement arm for the benefit of people who want to
obtain the protections listed as one of FDR?s rights. Instead being asked
to help these folks, here, in this supposedly free country, we are forced
to provide for them.

But, you may recall, government is instituted among us to secure the
rights listed in the Declaration, rights such as those to life, liberty,
and the pursuit of happiness. These are what political theorists now call
negative rights because to respect them one need but abstain from
intruding in people?s lives. They require no coerced provision of
resources to be handed to other people. The respect and protection of
these rights aren?t making involuntary servants out of all of us, serfs
who must work to support other people?not the king any longer but the ?the
people? (and all those who minister to them).

FDR?s phony rights are ?the road to serfdom,? just what F. A. Hayek
warned against in his book by that title back in 1948. He wrote that book
not long after FDR prepared his list. Unfortunately, even today there are
too many influential people who favor FDR?s road to serfdom, not the
position that rejects it, one that champions bona fide rights for us all,
namely rights that secure our individual liberty and leave us free to
decide whose protection against various adversities we will work to

Column on Market Fascism

Markets Under Fascism

Tibor R. Machan

When a county is ruled by a fascist dictatorship, the exact nature of its
economic system will be indeterminate. Fascist dictatorships are
characterized by mainly charismatic and arbitrary leadership. They follow
no exact blueprint but depend on what the leadership decides.

To appreciate the situation in China, it helps to remember something the
late Susan Sontag said back in 1982. Her observations are worth
reproduction here:
...Fascist rule is possible within the framework of a Communist society,
whereas democratic government and worker self-rule are clearly intolerable
and will not be tolerated.
I would contend that what they illustrate is a truth that we should have
understood a very long time ago: that Communism is Fascism - successful
Fascism, if you will. What we have called Fascism is, rather, the form of
tyranny that can be overthrown - that has, largely, failed. 'Facism With a
Human Face'
I repeat: not only is Fascism (and overt military rule) the probable
destiny of all Communist societies - especially when their populations are
moved to revolt - but Communism is in itself a variant, the most
successful variant, of Fascism. Fascism with a human face....
Sontag?s observations fit the evolution of Chinese communism quite well
indeed. The recent leadership in that country has not followed the earlier
blueprints of socialist countries?preparing themselves to become the
Marxian communist haven the Left has fantasized about for a couple of
centuries and continues to dream of at most universities in the West.
Instead, Chinese leaders have engineered the country so as to take
advantage of elements of free market political economy. Following, it
appears, the ideas that were dubbed ?market socialism,? after the demise
of Soviet style socialism, the Chinese leadership is combining elements of
top down tyrannical rule with a kind of economic permissiveness that can,
if followed over time, unleash the forces of innovation, productivity,
investment and so forth.
We can think of this a bit on analogy of how some parents treat their
children when they wish for the latter to prepare for self-responsibility.
They retain full (legal) authority over them but start abandoning the kind
of hands-on discipline that they deploy when the kids are young and unable
to fend for themselves in virtually any area of their lives. Once,
however, the kids reach adolescence, these parents treat them with an eye
to fostering self-responsible conduct.
The analogy is misguided, of course, because those who govern the legal
system of a country aren?t the parents of the citizenry by a long shot.
Yet after centuries of hands on rule, the citizens may be a bit reluctant
to become self-governed. This doesn?t imply at all that they need to be
ruled as parents rule their children. Yet paternalistic leaders such as
those in China, who do see the population as requiring governance akin to
what happens in families, may take it as necessary to keep a strong hand
in guiding the country?s affairs.
Just as parents can retain authoritarian governance of children,
authoritarian paternalist governments can rule for a while without using a
heavy hand in all of their subjects? lives. Realizing that permitting a
wide range of personal discretion regarding economic matters can be a
useful approach to enriching China, the country?s leaders seem to be
acting just as such fascists as Chile former military dictator General
Augusto Pinochet did when he invited the Chicago boys and permitted the
country to adopt a free market style economy. Indeed, they are following
the advice of Adam Smith himself in his famous book, The Wealth of Nations
Of course, in time such a permissive fascist system is quite likely to
become more and more liberal democratic. And that may very well be the
fate of contemporary China. And that would be a very desirable fate,
indeed, because it would mean that in time the permissiveness of the
Chinese leaders will be changed into a more principled free society. I
have no idea if that?s the thinking that prevails in Beijing but one can
hope, can one not?

Column on Self & Its Interests

Self and its Interests

Tibor R. Machan

Adam Smith, the founder of modern economics and author of The Wealth of
Nations (1776), is perhaps most famous for writing the following passage:
...By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, [an
individual] intends only his own security; and by directing that industry
in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends
only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an
invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor
is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By
pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more
effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known
much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good....
Sadly, however, certain aspects of what he wrote have been used often by
the critics of the very system of political economy, the free market, that
he had tried to promote. This is because critics have insisted on a very
narrow understanding of the concepts ?his own gain? and ?self-interest.?
Perhaps even Smith bought into that narrow interpretation. But never mind
that for now.
What all those who keep insisting that free market economics is based on
the principle of self-interest need to appreciate is that, well, people do
not produce what they do because they insist on gaining from it all for
themselves. Quite often, if indeed not most often, people produce so as to
be able to earn wealth which then they may use for a whole host of
purposes, some of them directly benefiting themselves, some their family,
some their friends, some various causes they wish to support, some total
strangers who need help, you name it, the goals can be endless.
When people produce wealth ?for themselves,? it is often simply so that
it will be they who can proceed to transfer that wealth to someone else.
The crucial element isn?t so much aiming to satisfy oneself but to enable
oneself to distribute the wealth one creates toward ends one deems
worthwhile, never mind whether these ends serve oneself or someone else or
some goal nearly unrelated to oneself.
What the right to private property and the liberty to earn wealth achieve
isn?t so much self-enrichment, although that is part of it. What they
achieve is enabling people to allocate what they earn as they think it
should be allocated. In other words, it is the freedom to put wealth to
the use one thinks it should be put to, never mind whether that use is
Indeed, ?self-interest? could be read to mean nothing more than ?whatever
one is interested in.? And that could be a great many things quite apart
from one?s ?own gain.? Even that, one?s own gain, is often utilized
ultimately to provide support for objectives one may not gain from at
all?when one donates one?s wealth to projects such as enhancing the arts,
supporting some plants or animals, subsidizing certain publications,
helping those struggling in the Third World, coming up with a cure for a
disease, and all the rest of what people spend their wealth on. Even when
people spend it on, say, lawn furniture or household appliances, they most
often aren?t the only ones who gain from this.
Those who criticize the free market often have as their target not to
much personal enrichment?although that is what they rail about a lot
because of how it resonates with the public?but the freedom to decide to
what end one?s wealth will be devoted. They want to be the ones who decide
the goals to be supported by one?s productivity. They are, indeed, the
narrowly self-interested ones who would limit other people?s liberty to
keep and hold resources they have made possible because what these critics
want is to be in control of these resources.
That is why so many public officials and intellectuals find lowering
taxes and the right to private property so objectionable?not so much
because they enrich people but because they enable them to control where
wealth will be directed. This is what drives them crazy?not being in power
to decide what is going to get supported.

Column on Americans Being Better than Others

American Exceptionalism

Tibor R. Machan

It is now about time for the Democrats to figure out who and what they
want to be during the upcoming campaigns when they will attempt to regain
power in Washington and elsewhere around the country. This is will be
difficult, no less so than it will be for Republicans to find some theme
around which they will make their efforts to keep their power.

The reason is that both parties embrace incoherent political ideas.
Democrats want to put themselves forth as peace-loving, even though in
much of what they champion they embrace the philosophy of aggressive
government. Just consider Al Gore and his buddies, all of whom want the
government to coerce us to follow the precautionary environmentalism, sans
due process and civil liberties, that requires subjugating us all to
strictures based on various barely likely doomsday visions. And think of
how the Republicans are intent on looking like the protectors of the
vision of the American founders, all the while tossing out the principles
of individual rights and limited government in the name of the war on

In one valiant call to arms to liberal Democrats, Peter Beinart,
editor-at-large at The New Republic, writing for April 30th issue of The
New York Times Magazine, ended his piece with this pseudo-erudite
sentence: ?America can be the greatest nation on earth, so long as
Americans remember that they are inherently no better than anyone else.?
The sentiment sounds good, on its face, but upon close scrutiny it is yet
another bit of incoherence.

For one, once Americans take it that theirs is indeed the greatest nation
on earth, it is not too farfetched for them to take some credit for being
Americans, folks who have embraced and who sustain such a nation, in
contrast to millions across the globe who fail to do so. If you sign up
for a great project while others reject it, maybe you can be proud of this.

Of course, that does not mean Americans are inherently better than anyone
else. ?Inherently? means that by some trick being born a citizen of the
United States of America confers upon one virtue before one has done
anything actually virtuous. And that?s impossible. People are not born
virtuous?nor vicious?not here, not in China, not anywhere. They are born
with the capacity to become virtuous or vicious, depending on whether they
make good or bad choices and act accordingly.

Do American?s even think they are inherently better than others? Beinart
gives no evidence of this. Indeed, what would constitute such evidence?

Americans do hold the view, as Americans?that is to say, as citizens who
have either explicitly or implicitly sworn an oath to uphold the U. S.
Constitution?that they have basic rights, ones spelled out in the Bill of
Rights and, before that, in the Declaration of Independence. But remember
that the latter document speaks of unalienable rights for all human
beings, not just American citizens. So in terms of their own political
philosophy, Americans could not consider themselves as inherently better
than others, since their possession of the rights that their legal system
is meant to protect does not make them special. It only makes their legal
system special.

Still, just because Americans aren?t inherently better than others, it
doesn?t follow they couldn?t in certain respects be better than others.
For example, the fact that most Americans fully adhere to the idea that
all human beings have the right to freedom of speech or freedom or
religion, and that all are free to trade goods and services?their embrace
of these notions clearly make them better, not inherently but because they
have made the choice to live like this, unlike all too many people do
around the globe.

Clearly, for example, Americans who know that others have the right to
think for themselves even if they disagree with them, makes them better
than those in the Middle East who go on a rampage against, for example,
Danish nationals because of cartoons published in Danish newspapers that
are disrespectful of their religion. If one believes that the publication
of such cartoons justifies going on a rampage, then one is indeed worse
than most Americans. And Americans who acknowledge this aren?t being
irrational; nor do they exhibit any belief that they are inherently better
than others.

Beinart?s admonition is either nonsense?that stuff about American?s
thinking they are inherently better than others?or misguided?the part that
American should not think they are in certain respect better than others.
Indeed, being citizens of the greatest nation on earth, if that?s what
they are, can justifiably make Americans also think they are better, as a
matter of their loyalty, than most other people around the globe.

Column on Lopsided Defense of Human Freedom

Lopsided Defense of Freedom

Tibor R. Machan

For many moons now I have been reading The New York Review of Books,
mainly because it is educational and gives me a good perspective on how
the most snooty of the Left view themselves. In a most recent issue one
Orhan Pamuk, a Turkish novelist, sounds off in unabashedly moralistic
terms about how important freedom is to the writer. In his Arthur Miller
Freedom to Write Memorial Lecture Mr. Pamuk ruminates at some length,
among other matters, about what can only be considered self-censorship by
authors who write in countries where freedom of expression is legally
curtailed. And he offers some very interesting insights. At one point he
notes, ?I have personally known writers who have chosen to raise forbidden
topics purely because they were forbidden. I think I am no different.
Because when another writer in another house in not free, no writer is
free. This, indeed, is the spirit that informs the solidarity felt by PEN
[the international organization of writers], by writers all over the

What is interesting about this is that PEN and its supporters, including
Mr. Pamuk and The New York Review of Books, seem to have no clue about how
selective they are about advancing human liberty. They stand up
righteously in defense of writers who are oppressed, which, of course, is
a good thing. But they seem to be clueless about how their crusade is
thoroughly or vested interested.

It is no secret that aside from artists, including writers, there are
millions of people around the globe who are oppressed, who are not
permitted to do their work as they judge proper. Formers, merchants,
engineers, autoworkers, shop keepers, and so forth?the list could go on
endlessly. But PEN & Co. seem to find their own cause exceptional, as if
the liberty of human beings who do not write really does not matter much.

Consider, for example, that The New York Review of Books is notoriously
anti-business, anti-capitalist. The very same issue in which Mr. Pamuk
sounds off so eloquently in support of the freedom to write contains a
piece by Andrew Hacker, the Queens University political scientist?a
relentless foe of free enterprise?lamenting the prevalence of the wealthy
among us.

Hacker?s piece, ?The Rich and Everyone Else,? is an interesting
discussion of several books that make much of the concept of ?class? in
how they view American society. And Hacker quite wisely concludes his
examination of these books with a criticism of the idea that class
analysis?a famous Marxian tool for understanding society?makes much sense
in this country.

Nevertheless, Hacker is fully on board with the authors of the books he
is reviewing about how terrible American society is when it comes to
equality. As he states in his final paragraph, ?Economic inequality is
increasing [in America], just as the millions who are born and stay poor
are not getting anything like a fair chance to improve their situation.?

Au contraire! Were Professor Hacker to take his eyes of the pages of The
New York Review of Books (and the politically charged works of authors
rolled out in every issue of the magazine) and take a peak at the work of
Thomas Sowell and other economists, he would know that compared to Europe
and most other countries around the globe, the American economy is a
relatively vibrant market place in which the poor tend to remain poor for
about 5 years, on average, no longer.

But never mind this. Professor Hacker is just one of the many writers in
The New York Review of Books who champion a highly regimented economic
order that already oppresses and would increase the oppression of millions
of people in the business world. His support of a welfare state even more
extensive that what we have today, as well as the support provided by such
luminaries as Professor Ronald Dworkin and a host of others, clearly
amount to denying freedom to trade to millions whose life depends on that
line of work. Why should writers, those in the market place of ideas, have
their liberty vigorously defended but merchants, professionals in
business?those in the market place of goods and services?be left
regimented by a bunch of bureaucrats?

It is always interesting to observe how some of the folks most hailed for
their erudition and brilliance, get themselves caught in logical
conundrums. Yet that is exactly what the folks at The New York Review of
Books are doing in spades, what with their supposed defense of human
liberty for some people but support of human regulation and manipulation
for others.

Still, I suppose, it is better to have Mr. Pamuk and Co. defend the
freedom to write, even if they seem to give not a hoot about the freedom
to do other equally important things. At least this bit of human freedom
will have some champions, even in The New York Review of Books. Yet just
as it is true, as Mr. Pamuk points out, that ?when another writer in
another house in not free, no writer is free,? it is also true that when
another human being in another house in not free, no human being is free.

Column on Why Freedom is Rejected

Why Freedom Isn?t Widely Embraced

Tibor R. Machan

Over the years I have worked pretty hard to check out the case for the
fully free society. And I come away each time I check with the conclusion
that opposition to it is indeed very weak. Perhaps the only telling point
raised is that free men and women can make bad judgments and act on these,
so freedom is a risky thing.

However, even this telling point is countered with the realization that
if men and women are subjugated to the rule of other men and women, this
risk does not go away but in fact multiplies. After all, if we are
generally subject to making mistakes, those who would rules us with force
are surely even more vulnerable to such risky conduct. Power corrupts!

Why then do so many people make the mistake of rejecting Abraham
Lincoln?s valid point, ?No man is good enough to govern another man,
without that other's consent?? The fallacy of anointing various folks to
rule other folks is, indeed, committed all over the place and somehow the
most influential people appear to support it?at universities, prominent
magazines and other media, and, of course, politicians and bureaucrats?

I approach answering this puzzle by considering how many people gamble.
Gambling is risky because in overwhelming numbers of cases one loses money
and will not gain it. Yet people continue to gamble, never mind how they
keep losing and losing. Why? Because they have this irrational belief that
in time, with one big win, they will wipe out their losses and make big
gains. Never mind that this isn?t the case for most gamblers, only for a
tiny minority. Still, hope springs eternal in the human heart, overriding
the better judgment of the human mind, at least for sufficiently large
numbers of human beings that gambling is in very good shape indeed, not in
danger of being defeated by our better judgment.

Of course, with gambling the damage tends to be confined to those doing
it. Those who stay clear of that form of entertainment?or, in many cases,
obsession?won?t be hurt. On the other hand, the trouble with millions of
people hoping they will eventually be the beneficiaries of political
power?the power of ruling others and taking from them what one would like
to have?is that while the hope is being indulged in widely, we all suffer.
Politicians promise us they can transfer wealth to us from others,
something that is nearly always useless, but we accept the possibility,
wish for it so strongly that we ruin other people?s lives big time in the

How can this proclivity to take risks at others? expense be withstood,
stemmed somehow? The only antidote I can think of is the teaching of
principles. Principles, if internalized, help us resist the temptation to
try to get something for nothing, to attempt robbing Peter to help
ourselves or someone else, especially when these attempts are rarely if
ever successful, given how politicians and bureaucrats tend to skim so
much off the transferred wealth. Their share, plus the inordinate amount
of bungling, pretty much defeat all efforts to make wealth redistribution
helpful to anyone.

Think about it in terms of simple ethics. If one learns early enough in
life that stealing and lying and bullying are wrong, one won?t be tempted
much to use these means for getting one?s way. And indeed most of us are
quite decent and do not violate these ethical precepts. Nor do we neglect
our lives, given that we have been taught from an early age to be prudent
and avoid recklessness. Nor do we lack courage when our values are

Few of us, mostly those who are out and out criminals, live by counting
on robbing others, subdue them for our ends, conscript them to our tasks,
and so forth. Not because there is absolutely no chance of success with
such policies?they might work now and then and if they do we could gain a
lot?but because we learn that such conduct is indecent, unethical,
wrongful and overall destructive of anyone?s proper pursuits in life.

Would it that it work this way in the political realm! If only people
would internalize the principles of civilized social life and not keep
hoping?and voting accordingly?that in time they and their pals will sit on
top and rule the rest of us to their benefit. Fact is, they shouldn?t
even have such an idea in their minds, let alone try to act on it. Yet
they keep doing so.

I suspect that centuries of human conquest, expropriation, subjugation
and the like have left too many of us thinking that the way to live is to
get on top and rule. Yet, in fact, the best option is to strictly observe
the limits on how to treat others, namely as ends in themselves, and apply
this idea to politics, as well. But just as it is with all bad habits, it
will take time to wean ourselves from this one.

Column on Local Assaults on Property Rights

Local Assaults on Property Rights

Tibor R. Machan

Two reports in the local free monthly newspaper, the Foothills Sentry,
May 9, 2006, are very upsetting to anyone who wants to live in a free
society instead of a dictatorship of bureaucrats. I am sure they are
representative of many other parts of the country, not to mention the

First, there is "Trouble is fomenting in the tight community of Old Town
Orange." It chronicles the way Orange City?s Design Review Committee has
been arbitrarily harassing residents by imposing utterly vague rules only
the members of the Committee understand. (Their instructions are
notoriously unspecific and their rulings routinely violate the principle
"equality under the law" by favoring some while ruling against others.)

This is all in the name of historical preservation, an idea that turns
out to be very selectively implemented. After all, one element of most
government regulations is to impose technologically up to date standards
on those building or remodeling their homes. Historically preserved
buildings must conform but not quite. They must, in short, look old but be

The members of the Design Review Committee, mostly local architects who
love to lord it over Orange City?s residents, really don?t seem to have a
clue as to what they are doing, for whom, why, etc. In justice, of
course, they ought to buy the buildings they wish to control and not
bother others unless they are willing to foot the cost of their so called
historical preservation.

Second, there is the disgusting news in this issue of the Foothills
Sentinel about how the Silverado Ranch Project?involving the building of
12 upscale homes (that might have invigorated the canyon community, such
as helping the little grocery store and the restaurant profitable) in the
canyon where I live?has been crushed by a coalition of various land
grabbers, such as the Rural Canyon Conservation Fund and judges who have
no respect for private property rights at all. Their excuse is to preserve
the Arroyo Toad, which is quite ridiculous.

That toad may well be endangered but so what? Many living beings come and
go in the history of the earth and the fact that people might hasten the
disappearance of some is no excuse to violate their private property
rights. These folks are simply trying to live in peace or make a living by
developing land they purchased decades ago without any warning that the
local bureaucrats will be coming after it when they please to do so. What
these folks don?t get is that human beings come before toads in the scale
of what's important! So if one wants to help the toads, one needs to pay
for this and not sacrifice other people to this ridiculous cause. The
Rural Canyon Conservation Fund ought to live up to its proclaimed
priorities and come up with the money to pay those whose land the
organization has helped render useless to its by now only nominal owners.

Alas, America is no longer the land of the free, that's for sure, if it
has ever been. It is now the land of the outdoor health club fanatics who
use any concocted reason for intruding on other people's lives and
businesses. The one thing none of them will do is pay for what they

In a free country, if one is interested in preserving some region, one
must come up with the funds to buy it and not sic politicians,
bureaucrats, and judges on those who own it. Such taking is immoral and
should be illegal. But our legal system now makes it possible for these
barbarians to just put in a claim in the name of a toad and have the land
all to themselves to do with as they want.

It is not often that I lose my cool but with this bunch I have had it up
to here. I have met quite a few of them, even debated one who is with the
local Sierra Club, and I know they all entertain the preposterous notion
that they can speak for ?the public.? Yet, of course, what they are doing
is ruining the lives of many members of the public, so clearly they are
delusional about speaking for ?the public.?

If these folks had an ounce of honesty about them, they would dig into
their own pockets and further supplement it from voluntary contributions
they themselves would solicit and thus obtain the homes and lands they
want to control. No. Instead, they are depriving others of useful land so
they can have their precious toad or whatever preserved, never mind what
happens to the human beings whose lives have been ruined this way.

Welcome to the land of Thomas Hobbes, where all are at war with all and
the bullies win.

Column on the Self-Made Individual

What?s a Self-Made Individual?

Tibor R. Machan

Whenever erudite critics of America?s social and political philosophy
wish to make fun of it all, they mention the ?self-made individual? (or,
in older terminology, ?man?). Recently one such critic recalled some quip
that said, ?How many people does it take to make a self-made man?? The
point being, self-made individuals do not exist at all, everyone, in fact,
develops by relying on innumerable others.

This criticism totally misses the point of what a self-made individual is
supposed to be. No one who has any sense conceives of the self-made
individual as some kind of hermit or someone who sprung to life on a
desert island. Not even Daniel Defoe?s Robinson Crusoe was hatched on his
island and lived abandoned until Friday showed up. Crusoe was shipwrecked
and only after that had to rely solely on himself for a while. (Defoe?s
book was actually based on a true story, of the Scotsman named Alexander
Selkirk [or Selcraig].) Clearly Crusoe had learned many skills from other
people before he ended up having to fend for himself.

What a self-made individual is, however, has nothing to do with ending up
all alone on a desert island. Nor does it have to do with someone who is
anti-social, who distances himself or herself from all others, as the
antagonistic caricatures would make it out. No, a self-made individual is
one who thinks though the ideas and principles on which he or she bases
his or he conduct before leaping to action. Self-made means not simply
accepting what others tell one, not relying solely on the advice one gets
from others in one?s community, including books, songs, poems, novels,
etc., and so forth. Instead, the self-made individual, once reaching the
age at which one can being to understand a thing or two, will actually get
to think things through to make sure he or she has grasped what?s what.

Since the time or Aristotle the fact that many people simply accept what
others tell them has been acknowledged. Slavish people exist?one need only
pay attention to how a great many people make their decisions, how they
follow almost blindly new fashions, prevailing views about what?s ethical
or required by their religion, family, or the so called leaders of their
ethnic or racial groups.

Self-made individuals associate with others thoughtfully, prudently, not
recklessly. They do not by any means reject society but take part in it
discriminately, on their own terms (tern which they often learned from
others but didn?t accept blindly). When it is noted that self-made
individuals don?t exist because they are often closely linked to others,
it is completely overlooked that those others, too, needed to think things
through carefully in order to provide good input.

There is simply no way to discard the fact that human beings are better
off in life if they develop a facility and habit for understanding things
for themselves, on their own initiative instead of blindly following
others. That?s what?s meant by ?the self-made individual?; furthermore,
that is what those champion who regard such an individual as a good model
to emulate (but not blindly!).

Why do we hear so much criticism and ridicule of the self-made
individual? One reason is that people who would want to be leaders of
others, people who like to rule others, people who want to impose ideas on
others find the self-made individual an obstacle to their program. People
who think for themselves do not fall for the likes of Hitler, Stalin, Jim
Jones and similar charismatic figures who are eager to run the world for
the rest of us. So they hope to demean the idea that we can think for
ourselves and guide our lives pretty well without their intervention.

Whenever you hear someone put down the self-made individual, look out?you
are likely hearing from a would-be tyrant.

Column on The Bank of Wal-Mart

The Bank of Wal-Mart

Tibor R. Machan

No, there?s no such financial institution, at least not yet. I am simply
giving this name to whatever Wal-Mart will call its bank, should its right
to establish one gain the protection it should in this supposedly free
market society.

When the big chain of low-cost merchandise announced that it wants to
provide banking services in its several discount stores, a bunch of
politicians, with the disgraceful support of some existing banks and
certain non-profit pressure groups, proceeded to assemble whatever
obstacles they could against the effort. An outfit I have only recently
become aware of, Inner City Press/Community on the Move, has been hard at
work to place all the bureaucratic hurdles you can imagine in Wal-Mart?s
way. (See: When one visits
ICP?s web site, what one finds is pages and pages of reports about the red
tape that either has been or has not been successfully injected in
Wal-Mart?s efforts to start its banking services.

The only substantive information, concerned with why anything could be
wrong with Wal-Mart?s efforts outside some tedious regulations, concerns
the usual charges about Wal-Mart?s failure to live up to various political
correct expectations. These include the alleged malpractices of the giant
retailer in its employment practices, a list of law suits filed against
the retailer, and other typical populist, socialist objections to
Wal-Mart?s success in the relatively free market place.

I am no great fan of some of what Wal-Mart does to advance its
business?for example, its willingness to jump into bed with various city
governments in using eminent domain measures so as to lease huge chunks of
land without having to go through regular market processes. If Wal-Mart
did the right thing, it would simply enter the market and make reasonable
offers for the land it wants from those who now own it. Instead, often
Wal-Mart, sadly not unlike Costco and some other giant businesses, wants
governments to confiscate properties and turn around and lease them to it.
And this is now a disgraceful legally available approach by which huge
enterprises can sic government on smaller ones that pay lower taxes and do
not fit in with the city planners? redevelopment objectives.

But as far as The Bank of Wal-Mart is concerned, this issue is beside the
point. It isn?t so much whether Wal-Mart in particular has a right to
enter a line of business and whether its right to do so is respected and
protected?it could easily be Starbucks or McDonald or Longs Drugs. Whoever
wants to enter the banking market must not be kept out. It is just that
kind of open, unobstructed entry that keeps a free market a properly
competitive arena, instead of a protected region that favors only a few
businesses. It is all, really, about individual human rights, something
that ICP supposedly champions!

Wal-Mart and others like it would probably do the banking industry a
world of good, leading to additional measures by established banks to
provide efficient services. To have these established banks join ICP?which
is, to all appearances, some kind of global anti-capitalist
organization?judging by its repeated use of the term ?fair? in its
literature (?fair? often being a euphemism for ?government
regulated?)?demonstrates once again how wrong Karl Marx was to believe
that capitalists work hard to promote capitalism. Quite the contrary?many
so called capitalists are just as willing to turn to government so as to
advance their special or vested interests as are unions, universities, art
groups, and so forth.

Sadly, although in this instance Wal-Mart may turn out to be the victim
of the anti-capitalist mentality that?s so rampant throughout the world,
in other cases Wal-Mart is right in there sharing that mentality. Still,
those who know that capitalism is the best of all political economics
systems?something even the late John Kenneth Galbraith, a perennial
champion of government planned economies, acknowledged near the end of his
life?need to defend even such two faced capitalists as Wal-Mart when their
right to engage in free trade is under assault. The simple fact is, that
no one ought to have the authority to interfere with Wal-Mart or any other
business if it wants to add banking services to whatever else it is
already selling. (And isn?t Sears doing this already and aren?t others,
even Wal-Mart, doing so too, what with eye doctors, fast food restaurants,
pharmacies and the like all under the same roof?)

What needs to be stressed is the importance of unfettered freedom of
trade, regardless of what is being traded so long as it is done
peacefully, without resort to coercion. Some may regard this market
fundamentalism, some ideological thinking, some bourgeois imperialism or
globalization. Never mind all those efforts to besmirch it?we are talking
about the liberty if individuals and their economic companies to do
business with one another. And Wal-Mart?s liberty may not be ignored as we
do so.

Column on another visit to FDR's Second Bill of Rights

Revisiting FDR?s Second Bill of Rights

Tibor R. Machan

Ever since Cass Sunstein came out with his book, The Second Bill of
Rights: FDR's Unfinished Revolution and Why We Need It More Than Ever
(2006), championing Franklin D. Roosevelt?s promotion of transforming
America?s political system into an unabashed welfare state, I have picked
some from the list to examine and comment on. If there is a more insidious
political attempt to destroy the free society than all this talk about a
second bill of rights?which is nothing more than a bunch of entitlements
obtained at the expense of human liberty?I don?t know of it.

Take, for example, ?The right of every family to a decent home.? A right?
Well, a right is something other people must grant?they must respect it
and the legal authorities must protect it. That?s their job?as we learn
from the Founders, ?to secure these rights, governments are instituted? as
they put it in America?s founding political document. So now if every
family has a right to a decent home, this means that other people must
respect such a right and the law must protect it.

How is a right to a home respected? It would be by providing people with
a home. Unlike the right to, say, one?s life or liberty, the right to a
home cannot be secured merely by abstaining from some hostile, aggressive
actions, such as murder or negligent homicide. No, the right to a decent
home would have to be respected by producing homes for others, by devoting
a good portion of one?s life and resources to building one or hiring
builders to do so. This means that to respect such a right, and for the
legal authorities to secure it, would involve placing everyone into
involuntary servitude or serfdom. Even ?slavery? would not be too far off,
if we were required to produce such homes for many people, which means
working day and night for those people as ordered by the government that?s
to secure such a right.

Let?s face it, however nice an idea some people think this list on FDR?s
?Second Bill of Rights? amounts it, in fact it is most insidious. It
entails placing people into servitude, even slavery to other people, by
order of the government.

Why is this missed? It is mainly because those who champion the idea have
managed to mask it by construing it as some kind of generosity or kindness
toward others. Or that justice requires it, a perverse kind of justice at
that. Just as those in government like to pretend that when they tax us
and then provide some group with funds that advance a perfectly
respectable, worthwhile purpose, it is acting compassionately, generously,
or benevolently, the same happens when they tax us and then provide people
with ?a decent home? (or the funds to buy one). But this is not generosity
by a long shot.

Consider that if you go to your next door neighbor?s house while the
family is gone and break in and crack their safe and take their money from
it and then visit another neighbor who is in dire need of something and
hand that money over, where is the charity, generosity, kindness or
compassion in this? And how is what the government does any different by
extorting your resources and handing these over to people so they may have
?a decent home??

Oh, you may say, it is OK to do this because the majority elected the
government. Yet this doesn?t follow at all. The argument would require a
demonstration that what would be morally and even legally wrong for
individuals to do, majorities may and indeed must do. Why is this so?
Surely if we are talking about murder, this doesn?t sound at all right.
Why should it if we are talking about theft or extortion?

The defining feature of a free society is that it is based on laws that
do not violate one?s rights to life, liberty and property, never mind how
many folks might be inclined to do so. Large numbers simply do not reduce
the severity of the violence done to people, even to a single individual.

The ruse perpetrated by FDR?s Second Bill of Rights?and by all those who
are still promoting it?should be crystal clear: they are pretending that
there is a right one has to what others must produce, which means a right
to enslave other people, to conscript them to work for purposes which they
have not chosen to pursue. It is imperative that this idea be rejected,
even when famous law processors support it.

Colum no the Left vs. Our Liberties

Do ?liberals? Care for Liberty?

Tibor R. Machan

I assume most of those who read this column have heard modern liberals
proclaim their the deep concern civil liberties and due process. Among
them many tell us they are upset about how President George W. Bush and
most of those on his team are willing to sacrifice these so as to carry on
with "the war on terror." These liberals express earnest concern about
how the rights of detainees are violated. They lament how Americans are
being subjected to unlawful wiretapping. They are very upset with certain
provisions of the Patriot Act and similar measures that they claim violate
our rights. These liberals profess real worry about our loss of liberties.

I don't believe them. I am convinced they are not at all serious about
liberty. They are merely playing power politics?here is a great
opportunity to stick it to old George whose own rhetoric about how he
favors freedom for everyone, us here at home and Iraqis and others abroad,
can be shown to be disingenuous if indeed the war on terror is fought at
the expense of our liberties.

Why don?t I buy that these liberals are authentic champions of civil
liberties and due process, you may ask. Aren't warnings that there's too
much concern for security and too little for liberty to be proof that they
are sincerely worried? Certainly, libertarians share this worry and so
they may be tempted to take these liberals or, rather, democratic
socialists and other Leftists, to be their allies.

But do not trust the Left, I say?they have here, as nearly anywhere else,
a not so hidden agenda. This is to gain power so they can govern us all
with an iron fist so we conform to their very dubious and discredited
standards of how we all ought to live.

How does one discern such an agenda without doing extensive research?
Most people don?t have the time and resources to do the work to find out
whether to trust those on the Left who say they are honest champions of
liberty, especially civil rights and due process. What they do hear or
read is that most on the Left are critical of George Bush and his recently
appointed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales because, it is argued, these
people are neglectful of our rights and freedoms. Isn?t that good enough
to link arms with them and support their agenda?

Actually, the Left is mostly feigning concern about these important
American values, and here is how to know without having to become an
expert about it all. Just consider that when it comes to environmental
issues, there's absolutely no concern about due process and civil
liberties by most of those on the Left. For example, former Vice-President
Al Gore and his followers care not a whit about liberty but only about
security. When Gore himself voices?well, actually bellows?his warnings
about Global Warming, climate change, and other environmental topics, he
is fully committed to do something, anything, with no care at all about
our individual liberties, civil or other. Because of the alleged risks he
has become convinced of, he is perfectly willing to ride roughshod over
our freedoms.

Now let?s notice that the precautionary policies urged on us by the
environmental Left are no different from the precautionary policies urged
by the anti-terrorist Right. Both sides would cavalierly cast asides
concerns about individual rights, civil liberties and due process when it
comes to its own variety of grave hazards?be it terrorism or environmental
catastrophe. But completely reject Benjamin Franklin's admonition that
"Those Who Sacrifice Liberty for Security Deserve Neither."

That the Left has generally no concern for liberty?despite its support
for the rhetoric of the ACLU and all its hand-wringing about how various
provisions of the Patriot Act oppress us?should be evident from this
alone, as well as some other items on its agenda, such as political
correctness, which is an assault on free speech, government mandated
affirmative action, which violates freedom of association, all varieties
of government regulation, which amount to prior restraint, and, of course,
all the property takings in support of endangered species?many of which
aren't, by the way?that the ACLU never objects to despite how they go
against the U. S. Constitution. All of this demonstrates beyond a
reasonable doubt that the Left is not serious about civil liberties, due
process and, in general, individual rights.

I am very much for heeding Franklin's warning but I distrust those on the
Left who make like they join me in my concerns. I suggest you do too.

Column on "Right" to Medical Care

There is no Right to Medical Care

Tibor R. Machan

In the advertisement "A Renewed American Agenda" (USA Today, May
4, 2006)?placed by The Bedell World Citizenship Fund of Spirit Lake, Iowa,
the organization urges us to "Recognize that All Americans Have A Right to
Medical Care." I suppose they mean well but in fact they are perpetrating
a gross misunderstanding about individual rights.

First, those who belong to this organization may mean no more than
that we in these United States of America have a legal right to medical
care, which is true enough but not crucial since governments can establish
such rights?entitlements?whether justified or not. Those who have power
have always been able to confer legal privileges on others especially if
they can obtain these privileges from people by force of arms, by taxation
or outright conscription.

Second, and which is the more vital point to make in response to
this claim about a right to medical care, no one in fact has a natural
right medical care comparable to one's right to life, liberty, the pursuit
of one?s happiness, private property, and so forth. These are what
political theorists call negative rights because all they require is that
people refrain from intruding on one another. But in fact no one can have
a right to medical care because if one had such a right, others would lose
their basic rights to liberty, and to property, which are unalienable and
cannot be lost (only violated).

Medical care is a value doctors, nurses and other medical
professionals would, if they were free men and women, provide to those
they would choose as recipients, on terms they regard as acceptable. These
provisions are not owed to anyone. Doctors, nurses, and other medical
professionals may not be placed into involuntary servitude to those
needing their services?the relationships must be voluntary, no matter how
vital those services are to the recipients.

The belief that others may justly be placed into involuntary
servitude so as to secure funds to pay medical professionals?who then will
service those who need their work?is a gross error. In a free country?a
just country?adult men and women treat each other as ends in themselves,
not as unwilling tools, instruments, or means to each other?s ends. Just
as I may not go over to my neighbor?s home and conscript some unwilling
individual to come and mow my lawn or even drive me to the hospital (but
must ask for this and await willingly given help), so any service such as
medical care must be obtained without coercion.

There are those, of course, who believe that once it has been
democratically determined that people must pay for medical services to
all, there is nothing wrong with collecting the taxes for this purpose.
This is wrong?no group or majority of a group may decide to take what
belongs to people. It is no less unjust to do such a thing than it is to
hang someone because the majority in some town decides it?s OK to do so,
without first following due process, namely, demonstrating via the justice
system that the hanging is deserved.

It needs to be reiterated again and again that taxation is a
reactionary device that had been used by monarchs to collect ?rent? from
the folks who lived and worked on what the monarch (misguidedly) believed
was his or her property. Taxation went hand in hand with serfdom and
neither has a place in a free society where individual citizens are
sovereign, not their government (which is merely an administrative agency
to secure the rights of all the citizens, even non-citizens, of a country).

The myth of having a right to medical care?or all sorts of other
services that need the work or resources of others?generates the mentality
that people can proceed with their lives without having to be responsible
for what living entails. These are all kinds of costs one must cover and
be prepared to cover, alone or with the voluntary cooperation?trade,
charity, generosity, or grant of loans?of others. Dumping these costs on
unwilling others is like dumping pollution on unwilling others, a natural

The folks at the Bedell World Citizenship Fund ought not to be
complicit in peddling the perverse political ideology that supports such

Column on Galbraith Obit Distortions

Galbraith?s Obit Distortions

Tibor R. Machan

Not even the obituaries can be trusted now. Having been told of the death
of John Kenneth Galbraith, the famed socialist economist?who taught at
Harvard University for most of his life and was once John Kennedy?s
ambassador to India?I read his obituary in The New York Times (both print
and on line) and on several Web sites, including, via my Hotmail

I have been following the works of Galbraith for many years, since the
1960s after his The Affluent Society was published in 1958 in which, among
other things, he aired his oft-reprinted attack on advertising. This is
the piece that presented the view that ads produce desires in us which we
then must satisfy, thus becoming addicted to products and services we do
not need and taking resources from important public projects and diverting
them into the coffers of greedy corporations. It is also where Lyndon
Johnson?s idea of the Great Society, following such previous utopian
statist experiments as FDR?s New Deal and JFK?s New Frontier, got its send

Galbraith was one of the most prominent and widely published defenders of
a form of socialism dubbed in political economic circles as ?democratic.?
Although he was always easier on the Soviet Union?s version of centrally
planned, dictatorial socialism than even some other democratic socialists,
Galbraith was more eager to promote the notion?a very simple, even
dogmatic one?that capitalism is captive to corporate greed and that the
government must barge in to rescue us from this insidious, wild beast in
the market place. This was his eruditely produced but ultimately boring
mantra in nearly every one of his essays and books.

But none of the obituaries made any mention of Galbraith the socialist.
Instead every one I read called him a liberal. Why?

In America and some other countries the term ?liberal? used to refer to
someone who advocated individual liberty, including free trade?the liberty
to engage in voluntary economic exchanges without anyone allowed to
intrude, be it a criminal or a cop. But during the 19th century the
meaning of ?liberal? has been changed by theorists who saw how much favor
a policy gained when regarded as liberal, never mind that theirs wasn?t at
all the genuine article but in fact a mercantilist or socialist pretender.

There was, however, one bit of intellectual support for this: sometimes
we do use ?liberty? or ?freedom? in the sense in which such folks mean it,
namely, to come to be rid of impediments to our actions. ?I am free of
this headache, finally,? or ?He is now at liberty to by that home.? And
that notion rests on having obtained the support or resources whereby the
headache was overcome and the home could be purchased, never mind whence
they came.

So it became kosher to say that someone who wants the government to steal
from Peter to enable Paul to get rid of his headache or buy a home is,
well, a liberal, a supporter of a certain sort of liberty or freedom, very
different from what used to be meant by ?liberal.? All sorts of statists
jumped at the chance to call themselves liberals henceforth, thus
eschewing the dirty word ?socialist? which came to be associated with
dictatorial regimes such as the Soviet Union.

This was essentially a ruse?these liberals, including Galbraith,
advocated massive government intervention into the lives of citizens, with
the delusional belief in how pure of heart and bright of mind politicians
and bureaucrats are, in comparison to you and me and the rest of us simple
and mean blokes doing work in markets. Not one of the obituaries, however,
pointed this out about Galbraith but made him out to be a grand champion
of human liberty, an unqualified liberal!

Well, when even obituary writers join in on the distortion of the news so
as to support a political agenda such as whitewashing the record of an
avid fan of government supremacy, we are in deep trouble. Especially when
not long after the fall of the Soviet Union that avid fan actually
admitted that capitalism is superior to socialism.

When Galbraith was asked in October 1995 about capitalism, he said ?I do
not believe that there are any radical alternatives, but there are
correctives. The only alternative, socialism, that is the alternative to
the market economy, has failed. The market system is here to stay."

Column on Fixing Things

Didn?t Need the Feds

Tibor R. Machan

This morning I was doing windows, cleaning them in my kitchen, and as I
tried to remove one I broke it. Now there?s a gaping hole through which
cold air blows in. But, you may not have anticipated this, I did not need
the federal government to come in fix it all. No Congressional committee
had to assemble. I just scheduled a visit to a glass shop and will have it
fixed in a day or two?it?s the weekend, so it won?t be done immediately.

Alas, the other day I needed some new pants and on my way to see some
friends?it was the Eastern weekend?I stopped at a nifty outlet mall I have
been visiting for years on this trip and bought some, as well as a few
shirts and even a pair of nifty shoes. Again, maybe it will surprise you,
I didn?t require the assistance of one single politician or bureaucrat.

Not that politicians and bureaucrats do not make every effort to insert
themselves in these benign, voluntary, and productive human encounters.
They do. Which is why each time I get involved with some folks to solve a
problem, they not only charge me for their services but are coerced by
several governments to collect taxes from me. And then they need to fill
out a bunch of forms and keep records and all that, instead of turning to
some further productive work so some other problem could be solved. (And
they, like Ralph Nader, wonder why small businesses are struggling and
huge corporations take their place!)

Some will say, but see, this just shows that the feds or state politicos
are needed, after all. Without them these human encounters?trade, and
such?won?t go through. Without the regulators hazards surround us on all
sides because, well, bad guys will deceive or defraud us and that would
seriously impeded all the trade we do. So the feds are there, all over,
after all.

But this assumes that the feds and state cops are the ones who can best
serve in the capacity of making sure things operate smoothly. Clearly this
is contradicted by the ubiquitous presence of security guards and quality
control folks in the market place. They can be hired?no one needs to
impose them on us. Where they exist, we pay for them via the added amount
of the price of goods and services, portions of which go to these
professionals who make sure things go smoothly. You know, the Good
Housekeeping folks, who issues those seals of approval, and others like
them, or private security guards. And if push comes to shove, there are
the lawyers?in case something has gone amiss and parties think they have
been treated badly by their trading fellows.

So, yes, Virginia, nearly all of society can function very nicely, thank
you, without politicians and bureaucrats barging in and wielding their
power as if without it the world would come to a screeching halt. Yes,
some areas haven?t yet come under the jurisdiction of folks like you and
me, so there are all those cheerleaders of government who insist that
their client is in fact indispensable. But that?s bunk.

Just because throughout history tyrants, monarchs, Caesars and tsars, as
well as their less exalted minions like dukes and barons, have overpowered
the rest of us and made it out as if they were absolutely necessary for
our lives to proceed with some degree of success, it doesn?t follow one
bit that that?s actually so. Sure, the idea that you and I and the rest of
us civilians are perfectly capable of managing and guiding our lives, at
times alone, most times together as we choose, may not appear to be
self-evident, given all that historical distortion. But, after all, who
were all those blokes who pretended?and sill pretend?to be so badly needed
but, well, other people. So they had little over the rest of us but brute

In time we may well get used to the idea that all the problems we face
are human ones and we, human beings, need no pretenders to superiority to
run our lives. That just in the way my window will get fixed without
politicians and bureaucrats butting in, so the rest of what needs fixing
will get fixed without these bullies getting into the fray.

Alas, until that realization, each time something goes awry, each time
some complaint is aired, bureaucrats and politicians will be there to hold
committee meetings, assemble panels, issue orders and edicts, and pretty
much delay solutions that could have been forthcoming had this ruse not
been allowed to be perpetrated.