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Tag Archives: liberty

Do People Want to Be Free?

The heroic resistance by many Hong Kong residents suggests that all individuals want liberty, an idea inherited from the Enlightenment. But is this classical-liberal and libertarian vision generally valid? Here are some related questions. In the Fall issue of Regulation, I have an anniversary review of James Buchanan’s What Do Economists Do?, a collection of essays he wrote in the 1960s and 1970s. One of these essays, a lecture he gave at a 1978 Liberty Fund...

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Do the “ends justify the means”?

This question actually has two distinct meanings: 1. Should we do things if benefits of the ends exceed the cost of the means?2. In various individual cases, does the benefit of the ends actually exceed the cost of the means? The first question is normative while the second is empirical.  To illustrate this distinction, let’s start by considering three cases: The US government sent young men to their death in Iraq, because the ends were supposed to justify the means....

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American Sanctions: Why Foreigners Obey

Why are international sanctions decreed by the US government obeyed by the targeted “sanctioned persons,” who are foreign nationals generally out of reach of penalties from American authorities? The answer is simple but apparently unknown to many people. The sanctioned persons are not expected to do anything to obey. What the sanctions do is to prohibit Americans (as well as nationals of third countries) from dealing with the foreign sanctioned persons (which include...

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Trump’s UN Speech: An Introduction to Politics and LGBTQ

The speech delivered by President Donald Trump at the United Nations on September 24 provides a good introduction to politics. I recommend reading the actual transcript or watching the speech, not because it is especially surprising–many politicians say similar things in similar grandiloquent speeches–but because it is caricatural. It exemplifies many phenomena: collectivist political speech, the default philosophy in political discourse, and state propaganda through...

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Marianne Williamson Gets Her Way and Doesn’t Realize It

Are You Being Served? On her campaign site, Marianne Williamson, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President has an item on “National Service.” It starts out as follows: I believe the United States should institute a program whereby every American citizen between the age of 18 and 26 can perform one year of National Service. Guess what? The United States already has such a program. It’s called freedom. Every American citizen who’s not in prison is now...

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The Great Chinese Firewall

Here are some facts about China: 1. The Chinese government puts a great deal of effort into blocking unfavorable foreign news. 2. China’s leadership is located in a compound right off of Tiananmen Square, called Zhongnanhai During a recent trip to Beijing, I visited a popular bookstore that was just a few blocks from Zhongnanhai. You could buy a number of western magazines, and I picked up an issue of The Economist.  Ironically, China was the cover story, and the...

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A Celebration of the U.S. Constitution

Below is an article reprinted from Antiwar.com. It is an edited version of a talk I gave about the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 2007. I’ve edited it slightly since it appeared in 2007. Specifically, I made a charge at the end against George W. Bush that turns out to be almost certainly unjustified and so I removed it. Author’s note written in 2007: Sept. 17 was the 220th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. To commemorate that day, California State University, Monterey...

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The Problem of France

The explanation may look too simple, but it is very likely the correct one. The problem of France is not wine, literature, or the sensuality of the whole country. The problem was illustrated by a French government minister a couple of days ago. Alexis de Tocqueville and other observers already pinpointed the problem as it sailed unchanged from the Ancient Regime through the democratic governments that followed the devastating revolution of 1789. The problem is the...

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Power to the Children and Hail to the State!

Three dangerous aspects of the relationship between children and political power are worth noting. First, children have been getting more and more political influence—that is, influence on making other people move under the threat of government guns. Greta Thunberg is their current face. The 16-year-old Swedish girl is waging an international campaign for environmental control that lead her to sail (literally) to the shores of America without the carbon footprint of...

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Is the State Your Father or Your Mother?

The problem of the relations between the state and the individual was illustrated by a short Twitter exchange with a frequent contradictor of mine. He tweeted: One of those general moral/political rules is the social contract, that Libertarians routinely deny … Or if there is such a contract, it is with the globe, thus justifying sacrificing the interests of the country of your birth that raised you. I responded: Oh your country raised you? Is ze/hir your father or...

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