Norman Horn – The Libertarian Standard Property - Prosperity - Peace Wed, 27 Apr 2016 06:16:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A new website and group blog of radical Austro-libertarians, shining the light of reason on truth and justice. Norman Horn – The Libertarian Standard clean Norman Horn – The Libertarian Standard (Norman Horn – The Libertarian Standard) CC-BY Property - Prosperity - Peace Norman Horn – The Libertarian Standard TV-G Habeas Corpus in America Thu, 16 Jan 2014 16:16:23 +0000 Adobe Photoshop PDFReview of The Power of Habeas Corpus in America: From the King’s Prerogative to the War on Terror by Anthony Gregory. Cambridge University Press and the Independent Institute, 2013.

Anthony Gregory is a great friend of mine, and I am honored to have the opportunity to review briefly his splendid new book, Habeas Corpus in America.

A few comments about the book itself are in order before sojourning through the content. First, it is a beautiful volume. I suppose we can thank Cambridge University Press for that. The cover itself contains the text of Abraham Lincoln’s order to suspend habeas during the Civil War – a very nice visual touch. The forward is written by the erudite constitutional scholar Kevin Gutzman. The book is written in three parts: history of habeas corpus, application of habeas corpus after 9/11, and a section titled “Custody and Liberty” exploring the future of habeas. Multiple appendices then analyze various habeas cases, and the customary selected bibliography and historical term explanations follow. It is long, thorough, sweeping, and powerful – but also pretty expensive. I suppose we can thank Cambridge University Press for that as well.

Habeas corpus is generally understood as the legal right not to be detained arbitrarily by the government. It is considered a foundational principle of Western legal systems, even of natural law itself. Still, habeas corpus is widely misunderstood, especially on a historical level. Anthony Gregory’s work on the history of habeas corpus and its application in America levels a damning charge against the American federal government and challenges the reader to reconsider the common assumption that the federal government protects liberty by showing how and why they abridge this fundamental right.

In the history section, Gregory explains that the origins of habeas corpus are not as simple as we are generally taught. Writs had traditionally been used by governments to command obedience. Contra the oft-assumed pure libertarian origins of the writ of habeas corpus, habeas was initially a privilege of the nobility in England. The Magna Carta itself was pushed upon King John by the Barons of Runnymede for their own personal protection. Expanding the writ to all citizenry took considerable time, and highlights the mixed and often paradoxical history of habeas in the West.

Habeas corpus emerged in America as a revolutionary rallying point. Gregory writes in Chapter 3:

Not only did habeas radicalize the colonists; the colonists soon radicalized habeas, extracted from it the purest pro-liberty element at the core of the judicial writ, and adopted through practice a libertarian version of the writ that prevailed in the late colonial era up until the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. First the colonists had to claim the writ as their own, which happened not so much through inheritance from Britain but with indifference or even hostility toward formal English institutions.

Compared to most other habeas corpus episodes, the initial expansion of habeas in America was a bottom-up affair. Nevertheless, over time the federal government acquired the means to do with habeas whatever they willed. Indeed, built into the Constitution itself is a mechanism to destroy habeas: “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” (Article I, Section 9) During the debates on adoption of the Constitution, anti-federalists decried this language as unduly granting power to the federal apparatus, since it alone would hold the power to determine when someone was acting in “rebellion” and that “public safety” required suspension of habeas. The clause also highlights that this power is a government privilege. In other words, you do not have a right not to be detained arbitrarily, but rather this is something you get from the government. What the government gives, of course, it can also take away. Thus we see that habeas corpus as a government power throws us into a paradox: Can the government be expected to wield such power justly when it alone has the power to rule when it is a party to the case?

Indeed, multiple incidents through America’s history shows that at no time has the federal government been incapable of justifying suspension of habeas when their plans require it. Whether the military commissions of Abraham Lincoln, the detention of Japanese-Americans in World War 2, or the indefinite detentions of the Bush-Obama era, where the feds have will they will make up a way.

Again, the American experience suggests that the history of habeas corpus is complicated and somewhat contradictory given its importance both in our shared cultural tradition and in concrete reality. Habeas corpus is both overvalued and undervalued, sometimes for right reasons and sometimes for wrong reasons. Fundamentally, the principle stands but this society must change if habeas abuses are to be righted. To Gregory, the end-game solution is simple: “A society needs more than the judicial order to secure its freedom. It needs to value that freedom in itself.” Understanding the history and application of habeas corpus is only part of the solution, the next is to change the culture from the inside.

Anthony Gregory’s excellent book pushes the truth about habeas corpus and the atrocities of governments forward. I am confident that any student of legal history and of freedom philosophy will find his work very beneficial.

This post was originally published on on January 16, 2014.

Note: This book is a bit pricey, so if you do not think you will purchase it, encourage your local library to check it out to spread Anthony’s great work!

The War on Drugs is a War on Freedom Fri, 14 Dec 2012 15:57:44 +0000 review of The War on Drugs is a War on Freedom by Laurence Vance. Vance Publications, 2012. Orlando, FL. $9.95 at Cross-posted from

To many newcomers to libertarian ideas – especially Christians – it is not always perfectly clear why libertarians oppose the War on Drugs so strenuously. Some Christians even think that the only reason libertarians oppose government prohibition is so that they can get high legally. Nothing could be further from the truth. Simply put, we despise government prohibition because it is a power no government should have. Moreover, the War on Drugs is an incredible example of precisely how a government usurps liberty, destroys lives, and consolidates power unto itself. This short book by Dr. Laurence Vance, writer at LCC,,, and the Future of Freedom Foundation, explains in great detail why everyone should oppose the War on Drugs .

Vance begins the introduction by giving his purpose in collecting these essays into book form:

This is not a book about the benefits of drugs; this is a book about the benefits of freedom. I neither use illegal drugs nor recommend their use to anyone else. I am even skeptical about the health benefits of most legal drugs.

So why this book? Because I believe in freedom. I believe in individual liberty, private property, personal responsibility, a free market, a free society, and a government as absolutely limited as possible.

The book then contains 19 essays, written over the past 4 years, that tackle the War on Drugs from a variety of angles. A few common themes resonate throughout the book:

1. The War on Drugs is unconstitutional. You would think that “conservatives” who support the United States Constitution would readily admit when the Federal government has overstepped its bounds, but such is rarely the case. Still, the Feds do not follow their own rules, and we should point this out whenever possible. Substance prohibition has never been constitutional.

2. The War on Drugs is a total failure. It has clogged the judicial system and incarcerated completely innocent people, instigated worldwide violence, corrupted law enforcement, eroded civil liberties, and destroyed financial privacy. Additionally, it hasn’t even been able to prevent drugs from getting into prisons much less the general population. By any standard of “helping” anyone, the War on Drugs has completely failed. To me, those in jail for possession of illegal drugs – assuming they have not committed a violent act – are prisoners of war and deserve to be liberated immediately.

3. Drug abuse is a health issue, not a legal issue. If you oppose government intrusion into health care, then there is no reason at all to support the War on Drugs. It is not the government’s business to dictate health issues to you.

4. The War on Drugs is a war on the ideals of liberty and a free society. Actions that are not aggressive in nature have no business being prohibited by government. Vices are not crimes, and it is not the purpose of government to monitor the behavior of citizens like a nanny! The War on Drugs is a perfect example of why government intrusion into people’s lives does nothing but harm. In order to ward off “vices” like illicit drugs, the government must continuously undermine liberty.

Vance even has an essay for why Christians should oppose the War on Drugs. Yes, Christians are free to consider drug abuse a great evil, but such evil should not be compounded by a drug war that is an even greater evil. Vance argues that Christians are both inconsistent and immoral for calling upon the state to punish non-crimes:

It is not the purpose of Christianity to use force or the threat of force to keep people from sinning. Christians who are quick to criticize Islamic countries for prescribing and proscribing all manner of behavior are very inconsistent when the support the same thing [in the United States]. A Christian theocracy is just as unscriptural as an Islamic theocracy.

Now more than ever we Christians ought to expose the War on Drugs for what it is: a War on Freedom. Laurence Vance concisely brings you a wealth of information to educate you on the issues, and I highly recommend this book to any believer anywhere.

Interested in learning more? Check out The War on Drugs is a War on Freedom at

Deck the Halls with Macro Follies Thu, 06 Dec 2012 16:22:00 +0000 The inimitable EconStories gang, which includes the great John Papola, has just released their newest creation just in time for Christmas: Deck the Halls with Macro Follies. It lampoons the idea getting consumer spending going is how to jumpstart an economy. Contra those ideas of Keynes and Malthus (and Bernanke!), the real way to build prosperity is to save and thereby increase production. But watch the video, it’s really fun.

War, Peace, Liberty Wed, 21 Nov 2012 17:30:00 +0000 Jacob Huebert, author of Libertarianism Today and fellow TLS writer, gave a superb talk this past weekend on libertarianism and war at the fourth annual Students for Liberty Austin Conference. In short, Jacob argues that a consistent position against all aggression implies that one must also oppose wars of all kinds.

Perhaps my favorite talk at the conference this weekend was “Why Libertarianism is the Only Moral Choice” by Lawrence Reed of the Foundation for Economic Education. In his presentation, Reed tells the story of great men and women who devoted their lives toward the promotion of liberty in the world. It is eloquent and inspiring, and I hope you will take some time to listen intently.

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The TSA is Wasteful, Unhealthy, and Unnecessary Wed, 14 Mar 2012 19:47:56 +0000 The Transportation Security Administration has demonstrated over and over again that they cannot be trusted with neither your personal liberty nor with your health. This infographic gives an excellent description of why and how they fail. (Cross-posted at

TSA Waste
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Top 10 Libertarian Books for Christmas 2011 Wed, 07 Dec 2011 23:09:14 +0000 Every year, I like to construct a list of some of the best books released in the past year and a few a others that are worth recommending at any time. Of course, this is my opinion, but if you’re looking for a gift for your libertarian loved one this Christmas season then perhaps you’ll give one of these books a go. So without further adieu, the Top 10 Libertarian Books for Christmas 2011!

It Is Dangerous to Be Right When Governments Is Wrong by Judge Andrew Napolitano1. It is Dangerous to Be Right When the Government is Wrong by Andrew Napolitano – The Judge, host of FreedomWatch on Fox Business, has put together an amazing book that analyzes a host of topics from the standpoint of natural law. I will be reviewing this book on my personal website soon but I’m going to say it now – you need to read this book. The data and stories he presents in the book make it easily worth every penny, and it deserves a prominent place on your (or anyone else’s) bookshelf.

2. Libertarianism Today by Jacob Huebert – This book was on the list last year, but it warrants another mention because you can get it at a significantly reduced price by purchasing directly from the publisher. Huebert’s book is definitely a must-read, and is one of the best recent books on hardcore libertarianism in the past few years. LRC writer Laurence Vance has called it, “The best introduction to libertarianism on the market.”

3. Bourbon for Breakfast and It’s a Jetsons World by Jeffrey Tucker – Check out this review of Bourbon for Breakfast, and you’ll see that it is a super read for anyone looking to circumvent statist restrictions upon their lives. Tucker’s followup work tells exciting stories of the little everyday miracles of the free market at work.

Liberty Defined by Ron Paul4. Liberty Defined by Ron Paul – Another gold standard in libertarian literature by one of liberty’s greatest defenders. See this review for the full story.

5. Rollback by Thomas Woods – I am a huge fan of Tom Woods and have known him for over 5 years now. His latest book makes an eloquent case for dismantling pretty much everything the government currently does today.

Great Wars and Great Leaders by Ralph Raico6. Great Wars and Great Leaders by Ralph Raico – Leaders who take a country to war are often heralded as “great,” but the libertarian perspective considers such notions to be folly. War is the health of the state and the enemy of liberty, and Raico’s historical work is great ammunition in the war of ideas that we fight daily.

7. Myth of a Guilty Nation by Albert Jay Nock – This is an old book newly reprinted by the Mises Institute, and I’m excited to see it available again (because I’m a big fan of Nock and haven’t ever read this one). From the description: “Nock’s book reminds us of what most everyone has forgotten, namely, that this was sold as a war for freedom and self-determination over imperial ambition. Along with that came some of the most rabid war propaganda ever fabricated until that point in time, all designed to make Germany into a devil nation. Nock’s brave book took on that idea and demonstrated that there was fault enough to go around on all sides. All through the 1920s, a Nockian-style retelling of the facts behind the war led to a dramatic shift in public opinion against World War I.” Awesome!

8. The Bastiat Collection Pocket Edition by Frederic Bastiat – If you haven’t read Bastiat’s The Law, you need to get on that immediately! This book contains all the major works of Bastiat in a very small volume, and makes a great gift.

9. Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt – Need to learn a little more about economics? Start with the classic by Hazlitt, and never forget the first lesson again…

Last but not least, a special note for the Christian readers…

10. Christian Theology of Public Policy and Bible and Government by John Cobin – I absolutely love the excellent work of John Cobin. For Christian libertarians, these are must reads!

Have a happy holiday season!

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The final push against the TSA in Texas Wed, 25 May 2011 06:42:14 +0000 I have been at the forefront of fighting the TSA’s “enhanced security” theater in Texas for some time. We have gained so much momentum in the last month that now even the Feds are taking notice.

Yesterday, the US Department of Justice waltzed into the Texas Capitol with a letter to the Lt. Governor, saying that if Texas passes the HB 1937 “patdown” bill, which bans government officials from legalized molestation as a condition for entering a public building or airplane (and which, by the way, I helped write), that they will respond by turning Texas into the TSA equivalent of a no-fly zone.

Unfortunately, the Senate may be caving. But you can help! The best thing you can do right now is encourage anyone and everyone you know, especially from Texas, to send phone calls and emails toward the Texas legislature telling them you support human dignity and HB 1937.

Click here to get more information, to use our 30 second contact-the-Senate form, and to find out how to call every Texas Senator. This is our “Come and Take It” moment and we have very little time, so get going!

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Watson: Too cool not to share Sun, 20 Feb 2011 21:00:47 +0000 Perhaps you have heard – the future has arrived. Tech-giant IBM recently pitted their super-computer/AI named “Watson” against the two best Jeopardy players on earth and Watson won.

I for one welcome our new computer overlords.

Check out this interesting video about this historic event. To me, these kinds of things are far more important in the long run than the stupid political movers and shakers that populate Washington and various other capital cities. The free market gets stuff done.

Who Owns You? I sure don’t… Fri, 18 Feb 2011 23:00:24 +0000 I am on the board of the Austin, Texas-based Foundation for a Free Society, and one of our objectives is to put out professional, artistic, catchy videos that communicate the philosophy of liberty in a succinct and fun manner. This video is one of our latest projects and was recently featured on If you think this is a cool idea, why not become a donor to F4FS? Trust me, it’s a GREAT cause. F4FS has been a great supporter of the student group I am involved in, the Libertarian Longhorns, and I can heartily commend them to you.

Isn’t that fantastic? Share it with your friends, maybe you’ll be able to teach them about liberty soon…

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange influenced by libertarianism Thu, 02 Dec 2010 22:04:35 +0000 imageAndy Greenberg has a fascinating interview with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange posted at Assange states that he has been significantly influenced by “market libertarianism,” and though I disagree with the conclusions of his “expertise in politics and history” he is most assuredly a friend to the cause of liberty. Check out this excerpt from the interview.

Regulation: Is that what you’re after?

I’m not a big fan of regulation: anyone who likes freedom of the press can’t be. But there are some abuses that should be regulated, and this is one.

With regard to these corporate leaks, I should say: There’s an overlap between corporate and government leaks. When we released the Kroll report on three to four billion smuggled out by the former Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi and his cronies, where did the money go?  There’s no megacorruption–as they call it in Africa, it’s a bit sensational but you’re talking about billions–without support from Western banks and companies.

That money went into London properties, Swiss banks, property in New York, companies that had been set up to move this money.

We had another interesting one from the pharmaceutical industry: It was quite self-referential. The lobbyists had been getting leaks from the WHO. They were getting their own internal intelligence report affecting investment regulation. We were leaked a copy. It was a meta-leak. That was quite influential, though it was a relatively small leak–it was published in Nature and other pharma journals.

What do you think WikiLeaks mean for business? How do businesses need to adjust to a world where WikiLeaks exists?

WikiLeaks means it’s easier to run a good business and harder to run a bad business, and all CEOs should be encouraged by this. I think about the case in China where milk powder companies started cutting the protein in milk powder with plastics. That happened at a number of separate manufacturers.

Let’s say you want to run a good company. It’s nice to have an ethical workplace. Your employees are much less likely to screw you over if they’re not screwing other people over.

Then one company starts cutting their milk powder with melamine, and becomes more profitable. You can follow suit, or slowly go bankrupt and the one that’s cutting its milk powder will take you over. That’s the worst of all possible outcomes.

The other possibility is that the first one to cut its milk powder is exposed. Then you don’t have to cut your milk powder. There’s a threat of regulation that produces self-regulation.

It just means that it’s easier for honest CEOs to run an honest business, if the dishonest businesses are more effected negatively by leaks than honest businesses. That’s the whole idea. In the struggle between open and honest companies and dishonest and closed companies, we’re creating a tremendous reputational tax on the unethical companies.

No one wants to have their own things leaked. It pains us when we have internal leaks. But across any given industry, it is both good for the whole industry to have those leaks and it’s especially good for the good players.

But aside from the market as a whole, how should companies change their behavior understanding that leaks will increase?

Do things to encourage leaks from dishonest competitors. Be as open and honest as possible. Treat your employees well.

I think it’s extremely positive. You end up with a situation where honest companies producing quality products are more competitive than dishonest companies producing bad products. And companies that treat their employees well do better than those that treat them badly.

Would you call yourself a free market proponent?

Absolutely. I have mixed attitudes towards capitalism, but I love markets. Having lived and worked in many countries, I can see the tremendous vibrancy in, say, the Malaysian telecom sector compared to U.S. sector. In the U.S. everything is vertically integrated and sewn up, so you don’t have a free market. In Malaysia, you have a broad spectrum of players, and you can see the benefits for all as a result.

How do your leaks fit into that?

To put it simply, in order for there to be a market, there has to be information. A perfect market requires perfect information.

There’s the famous lemon example in the used car market. It’s hard for buyers to tell lemons from good cars, and sellers can’t get a good price, even when they have a good car.

By making it easier to see where the problems are inside of companies, we identify the lemons. That means there’s a better market for good companies. For a market to be free, people have to know who they’re dealing with.

You’ve developed a reputation as anti-establishment and anti-institution.

Not at all. Creating a well-run establishment is a difficult thing to do, and I’ve been in countries where institutions are in a state of collapse, so I understand the difficulty of running a company. Institutions don’t come from nowhere.

It’s not correct to put me in any one philosophical or economic camp, because I’ve learned from many. But one is American libertarianism, market libertarianism. So as far as markets are concerned I’m a libertarian, but I have enough expertise in politics and history to understand that a free market ends up as monopoly unless you force them to be free.

WikiLeaks is designed to make capitalism more free and ethical.

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