Reviews – 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. Reviews – The Libertarian Standard clean Reviews – The Libertarian Standard (Reviews – The Libertarian Standard) CC-BY Property - Prosperity - Peace Reviews – The Libertarian Standard TV-G Walter Block Says Legalize Blackmail Thu, 23 Jan 2014 03:34:38 +0000 blackmailI was fortunate enough to get a PDF preview of Walter Block’s new book, Legalize Blackmail, before it was published, and today I was delighted to receive my hardcover copy in the mail.

The book is a collection of  Block’s essays on the subject of blackmail — specifically, why he believes it should be legal as a matter of libertarian principle — including rebuttals of many other scholars’ opinions. It’s the most thorough libertarian treatment of this subject that has ever been published or, I am  confident, ever will be. And because it’s from Block, it’s a great read besides.

As I say in a blurb on the book’s back cover: “If you want to understand the libertarian position on blackmail, read this book. If you’ve taken it for granted that we need laws against blackmail, Walter Block will challenge your assumptions with provocative arguments you’ll find difficult to refute.”

Order it here.

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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!

Dallas Buyers Club Sun, 12 Jan 2014 04:06:30 +0000 dallas-buyers-club-poster-570x844A recent post by Jeffrey Tucker identifies a common theme in many of today’s movies: “powerful people are not our friends but our enemies – so if we want to have a free and flourishing life, we are going to have to get busy and figure out how to make it happen.”

One movie in theaters now that reflects this message as much as any is Dallas Buyers Club, which is based on the true story of Ron Woodruff, an electrician and rodeo enthusiast diagnosed with AIDS and given 30 days to live in 1985.

Soon after his diagnosis, Woodruff (Matthew McConaughey) learns that there’s a drug for treating AIDS, AZT, but it’s still in FDA trials. He can participate in a trial, but he won’t know whether he’s getting the real drug or a placebo. Understandably, he doesn’t find this satisfactory.

Woodruff’s efforts to get a reliable source of AZT lead him to a clinic in Mexico, where he’s told that AZT is actually harmful — in fact, it did seem to be making his condition worse — and that there are other AIDS drugs that aren’t available in the U.S., thanks once again to the FDA. The clinic gives him DDC and the protein Peptide T instead. Soon he’s getting them not only for himself but also for many other AIDS patients, distributing them through a “buyers club” he starts with a transgender woman (Jared Leto). When the supplies in Mexico run short, he starts traveling to other countries, such as Japan and Israel, to get more, convincing customs officials that it’s all for his personal use.

Eventually FDA agents raid the club and take all the DDC. Woodruff sues to at least be allowed to distribute the non-toxic Peptide T but loses.

Through all of this, the FDA is portrayed as a nothing but a villain for stopping terminally ill people from getting treatments they believe will help them. Woodruff, on the other hand, is portrayed as a hero for defying the feds — even as he makes lots of money doing so. What a change from movies of past decades, where the businessman was always the villain and government agents always saved the day!

A title card at the end informs that AZT later proved to be an effective treatment in lower doses, but I doubt anyone will walk away thinking this vindicates the FDA. The movie’s message is that people should be free to make their own health decisions.

Artistically, the film is watchable if not especially ambitious. The story is told straightforwardly and is compelling without indulging in melodrama. McConaughey gives a great performance as a once-bigoted cowboy who improves as he befriends and serves his fellow patients, and Leto is quite good, too. Although the movie takes place in the 1980s, the filmmakers don’t give consistent attention to period details — look closely and you’ll see present-day stuff sitting around. And it is somewhat annoying to learn from the internet that many things in the film — though not the stuff about the drug smuggling and the FDA — are fictional, including Woodruff’s bull riding, Leto’s character, and Jennifer Garner’s sympathetic doctor character.

Still, Dallas Buyers Club is much better than most movies and about as libertarian as they come, so I highly recommend it.

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The Wolf of Wall Street Mon, 30 Dec 2013 00:28:16 +0000 wolf-of-wall-street-poster2-610x903Murray Rothbard, the great libertarian theorist and economist, hated Goodfellas. He especially hated the depiction of gangsters as “psychotic punks” whose violence was “random, gratuitous, pointless.”

He preferred the Godfather films, where the gangsters never engaged in violence “for the Hell of it, or for random kicks,” but only used it to enforce contracts the government police and courts wouldn’t uphold.

For Rothbard, Goodfellas’ unflattering portrait of gangsters was practically a smear on libertarianism itself. According to him, “[o]rganized crime is essentially anarcho-capitalist, a productive industry struggling to govern itself,” which provides consumers with products — such as gambling, drugs, prostitution, imports — that the government has arbitrarily and unjustly made illegal. So he was offended by Goodfellas, where the “organized” criminals are little different from “street” criminals and are defeated by the cops in the end.

Some libertarians may dislike Goodfellas director Martin Scorsese’s latest, The Wolf of Wall Street, for similar reasons.

This film tells the story of a stockbroker, Jordan Belfort (Leonard DiCaprio), who cares about nothing but money and gratifying himself. His startup Long Island brokerage takes off when he and his cohorts start pushing penny stocks on working-class investors by cold-calling them and convincing them they can get rich quick by investing in purportedly great companies that are actually terrible. Belfort makes even more money by using third parties to invest in some of the companies whose stock he pushes and stashes the profits in a Swiss bank account.

Meanwhile, Belfort and his colleagues’ lust for money leads quickly to Caligula-style decadence, with non-stop sex-and-drug parties in and out of the office, which the movie dwells on at length.

Just as Goodfellas never acknowledged the valuable services Rothbard believed the Mafia historically performed, The Wolf of Wall Street never acknowledges the essential service that stockbrokers provide in a market economy. A character played by Matthew McConaughey — who, like Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross, appears just once early on to deliver a memorable greed-stoking speech — claims that stockbrokers don’t “create” anything but just pointlessly move money around while taking a cut for themselves.

At that point, some libertarians may be tempted to walk out, assuming that the rest of the movie will be an attack on capitalism. But walking out for that reason would be a mistake, and criticizing the movie for that character’s statements would be misguided, just as Rothbard’s criticism of Goodfellas was misguided.

Rothbard failed to mention that Goodfellas, unlike The Godfather, was a true story. Those characters did those things, more or less. In fact, the Mafia does not just engage in Defending the Undefendable-style heroism by providing black-market goods and services; it also engages in theft, insurance fraud, protection rackets, vending machine rackets, and other thuggery. And who carries out these activities? Thugs, of course: mediocrities who see gangsterism as their chance to become a “big shot,” like Ray Liotta’s Henry Hill, and psychos who see an outlet for their violent inclinations, like Joe Pesci’s Tommy DeVito. (Come to think of it, if we want to use the movie to make a libertarian point, we might observe that government attracts similar lowlifes for the same reasons.)

Whether you want to see a movie showing the real-life violence those people carry out is up to you. Randians, I assume, would argue that art shouldn’t depict anything so ugly and but should instead show us man at his best — so they wouldn’t want to see it. But I find it interesting to get a glimpse of how such people think and live — and Scorsese could not have done a better job telling their story. So I have no complaints about Goodfellas.

The Wolf of Wall Street is not a masterpiece like Goodfellas, but I approve of it for similar reasons. It too is based on a more-or-less true story. We can’t know whether Belfort fabricated or exaggerated details in the memoirs on which it’s based — if the office orgies shown actually happened, one would think hostile-work-environment lawsuits would have shut the place down long before the SEC or FBI noticed it — but the parts about Belfort’s stock trading are basically correct, as far as I know.

And I don’t doubt that some stockbrokers are jerks whose views aren’t much different than those of the McConaughey character. After all, most of them aren’t economists, so why would they understand the important role they play or how the economy works beyond what’s necessary for them to do their sales jobs? And there have, in fact, been “boiler rooms” where salesmen push bad stocks on ignorant people. Libertarians are not obliged to approve of such things or pretend they don’t exist, though we can point out that they are the exception and not likely to last long in a true market economy.

So what’s wrong with making a movie about those people? Nothing, as long as it holds the viewer’s interest and doesn’t try to make a broader point about all stock trading being evil.

The Wolf of Wall Street passes that test. There are vague allusions to “the one percent” and Wall Street’s role in our recent economic troubles, but there is no “message” apart from the obvious one that greed can lead people to be short-sighted and nasty. So I don’t think the film is especially objectionable from a libertarian perspective.

From an artistic perspective, there’s room for debate. You get the sense that the movie aspires to be Goodfellas set in the financial world, but it falls short. Like Goodfellas, it opens with a preview of an especially over-the-top scene from later in the film. It also uses a freeze-frame effect familiar to anyone who has seen Goodfellas, and it has similar narration by the main character. You can tell Scorsese is trying to recreate that movie’s visceral effect, but he doesn’t quite succeed.

And although the broad strokes of the story may be true, many details feel false. The characters go from ordinary to outrageous too quickly, and the office parties seem implausible in the 80s and  90s, after the rise of sexual-harassment lawsuits and political correctness. And while Goodfellas showed an Italian-American subculture that Scorsese had observed first-hand, Wolf creates a world whose look and feel he can only guess at — and you can tell.

Also, he reportedly kept editing this movie — to three hours, down from four — until the last minute, and it feels like he still didn’t get it quite right. You get the sense there is a tighter, better movie that could have been made of it.

Still, if you’re not offended by films that dwell on vice, crime, and the people who engage in them, it’s worth seeing. DiCaprio is great as always, and Jonah Hill is pretty good as his sleazy partner. Despite the excesses, I appreciated the depiction of how people can behave — against their own long-run interests — when they believe they’ve discovered a way to wealth and happiness that does not require them to think about how they can actually benefit their fellow man.

Maybe It’s Not Paranoia If We’re All Paranoid: A Review of Jesse Walker’s New Book Wed, 11 Sep 2013 01:54:01 +0000 9780062135551_custom-b59aef367c02e28f5b19c4597390912eb7cbf621-s6-c30The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory, by Jesse Walker, HarperCollins, 448 pages, $25.99

Circa 2009, in a fit of 1990s nostalgia that should make BuzzFeed proud — and motivated in part by a clunky Department of Homeland Security paper — some of the left decided that incidents like the murder of abortion provider George Tiller, the shooting death of a guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, and the lingering rumor that Obama was a Muslim from Kenya meant that the right couldn’t handle a black, Democrat president without losing their Goddamned racist, fascist, conspiratorial minds. It wasn’t true, but it made great headlines and cable news concern-trolling. In a while the left cooled off a bit. (They didn’t even blame any right-wing pundits for the schooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school!) But the notion of a paranoid (loosely-defined) right remains (and will forever, if the Southern Poverty Law Center has anything to say about it).

Talking about paranoia or conspiracies is not as simple as Birthers, Truthers, or even the fair-is-fair point that the left has big fears, too. (Or that paranoia about the paranoid may count as paranoia!) There are a lot more baseless or exaggerated fears dwelling deep in a lot more humans than any partisan could ever admit. And, writes Reason magazine books editor Jesse Walker in his new book, that fear has been with us since before America was the United States.

To make our long history of hiding and screaming in terror easier to filter, Walker divides his types of conspiracy theories into five groups: the Enemy Outside (say, rogue Indians and scheming Catholics), the Enemy Within (Commies, Satanists, anyone quietly scheming), the Enemy Below (slave rebellions, populist uprisings), the Enemy Above (the state! And corporations, and Illuminati, and Bilderbergs, anyone powerful who secretly runs everything and may even be inciting the faceless mobs in their own supposedly organic outrages), and the Benevolent Conspiracy (angels, friendly aliens, and benevolent puppetmasters and societies). And there are scads of examples of each, surprising numbers for a book that isn’t about any of those one things. Indeed, there is so much of interest in United States of Paranoia that its biggest problem might just be a reader’s desire to stop a minute and talk even more about this or that specific thing. Any chapter could have made a whole, adsorbing book in itself.

Because while strolling through American history, Walker manages to mention almost every seemingly random, fascinating bit of human endeavor possible, including, but not limited to: the myth of the superchief Indian, the meaning of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the multilayered interpretations of Rambo, aliens, Satan´s influence on Your Children and Women, plenty of communists, fears of commie and gay conspiracies, real conspiracies like COINTELPRO, and a bracing defense of (most) militias. Indeed, one of Walker’s most fascinating chapters is the one where he explores the New World Order/Illuminati fears that bridged ´90s militia and black nationalist movements.

The simplest, most convenient libertarian takeaway in these pages is that a lot more people are paranoid than your average loony — say, the cheap caricature of a libertarian writing anti-government manifestos, then piloting a plane into an IRS building (or something). We´re not alone, fellow residents of government watch lists! That´s the thing about United States of Paranoia, anyone, libertarian or not, could read it in two ways: optimism that the oft-cackled critique of ¨you’re paranoid!¨ can be directed at at least every other human; pessimism, or actual alarm, that this many people over this many years have let their fears turn into sometimes-real monsters that kill or at least ruin lives.

But instead of worrying about that, maybe just follow Walker´s lead, and enjoy the journey — the often-creative myth-making and the psychology of paranoid tales and what they say about us. Walker´s a big fan of the late Robert Anton Wilson, and another of his best chapters discusses Wilson and the Discordians and other folks who got into conspiracy theories for their weirdness, not for any Grand Explanation of All Things. (Paranoia as art! Finally an understanding of my inability to be be outraged over Alex Jones, not matter how horrible he is for libertarianism!)

Walker´s writing style is brainy, but off-kilter and  quietly funny, like the man himself. Any creeping libertarian propaganda is in short, subtle supply. There’s nothing much here to turn off the readers who might disagree with Walker’s politics. The story he tells is captivating, human, bizarre, and endlessly surprising, in short, accessible to all but  the most ardent Southern Poverty Law Center employee or sincere user of the word “sheeple.”

The entire book filled me with a strange fondness for America, simply because of the strange creativity of many of these myths. Yes, paranoia run amok can cause real casualties (ask Giles Cory, or parents in Kern County, California). But seeing patterns, conspiracies, and cabals is normal; as is building up our enemies, be they small, or entirely imaginary, into something vast and all-powerful and terrifying. This is who we are, we humans. And Walker’s exploration of the normalcy of this fear should make us all a little less paranoid.

But it won’t.

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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

Book Review: Liberty of Contract Fri, 29 Jun 2012 02:29:13 +0000 Last year saw the release of two books on the U.S. courts’ history of (not) protecting the liberty of contract: David Bernstein’s Rehabilitating Lochner and David N. Mayer’s Liberty of Contract: Rediscovering a Lost Constitutional Right.

My review of Bernstein’s book appeared in the Winter 2012 Independent Review; my review of Mayer’s book has just been published in The Freeman.

Which book is better? I couldn’t say. Both cover a lot of the same ground, and both are well-done. (Oddly, both were published at about the same time, and both appear to have been sponsored by the Cato Institute, though Bernstein’s book was published by the University of Chicago Press.) I recommend either or — if you really want to be an expert on all facets of New York v. Lochner and the courts’ inconsistent protection of economic liberty — both.

Here’s an excerpt from my Liberty of Contract review:

The U.S. Supreme Court has no coherent ideas about—or real respect for—individual rights. It generally allows governments to do whatever they want, with limited exceptions for a handful of rights it has deemed “fundamental,” such as the right to free speech (in some areas) and the right to sexual privacy (in some respects). Other rights, such as the right to economic liberty, receive almost no protection at all.

Why so much protection for some rights and so little for others? Because the Court has arbitrarily said so.

Libertarians, of course, think differently about rights. Libertarians think that our rights exist independently of government, and that if government has any legitimate purpose at all, it is to protect those preexisting rights.

Libertarians also think that all our rights are really property rights. We each own ourselves, and from that follows a right to own private property that we acquire through voluntary exchanges with others. Other rights, such as the right to free speech, derive from our right to use our own property as we see fit. And the right to economic liberty—that is, to trade your property and your labor freely with others—is just as “fundamental” as any other right.

In Liberty of Contract: Rediscovering a Lost Constitutional Right, law professor and historian David N. Mayer shows how Americans went from embracing the libertarian conception of rights reflected (imperfectly) in the Declaration of Independence to the statist conception of rights reflected in modern Supreme Court decisions.

Read the rest.

Book Review: Rehabilitating Lochner Tue, 20 Dec 2011 00:01:43 +0000 In the Winter 2012 Independent Review, I review David Bernstein’s Rehabilitating Lochner: Defending Individual Rights Against Progressive Reform. Here’s how it starts:

Few Supreme Court cases receive more scorn in U.S. law schools than Lochner v. New York (198 U.S. 45), the 1905 decision that struck down a New York law limiting the number of hours that bakers could work as a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. It’s safe to say that most legal academics and judges today believe that the Lochner Court engaged in extraordinarily outrageous “judicial activism” motivated by a devotion to extreme libertarian ideology, big business, or both.

In Rehabilitating Lochner: Defending Individual Rights Against Progressive Reform, George Mason University law professor David Bernstein makes the case that the conventional view is wrong. He provides persuasive evidence that Lochner does not deserve to be singled out as an especially activist or offensive case and that Lochner‘s Progressive critics were the real activists with a much more disturbing agenda.

Read the rest.

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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Thoughts on Tabarrok’s Launching the Innovation Revolution Tue, 06 Dec 2011 05:29:56 +0000 After reviews by Bryan Caplan and our own Stephan Kinsella got my attention, I read Alexander Tabarrok’s new “TED” e-book, Launching the Innovation Revolution.

I went in with an open mind, ready to applaud practical suggestions for incrementally increasing freedom in the area of intellectual property, even if Tabarrok didn’t endorse abolishing the entire patent system as I do. But I was still disappointed.

To Tabarrok’s credit, he does start by showing why patents aren’t necessary to have innovation (at least, he says, in most fields), and he does argue for shorter patent terms (for some things) and less patent protection (for some things). That’s all fine, as far as it goes.

Unfortunately, too much of the book is devoted to promoting new central-planning schemes that Tabarrok thinks would work better than current government programs. Kinsella discusses some of them in an update to his original review; I’ll discuss a couple more.

Perhaps my least favorite was a suggestion that the federal government subsidize higher education only in areas where there will supposedly be “spillovers” of benefits to the economy as a whole, such as engineering and biochemistry. Education in less economically valuable fields, such as sociology, would not be subsidized. The problem is, Tabarrok doesn’t mention what I’m sure he knows: we’ll get all the innovative engineers and scientists we need if we stop subsidizing higher education entirely and let the market decide what areas of study are valuable. On the other hand, if government planners enter the business of deciding which subjects are economically important, as Tabarrok wishes, what reason is there to think that they’ll choose the “right” subjects and that the subjects won’t be determined (and altered over time) according to political considerations? Apparently Tabarrok thinks you just need to have the right planners in charge — but anyone familiar with libertarian thought or public choice, as Tabarrok is, should know that any scheme that depends on the wisdom or benevolence of government planners is bound to fail.

Elsewhere, Tabarrok endorses the idea of governments buying mass quantities of vaccines from pharmaceutical companies, and he says it’s “shameful” that the U.S. has not done this in some instances where other countries’ governments have done so. Here again, it’s just assumed that the government will choose well — and that the program won’t turn into a corporate welfare scam that ultimately will have little to do with what’s actually good for Americans’ health. And this is to say nothing of the impropriety of forcing people to pay for things they wouldn’t voluntarily pay for.

Tabarrok says that many federal regulations are “good,” it’s just that taken together, they make the cost of doing business too high and stifle innovation. Which he considers to be good and why is never clear.

At least Tabarrok does get in a dig at the warfare state — not because it slaughters thousands of innocent people but because it diverts resources away from domestic innovation. (He’s not against all military spending, though. For example, he laments that we give “only” $3 billion a year to DARPA for R&D — never mind that the money it gets now is spent on some very disturbing projects.)

Maybe this book will help some people recognize that patents aren’t as essential to innovation as some claim, or get some people to favor increased immigration (another area in which it is good). I’m concerned, however, that it’s the statist ideas, if any, that we’ll see implemented.