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.
The relationship between war and libertarianism has interested me since 9/11. In the aftermath of those terrorist attacks, I witnessed in grim fascination many libertarians make excuses for government in the realm of national security. The proper libertarian position on war has become a matter of controversy, although I believe it shouldn’t be. “War is the health of the state,” as Randolph Bourne said, as well as being “mass murder,” in the words of Murray Rothbard.
The following essay presents some of the most relevant materials and readings on this controversy. It is unapologetically tilted toward the antiwar position, although it includes some references to pro-interventionist writings. It is idiosyncratic and not comprehensive, and its omissions are not always deliberate. I am always interested in reading suggestions. As for the citations, I include publishing information for books but generally leave it out for articles written for or available on the web, so as to avoid extraneous clutter. Please follow the links to learn more.
In terms of comprehensiveness and clarity, the best modern treatment is “Why Libertarians Oppose War,” chapter nine in Jacob Huebert’s fantastic Libertarianism Today (Praeger: 2010), which is probably my favorite introduction to libertarianism. Huebert covers all the bases, touching on the relevant economics, U.S. history, and moral principles, and delivers radical conclusions. The chapter is perfectly balanced in terms of scope and emphasis. In November 2012 he eloquently summed up his thesis at a Students for Liberty conference in a talk titled “Why Libertarians Must Oppose War.”
Most of us probably will admit that we keep resolutions only slightly better than politicians keep campaign promises. Even President Obama couldn’t keep a promise not to raise taxes on all but the wealthiest Americans, as the current “fiscal cliff” deal does not extend the 2% payroll tax cut, which impacts every person earning a paycheck.
So don’t look to Washington to keep any resolutions in the new year. Instead, we’ve come up with a list of suggestions for our readers to continue stoking the flames of liberty, or at least keep them flickering a little while longer. (Editorial resolution for TLS: drop the tired metaphors for liberty already.)
1. Play with guns (and invite a non-gun owner to come with you)
Guns, and more to the point gun control, promise to figure prominently in the media and in Congress this year, as the country still grapples with its most horrific school shooting yet. But the public debate is largely fueled by hysteria, misinformation, and outright lies. For the vast majority of gun owners, they are simply tools for self-defense, hunting, and having fun. And what better way to demonstrate the latter than an outing to a shooting range? For a lot of people, that’s the only legal place to try their hand at firing some types of guns. Actually handling an AR-15, the so-called assault rifle that is the focus of both media pundits and gun policy wonks, may help demystify them and return some sanity to the average non-gun owner’s perspective on these useful and important tools.
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.
Laissez Faire Books (LFB) is a seminal libertarian institution that dates back to 1972, six years before I was born. In its heyday, it played a central role in the libertarian movement as the largest libertarian bookseller, a publisher of libertarian books, and an old-school social network, hosting social gatherings and other events. This was before my time.
I’d never bought a book from LFB until yesterday (the 19th). By the time I became a libertarian in my undergraduate years at Louisiana State University, after reading the work of Ayn Rand (starting with The Fountainhead) at the urging of a friend, I was able to learn about libertarianism and Austrian economics from a large and growing sea of resources online. I bought books from Amazon and the Ludwig von Mises Institute (LvMI), read online articles and blogs, and took advantage of the growing library of digitized books and other media put online and hosted by the LvMI.
Laizzez Faire Books was fading into irrelevancy and, I think, in danger of being shuttered for good as it was passed from new owner to new owner. Enter Agora Financial, the latest owner of LFB, and hopefully the organization that will oversee its resuscitation and return to relevancy. With Jeffrey Tucker at the helm as executive editor, the prospects for profitability, innovation, and spreading the message of liberty are exciting indeed.
Many, if not most, of you know Jeffrey Tucker as the editorial vice president who led the LvMI into the digital age, building it into the open-source juggernaut with a vast online and free library of liberty and a thriving community that it is today. We were sad to see him leave that beloved institution, but eager to see what he would do in charge of a for-profit publisher and bookstore. Now we’ve been given the first taste.