David Boaz discusses his book ‘The Libertarian Mind’ on WGN’s Wintrust Business Lunch

Posted on March 28, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Politico Presents …. Washington Lobbyists!

I noticed that my paper copies of Politico have been quite thick this week. Is there a lot of news? Well, yes. But newspapers usually run all the news the advertising will support. And Politico is just chock-full of ads in this budget season. As I wrote in my favorite chapter of The Libertarian Mind, “What Big Government Is All About,” there’s been a huge boom in the business of getting taxpayers’ money in the past few years:

Every business and interest group in society has an office in Washington devoted to getting some of the $4 trillion federal budget for itself: senior citizens, farmers, veterans, teachers, social workers, oil companies, labor unions, the military-industrial complex—you name it. The massive spending increases of the Bush-Obama years have created a lot of well-off people in Washington. Consulting and contracting exploded after 9/11. New regulatory burdens, notably from Obamacare and the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill, are generating jobs in the lobbying and regulatory compliance business.

“Walk down K Street, the heart of Washington’s lobbying industry, and look at the directories in the office buildings. They’re full of lobbyists and associations that are in Washington, for one reason: because, as Willie Sutton said about why he robbed banks, “That’s where the money is.”…

“How much would you spend to get a $200 million subsidy from the federal government? About $199 million if you had to, I’ll bet.

So what does that have to do with the page counts in Politico? Well, check out this list of the full-page ads in Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s editions:

International Council of Shopping Centers (tax the internet)
National Multifamily Housing Council/National Apartment Association
My Plate, My Planet (federal food guidelines)
CA Technologies
American Medical Association (more Medicare money for doctors)
Innovation Alliance (patent law)
Alzheimer’s Assocation (federal research money)
United Launch Alliance (NASA contracts)
Navy League (military spending)
Beer Institute (beer taxes)
Society for Human Resource Management
United Technologies
Americans for the Arts (taxpayer funding)
Better Medicare Alliance (insurance companies and others, more Medicare funding)
Natural Products Association
Oil and Natural Gas Industry
Boeing/Textron (fund the V-22)
Application Developers Alliance (patent law)
American Bankers Association
Aerospace Industries Association (fund the Ex-Im Bank)
Aircraft Carrier Industrial Base Coalition (build more carriers)
Patient Access to Pharmacists’ Care Coalition (more Medicare money)
U.S. Travel Association (increase tax on air travelers)
NextEra Energy (recipient of $2 billion in federal subsidies)
Boeing
Comcast (allow merger with TimeWarner Cable)

Some of these organizations ran full-page ads both days, or even two ads in the same edition. Some had a specific request, generally for taxpayers’ money. Others just ran image-enhancement ads, so Politico’s readers in Washington would look kindly on them.

Those with their eyes on the taxpayers’ money will know no rest by day or night.”

A century ago the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto explained how the lobbying process works. Imagine, he said, there is a proposal to take one dollar from every citizen and give the total to 30 people. “Those who hope to gain a million a year will know no rest by day and night. They will win newspapers over to their interest by financial inducements and drum up support from all quarters. A discreet hand will warm the palms of needy legislators, even of ministers.” On the other hand, he said, those who were threatened with the loss of a dollar would likely never know of the scheme, and even if they did, wouldn’t find it worth taking the trouble to protest. Which is how you get to a $4 trillion federal budget funding everything from — well, from aircraft carriers to pharmacists.

Never underestimate the creativity of the lobbyists and their clients. I wrote recently in Reason about how General Dynamics, worried that military spending was no longer a boom area, “suddenly … managed to become the largest contractor to Medicare and Medicaid. ‘For traditional defense contractors,’ wrote Kaiser Health, ‘health care isn’t the new oil. It’s the new F-35 fighter.’” And now the Washington Post reports that Lockheed is finding “growth opportunities” in “a different threat to national security: climate change.” Those with their eyes on the taxpayers’ money will know no rest by day or night.

Posted on March 27, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

David Boaz discusses his book The Libertarian Mind on WTAN’s The Paul Malloy Show

Posted on March 25, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

David Boaz discusses his book The Libertarian Mind on WTAN’s The Paul Malloy Show

Posted on March 25, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

David Boaz discusses his book The Libertarian Mind on WNDB’s The Marc Bernier Show

Posted on March 24, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

David Boaz discusses his book The Libertarian Mind on WNDB’s The Marc Bernier Show

Posted on March 24, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Learning the History of Liberty from the Encyclopedia of Libertarianism

In an interesting discussion of social change and especially the best ways to spread classical liberal ideas at Liberty Fund’s Online Library of Liberty, historian David M. Hart has high praise for the Encyclopedia of Libertarianism (published by Sage in conjunction with the Cato Institute):

The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism provides an excellent survey of the key movements, individuals, and events in the evolution of the classical liberal movement….

One should begin with Steve Davies’ “General Introduction,” pp. xxv-xxxvii, which is an excellent survey of the ideas, movements, and key events in the development of liberty, then read some of the articles on specific historical periods, movements, schools of thought, and individuals. 

He goes on to suggest specific articles in the Encyclopedia that are “essential reading” for understanding “successful radical change in ideas and political and economic structures, in both a pro-liberty and anti-liberty direction.” Here’s his guide to learning about the history of liberty in the Encyclopedia of Libertarianism:

  1. The Ancient World
    1. “Liberty in the Ancient World”
    2. “Epicurianism”
    3. “Stoicism”
  2. Medieval Period
    1. “Scholastics - School of Salamanca”
  3. Reformation & Renaissance
    1. “Classical Republicanism”
    2. “Dutch Republic”
  4. The 17th Century
    1. “English Civil Wars”
      1. “The Levellers”
      2. “John Milton” & “Puritanism”
    2. “Glorious Revolution”
      1. “John Locke” & “Algernon Sidney”
      2. “Whiggism”
  5. The 18th Century
    1. 18thC Commonwealthmen - “Cato’s Letters”
    2. The Scottish Enlightenment
      1. “Enlightenment”
      2. “Adam Smith”, “Adam Ferguson” & “David Hume”
    3. The French Enlightenment
      1. “Physiocracy” - “Turgot”
      2. “Montesquieu” & “Voltaire”
    4. “American Revolution”
      1. “Declaration of Independence” - “Thomas Jefferson” & “Thomas Paine”
      2. “Constitution, U.S.” - “James Madison”
      3. “Bill of Rights, U.S.”
    5. “French Revolution”
      1. “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen”
  6. The 19th Century
    1. “Classical Liberalism” - the English School
      1. “Philosophic Radicals”
      2. “Utilitarianism” - “Jeremy Bentham”
      3. “Classical Economics” - “John Stuart Mill”
    2. “Classical Liberalism” - the French School
      1. “Jean-Baptiste Say” & “Benjamin Constant”
      2. “Charles Comte” & “Charles Dunoyer”
      3. “Frédéric Bastiat” & “Gustave de Molinari”
    3. Free Trade Movement
      1. “Anti-Corn Law League” - “John Bright” & “Richard Cobden”
    4. “Feminism and Women’s Rights”
      1. “Mary Wollstonecraft”
      2. “Condorcet”
    5. Abolition of Slavery - “Abolitionism”
      1. “William Wilberforce”
      2. “William Lloyd Garrison” & “John Brown”
      3. “Frederick Douglass” & “Lysander Spooner”
    6. [The Radical Individualists]
      1. “Thomas Hodgskin”, “Herbert Spencer”, & “Auberon Herbert”
    7. The “Austrian School of Economics” I
      1. 1st generation - “Carl Menger”, “Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk”
      2. interwar years - “Ludwig von Mises”, “Friedrich Hayek”
  7. Post-World War 2 Renaissance
    1. “Mont Pelerin Society” - “Friedrich Hayek”, “Milton Friedman”, “Karl Popper”, “James Buchanan”
    2. Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) & “Antony Fisher”
    3. Foundation for Economc Education (FEE) & “Leonard Read”
    4. Institute for Humane Studies & “F.A. Harper”
    5. The Austrian School of Economics II
      1. post-WW2 2nd generation - “Ludwig von Mises”, “Friedrich Hayek”, “Murray N. Rothbard”, “Israel Kirzner”
    6. “Chicago School of Economics” & “Milton Friedman”
    7. “Objectivism” & “Ayn Rand”
    8. “Public Choice Economics” & “James Buchanan”

There’s your college course in the history of liberty right there, all for $125 (or a trip to a good library). You might also start with Chapter 2 of The Libertarian Mind, which is sort of a brief outline of what you could learn from all these articles.

Posted on March 24, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Libertarians and the Struggle for Women’s Rights

March is Women’s History Month, which reminds me of the role women played in launching the libertarian movement and the role that women with libertarian values have played in advancing women’s rights.

In the dark year of 1943, in the depths of World War II and the Holocaust, when the most powerful government in the history of the United States was allied with one totalitarian power to defeat another, three remarkable women published books that could be said to have given birth to the modern libertarian movement. Stephen Cox, Isabel Paterson’s biographer, writes that “women were more important to the creation of the libertarian movement than they were to the creation of any political movement not strictly focused on women’s rights.”

Rose Wilder Lane, the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, who had written Little House on the Prairie and other stories of American rugged individualism, published a passionate historical essay called The Discovery of Freedom. Isabel Paterson, a novelist and literary critic, produced The God of the Machine, which defended individualism as the source of progress in the world. And the most famous, Ayn Rand, published The Fountainhead.

The women were very different. You could hardly get more traditionally American than Lane, the daughter of the bestselling chronicler of the American frontier. She traveled throughout Europe as a journalist after World War I and lived for long periods in Albania. Paterson too was born to a poor farming in family, albeit in Canada. She made her way to Vancouver and then to New York City, where she became a prominent newspaper columnist. Ayn Rand was born in czarist Russia and came to the United States after the Communist takeover, determined to write novels and movie scripts in her adopted language.

A libertarian must necessarily be a feminist, in the sense of being an advocate of equality under the law for all men and women.”

The three women became friends, though the three strong-minded individualists eventually fell out over religious and political differences. By that time, though, the individualist tradition in America had been revived, and a fledgling movement was under way.

Paterson, Lane, and Rand were not, however, the first libertarian women to advocate for individual rights.

The equality and individualism that underlay the emergence of capitalism and republican government in the 18th century naturally led people to start thinking about the rights of women and of slaves, especially African American slaves in the United States. It’s no accident that feminism and abolitionism emerged out of the ferment of the Industrial Revolution and the American and French revolutions. Just as a better understanding of natural rights was developed during the American struggle against specific injustices suffered by the colonies, the feminist and abolitionist Angelina Grimké noted in an 1837 letter to Catherine E. Beecher, “I have found the Anti-Slavery cause to be the high school of morals in our land — the school in which human rights are more fully investigated, and better understood and taught, than in any other.”

Mary Wollstonecraft (wife of William Godwin and mother of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the author of Frankenstein) responded to Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France by writing A Vindication of the Rights of Men, in which she argued that “the birthright of man… is such a degree of liberty, civil and religious, as is compatible with the liberty of every other individual with whom he is united in a social compact.”

Just two years later, in 1792, she published A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which asked “whether, when men contend for their freedom… it be not inconsistent and unjust to subjugate women?”

Women involved in the American abolitionist movement also took up the feminist banner, grounding their arguments in both cases in the idea of self-ownership, the fundamental right of property in one’s own person. Angelina Grimké based her work for abolition and women’s rights explicitly on a Lockean libertarian foundation: “Human beings have rights, because they are moral beings: the rights of all men grow out of their moral nature; and as all men have the same moral nature, they have essentially the same rights…. If rights are founded in the nature of our moral being, then the mere circumstance of sex does not give to man higher rights and responsibilities, than to women.” Her sister, Sarah Grimké, also a campaigner for the rights of blacks and women, criticized the Anglo-American legal principle that a wife was not responsible for a crime committed at the direction or even in the presence of her husband in a letter to the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society: “It would be difficult to frame a law better calculated to destroy the responsibility of woman as a moral being, or a free agent.” In this argument she emphasized the fundamental individualist point that every individual must, and only an individual can, take responsibility for his or her actions.

The Declaration of Sentiments adopted at the historic Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 consciously echoed both the form and the Lockean natural-rights liberalism of the Declaration of Independence, expanding its claims to declare that “all men and women are created equal,” endowed with the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The document notes that women are denied moral responsibility by their lack of legal standing and concludes that women have been “deprived of their most sacred rights” by “unjust laws.” That classically liberal, individualist strain of feminist thought continued into the 20th century, as feminists fought not just for the vote but for sexual freedom, access to birth control, and the right to own property and enter into contracts.

Libertarian feminist writers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries included Voltairine de Cleyre, Lillian Harman, and Suzanne LaFollette. Wendy McElroy collected some of their writings in Freedom, Feminism, and the State: An Overview of Individualist Feminism. Joan Kennedy Taylor developed the argument in her 1992 book Reclaiming the Mainstream: Individualist Feminism Rediscovered.

A libertarian must necessarily be a feminist, in the sense of being an advocate of equality under the law for all men and women, though unfortunately many contemporary feminists are far from being libertarians. Libertarianism is a political philosophy, not a complete guide to life. A libertarian man and woman might decide to enter into a traditional working-husband/nonworking-wife marriage, but that would be their voluntary agreement. The only thing libertarianism tells us is that they are political equals with full rights to choose the living arrangement they prefer.

In their book Gender Justice, David L. Kirp, Mark G. Yudof, and Marlene Strong Franks endorsed this libertarian concept of feminism: “It is neither equality as sameness nor equality as differentness that adequately comprehends the issue, but instead the very different concept of equal liberty under the law, rooted in the idea of individual autonomy.”

Posted on March 23, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Detailing The Libertarian Mind

Cato Executive Vice President David Boaz answers a few questions about and related to his new book, The Libertarian Mind.

Posted on March 19, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

The Libertarian Mind: A Manifesto for Freedom

“Libertarianism is hot,” headlined the Washington Post in 2013. When David Boaz released his classic book, Libertarianism: A Primer, in 1997, this type of notoriety wasn’t common. But in the past few years, many major news outlets and pundits are asking, as the New York Times Magazine recently did, “Has the ‘Libertarian Moment’ Finally Arrived?”

David has revised, updated, and retitled this brand new edition of his book, now titled The Libertarian Mind: A Manifesto for Freedom and published by Simon & Schuster, to address this rising tide of those who value the philosophy of freedom. It is the ultimate resource for anyone who wants to understand libertarianism and the moment the nation is experiencing. Two long wars, chronic deficits, the financial crisis, the costly drug war, the campaigns of Ron Paul and Rand Paul, the growth of executive power under Presidents Bush and Obama, and the revelations about NSA abuses have pushed millions more Americans in a libertarian direction.

Posted on March 19, 2015  Posted to Cato@Liberty

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