Saturday, December 29, 2012

Final Micro-Loan of the Year

The Moorfield Storey Institute regularly gives micro-loans to individuals developing their businesses in the developing world. We have made loans in Ecuador, Benin, Tajikistan, Zambia, Bolivia, Peru, Paraguay, Mongolia, Azerbaijan, and El Salvador. The Institute is entirely funded by donations from its staff, friends and from proceeds from sales at our book service,

Our most recent loan is to Eris Rodolfo in El Salvador. Eris runs a bookstore and general store from the same premises. He lives with his in-laws, his wife, and two children, 7 and 15. He has one employee and has been in business for three years. He wishes to purchase notebooks and books for the new school term as well a products such as cooking oil, and grains. He is trying to expand his inventory so as to improve his economic position.

The Storey Institute is a 501(c)3 organization. Your donations are critical. Most of the Institute's income comes from the staff, who donate their time and resources. In addition to running the Adam Smith Benevolent Fund, the outlet for our charitable giving, we operate Cobden Press, which publishes books of interest to classical liberals and libertarians. We distribute books at discounted prices through and also contribute a regular column to Huffington Post. At this time, due to the lingering recession sales have been slow at Fr33minds.

The Institute is having a very rough time financially. Your donations are tax deductible and are especially needed at this time. To make a donation just go here.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Homicides and Guns: What US Data Shows

" I previously argued that international data generally shows increased gun ownership does not cause increased numbers of homicides. Sweden and Switzerland have relatively high gun ownership rates with very low homicide rates. South Africa has very low gun ownership but high homicide numbers. I concluded: “While it would be stupid to say that gun ownership is the only factor influencing homicide rates, it would be even more stupid to claim that the numbers show that gun ownership increases homicides. The evidence does NOT support that when we look at international data.”

What about the 50 states? Homicide rates were easy to find, thanks to the Census Bureau. However, determining gun rates is a bit difficult. I use two different sets of figures for this. One set purports to show the percentage of residents who own guns and is from; the other was compiled by The Daily Beast, using the number of background checks, per 100,000 people, performed by the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, used before a gun is legally sold to someone by any firearms dealer.

Does high gun ownership translate into high homicides rates? The ten states with the highest ownership rates were Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, South Dakota, West Virginia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Idaho, Alabama and North Dakota. All of them have ownership rates between 50% and 60%. The average homicide rate for these 10 states is 4.07, which is below the national average of 5.1, according to the Census Bureau.
The ten states with the lowest percentage of gun ownership were Florida, Maryland, California, Illinois, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Hawaii. The average homicide rate in theses states is 4.52, which is lower than the national average, but higher than the top 10 gun-owning states. 

The Daily Beast says the background check rate, per 100,000 people, is the best data we have on gun ownership, but admits that for Kentucky the numbers are all out of whack, due to monthly background checks there. If we use this data—excluding Kentucky—the top ten gun-friendly states are Montana, North Dakota, West Virginia, Alaska, Wyoming, South Dakota, Oklahoma, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Alabama. For these top 10 gun-friendly states, the homicide rate averages 3.6 per 100,000, again well below the national average of 5.1.

With this data, the 10 least gun-friendly states would be New Jersey, Hawaii, New York, Rhode Island, Maryland, California, Massachusetts, Delaware, Florida and Michigan. These 10 states had an average homicide rate of 4.47. This is again lower than the national average—though not as significantly as before—but once again, well above the 10 states that are most gun friendly.

If we look at the ten states with the lowest homicide rates (NH, VT, IA, UT, ID, MN, HI, ND, WY, ME), averaging 1.57, we find they average 7298 background checks per 100,000 people. The ten most deadly states, in terms of murders, averaging 7.96, (LA, NM, IL, MD, TN, AL, MS, SC, MO, OK) have homicide rates significantly higher and they have an average of 6,990 background checks per 100,000.

If we look at the ten least murderous states, we see their gun-ownership rate is 41.34% of their populations. But, the most deadly states have ownership rates of 39.82%

Hawaii ranks dead last in terms of gun ownership (6.7%) yet six other states have lower homicide rates and average gun ownership rates more than six times higher (average 42.63%). Louisiana is 1st in homicide rates (12.3) and 13th in gun-ownership rates. The twelve states with more guns per capita have a significantly lower homicide rate, 3.96.

In second place, in terms of homicide rates, is New Mexico (10), yet it ranks 32nd in gun ownership. Illinois is in third place, in regards to homicides (8.4), but in 44th place in regards to gun ownership.

In conclusion, allow me to rephrase what I said before: While it would be stupid to say that gun ownership is the only factor influencing homicide rates, it would be even more stupid to claim that the numbers show that gun ownership increases homicides. The evidence does NOT support that when we look at national data.” I previously argued that international data generally shows increased gun ownership does not cause increased numbers of homicides. Sweden and Switzerland have relatively high gun ownership rates with very low homicide rates. South Africa has very low gun ownership but high homicide numbers. I concluded: “While it would be stupid to say that gun ownership is the only factor influencing homicide rates, it would be even more stupid to claim that the numbers show that gun ownership increases homicides. The evidence does NOT support that when we look at international data.”


Monday, December 17, 2012

Homicides and Gun Ownership: What International Numbers Tell Us

England’s left-of-center Guardian newspaper has charted gun ownership in over 170 countries. They use data from the Small Arms Survey, which looks at private ownership of guns in various nations. The Guardian then compares firearm ownership to homicide rates—though they only look at homicides with firearms, not the total homicide rate.

Their data shows the United States has 88.8 guns for every 100 people, with a firearm homicide rate by firearm of 2.97 per 100,000 people. The unspoken theory is that reduced ownership of firearms results in fewer murders by firearms—whether it results in more murders by other means is not addressed. (Note: all gun ownership numbers are per 100 people, while homicide rates are per 100,000.)

How does gun ownership correlate with murder by firearms internationally? Argentina is at 3.02, with only 10.2 firearms per 100. The Bahamas has gun ownership of only 5.3, but has 15.37 firearm homicides. Bangladesh has gun ownership below 0.5, yet their death rate by firearms is still 1.1. In Barbados, gun ownership is only 7.8, but the homicide rate is 2.99. In Belize there is only 1 firearm for every ten people, yet the firearm homicide rate is 21.82.

Canada has a relatively high fire ownership rate (30.8), yet a low death-by-firearm rate (0.51). Chile has 10.7 weapons per 100 people, yet a firearm homicide rate of 2.16 per 100,000. Colombia has only 5.9 guns per 100 people, yet the firearm homicide rate is 27.09. Costa Rica has a firearm homicide rate of 4.59, well above the US, but a gun ownership rate of 9.9 per 100, well below the US. Croatia and Cyprus have relatively high gun ownership rates (21.7 and 36.4 respectively), but relatively low firearm homicide rates: 0.39 and 0.46.

Ecuador has an ownership rate of just 1.3, but the firearm homicide rate is more than four times higher than the United States;—12.73. In El Salvador the ownership rate is just 5.8, but the firearm homicide rate is 39.9. Finland and France both have relatively high gun ownership rates by international standards, and very low firearm homicide rates: 0.45 and 0.06. Ditto for Germany with 30.3 firearms per 100, but a firearm homicide rate of 0.19.The same is true for Greece with 22.5, but 0.26 firearm homicides.

New Zealand has a firearm ownership rate of 22.6 per 100, but the homicide rate is only 0.16. In contrast, Nicaragua has only 7.7 guns per 100, yet the firearm homicide rate is 5.92. In Norway, 31.3 weapons per 100 people are in private hands, yet the homicide rate by firearms is just 0.05. Panama has a firearm ownership rate well below the US, 21.7%, but a homicide rate well above the US; 16.18. In Serbia, 37.8 people per 100 have a firearm, but the homicide rate is 0.46. South Africa has only 12.7 guns per 100 people but 17.03 is the firearm homicide rate. Sweden and Switzerland have relatively high gun ownership rates—31.6 and 45.7—and have relatively low firearm homicide rates—0.41 and 0.77.

The Guardian’s report is skewed, because it only looks at homicides by firearms, instead of total homicides from all causes. We see that some nations have very low rates of gun ownership, yet high rates of murder by firearm. Other countries have relatively high rates of gun ownership, yet very low rates of firearm related homicides.

So, how do international homicides rates, from all causes, compare with the presence of guns? I took the numbers the Guardian published, regarding the presence of guns in a society and compared them to homicide rates per country. When I combined the two listsm I had data for 169 nations. 

The 10 nations with the highest number of privately-owned guns averaged 44.14 firearms per 100 population. Their homicide rate per 100,000 population averaged 2.41. The 10 nations with lowest firearm ownership rates had only 0.44 firearms per 100 population but their homicide rate was 8.96. While the top 10 gun-owning countries have ownership rates 10 times higher than the 10 least armed nations, their homicide rate is 4 times lower. Out of the 169 nations surveyed here, the United States is first in gun ownership, but 86 of these nations have homicides rates higher than the United States.

I then looked at the 25 nations with the highest ownership of guns, versus the 25 with the lowest. The top 25 nations had 33.47 weapons per 100 people with a homicide rate of 1.7 per 100,000 people. The 25 least-armed nations had 0.64 guns per 100 people with a homicide rate of 10.45—more than five times as deadly as the 25 nations with the most guns.

Next, I looked at the 50 nations with the highest number of guns in comparison with the 50 with the lowest. The top 50 averaged 24.79 weapons, with a homicide rate of 5.88. In comparison, the 50 least-armed nations averaged 1.01 firearms per 100 with a homicide rate of 12.17—still more than double their more heavily armed counterparts.

I then looked at nations with 40 or more guns per 100 people. There are 4 such countries (US, Switzerland, Finland, and Yemen). They average 58.64 firearms per 100 people, with an average homicide rate of 2.85.

Next I took all nations in 30-39% range of gun ownership. There are 12 such nations with an average ownership rate of 32.59 per 100, and an average homicide rate of just 1.48 per 100,000. A further 11 nations have gun ownership rates between 20-29%; their average homicide rate is 3.39. There are 34 nations with between 10 and 19 guns per 100 people; averaging 14.2 guns per 100 with a homicide rate of 9.9. 108 nations have gun ownership rates below 10 per 100 people, averaging 3.53 firearms per 100, they also average 12.92 homicides per 100,000. 

The trend seems to be that nations with lower homicide rates have a higher proliferation of guns—the reverse of what is often claimed in the media. 

We can also come at this by viewing homicide rates first. The 10 nations with the highest homicide rates in the world, averaging 50.67 per 100,000, have 6.84 guns per 100 people. The ten nations with the lowest homicide rates—just 0.5 per 100,000—have gun rates of 20.39 per 100 people. While the “armed” nations have more than triple the number of privately-held firearms, their homicides rates are just 1/100th those found in the 10 least-armed nations.

The 25 most deadly nations—with an average of 39.88 homicides per 100,000—have a gun proliferation rate 4.89 per 100. The 25 least deadly nations —0.77 per 100,000—have guns rates of 17.43 per 100.

While it would be stupid to say that gun ownership is the only factor influencing homicide rates, it would be even more stupid to claim that the numbers show that gun ownership increases homicides. The evidence does NOT support that when we look at international data.

For the data on the US states see our follow-up article here.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Vision of Ayn Rand Scholarship Contest Begins

The Vision of Ayn Rand Scholarship is available to students, from high school seniors through university seniors. The scholarship is based on an essay students will be asked to write, dealing with issues found in The Vision of Ayn Rand, by Nathaniel Branden.The first prize will be a scholarship of $1000, 2nd prize is a $500 scholarship, and third prize is $250 scholarship. The scholarship is awarded by the Moorfield Storey Institute, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. Copies of the book may be ordered here.


The Vision of Ayn Rand Scholarship Essay Contest is open to any student who is currently a university undergraduate, or will be anytime in 2013. Submissions are welcome from students anywhere in the world, however all essays must be in English. Either American or British spelling is acceptable. Joint submissions with up to two authors are accepted, but only the student listed first will receive the award payment. It is his or her responsibility to share the proceeds with the co-author. Both co-authors will be credited with the work.

Essays will be between 1,000 and 5,000 words, not including footnotes. Essays are preferred in Word format, though PDF files are accepted initially, but all submissions must be in electronic form. The topic: Identify one area where Dr. Branden indicates that Ayn Rand made a unique and significant contribution to philosophy. Explain why he makes this appraisal and indicate whether or not you agree with his assessment, and why. You may limit sources to this book, add Rand's own works to the mix, or those of others, as you feel necessary to make your case.

All submissions become property of the Moorfield Storey Institute, which is sponsoring the contest, and may be used on websites or in printed material related to the Institute.

Submissions must be received by May 20th, 2013. Scholarship winners will be announced June 30th with personal checks mailed (Paypal payments possible) to winners at that time. Winners may use the funds toward any expenses related to their education, using their own judgment. All judgments regarding winners are final.

The Institute will provide $1000 to the first place winner, $500 for second place, and $250 for third. Depending on funding available, there may be other cash prizes for non-winning essays of merit, or gift credits toward the purchase of books.

 Footnotes are expected. Essays should show a familiarity with the material in The Vision of Ayn Rand, by Dr. Nathaniel Branden, though other sources may be used as well. Essays should be your own unique material and we do check for plagiarism before granting prizes. Copies of the book can be ordered from Students outside the United States may contact us regarding a PDF version of the book given the expense of shipping. Students who can not afford the book should contact us regarding discounts.

All submissions should include the following information, on the last page below the footnotes, or on a cover page:

Name of author/s;
Full mailing address of principal author;
Telephone number;
Email information for author/s;
Name of university where the student is, or will be studying;
Author’s field of study.

Send submissions here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Adam Smith Benovelent Fund recent loans.

Our Adam Smith Benevolent Fund is making two new micro loans. The first is to Fifadji Jérônime in Benin. She is 35 years old and stopped her studies at the primary school level. She no longer lives with her husband. She is the mother of two children, both of whom have received schooling and live in her care. She lives with her children and provides for their various needs on her own.

In order to cover her expenses, Fifadji Jérônime has been selling beverages and other various items by the distribution system for two years now. This business allows her to provide for her needs without much difficulty. She stocks up in Togo.

The loan will allow her to expand her business and increase both her customer base and her revenue.

Rosa Emperatriz is 55 years old, is a widow, and has a son who is 36 years old. She started her business 20 years ago selling various products. She has always been a merchant and she likes to innovate. She currently works alone from Monday to Sunday from 6:00am to 5:00pm. In the evenings, she sells meat brochettes and roasted wings.

With the loan, she wants to buy supplies for her store such as oil, grains, sweets, candies, beverages, etc. Her goal is to make her business grow, so she will have more income to finish building her house.

The Adam Smith Benevolent Fund is a division of the Moorfield Storey Institute. A portion of the Institute's income is channeled into benevolent projects either as loans or donations. Income includes sales of books via our discount libertarian book service,

We prefer to use micro-lending in most cases to encourage economic development in poor nations. Economic development is the key to solving most problems in poor nations.

As opportunities and businesses expand poverty is reduced, educational levels increase, social toleranace is fostered, health improves, etc. Helping poorer people become wealthier, through their own efforts, address a large portion of problems in developing countries.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Leaping, Liberty and Libertarians: A Thought Experiment

From 1989 to 1993 NBC aired the scifi show Quantum Leap starring Scott Bakula, who played time traveler Dr. Sam Beckett. Beckett was, as seems pretty par for time travelers, lost in time. In each episode Beckett would “leap” into a new period. But, he also became someone else in each episode, though to others he would still sound and look like the character whose persona he was occupying.
With this premise in mind try a Quatum Leap thought experiment for libertarians. You are about to “leap.” The dynamics of the leap are such that there are certain parameters. You know that you cannot leap to a date earlier than 1760 and no later than 2010—a period of 350 years.

The “leap” has certain geographical boundaries that are determined by the year in which you find yourself. You will only leap into American states, territories, or the original colonies and only during years when they were under American sovereignty. You would not end up in Alaska before the Seward Purchase for instance.

You have no control over the year or place. That is chosen quite randomly. Neither can you control your occupation, level of education, social position, wealth, etc. You will, in essence, leap into the life of an already existing person in that specific place, at that specific time. Unlike Quantum Leap, however, you may only leap once. You can’t move on. If you become a 1950s’ housewife that is what you remain. If you are a male hunter in rural Vermont in 1770, that is who you will remain.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Adam Smith Benevolent Fund Newest Microloans

The Adam Smith Benevolent Fund is a division of the Moorfield Storey Institute.  A portion of the Institute's income is channeled into benevolent projects either as loans or donations. Income includes sales of books via our discount libertarian bookservice,

We prefer to use microlending in most cases to encourage economic development in poor nations. Economic development is the key to solving most problems in poor nations.

As opportunities and businesses expand poverty is reduced, educational levels increase, social toleranace is fostered, health improves, etc. Helping poorer people become wealthier, through their own efforts, address a large portion of problems in developing countries.

We are making three loans this month.

Bianca is 30 years old. She is friendly and very hardworking. She is a single mother to her three-year-old daughter whom she says is her pride and joy. She runs her own Mobile money transfers shop in a small town called Kapiri Mposhi located in Central Zambia.

Her business is Mobile money transfers: people go to her shop to send and receive money to and from their families and friends throughout the country. Bianca's days are spent serving customers and running up and down to the bank so that she can satisfy her customers. She has employed one person to help her at her shop and so when she is at the bank, her teller remains at the shop, serving customers.

Bianca started running this shop six months ago. Business is good and she says the one thing holding her back is that she does not have enough working capital to serve her customers at the desired time. She says this makes her panic sometimes because she constantly has to run up and down trying to find some money. This situation becomes worse when the bank closes because she cannot send the little working capitol that she has to the bank to convert it to cash.

Bianca is taking out this loan so that she can increase her working capital and serve more customers. Serving more customers will mean she will be able to earn more profits. She is very excited about the future.

Jaime Alejandro is a 19 year old bachelor in Peru. He sells cosmetics, offering products to all kinds of people. Among his customers are students and administrative personnel at the university. He also sells to institutions in the public sector, where he sells the majority of his merchandise and at better prices. In addition, he sells his products on weekends at surrounding local markets, such as La Huisutes, and on July 16 in El Alto. He tells us that the major merchants try to prevent him from selling his products and he is a victim of abuse on some occasions. Consequently at the large markets he manages to sell behind their backs.

Jaime started his business a year ago in order to pay for the studies he is starting this year at the State University. He carries out his sales, dreaming of the day when he will finish his studies and become a good professional. He tells us that he gets up early in order to arrive at the university, which is far from his house. He is motivated by his desire to overcome his current situation and improve his and his family’s quality of life.


Daler was born in 1990 in Isfara, Tajikistan. He is a pleasant and kind young person. Daler has been working as a specialist in assembling furniture at a furniture salon. Today, he wants to open his own furniture salon. Daler leased a space on the first floor of a shopping complex, where he works. He is requesting this loan to purchase bedroom and kitchen sets and living room furniture in order to open the furniture salon.

Donations you make to the Moorfield Storey Institute, or purchases from helps support our charitable activities to encourage self-sufficiency and economic development leading to a more peaceful and prosperous world.Donations may be made to the institute online here, or by calling us at 866-254-3701.

Robert Mugabe vs. Ayn Rand

There is one fact in today’s world that many people find unsettling: We all prosper because of the greatness of the few. Each new step forward in humanity's journey is the result of a few great minds. This is the nature of achievement and that is why any great achievement also brings with it hatred and envy. By definition, the great will always be the few. And it doesn’t matter what field we are discussing. The scientist who innovates a new cure for disease will be outnumbered by the millions who will need the cure. The great musician will be outnumbered by the fans who adore him or her. There will always be more readers than authors; more students than teachers; more workers than employers, more hungry than farmers.  
In her novel The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand wrote of the nature of achievement. Her main character, Howard Roark, stands in a courtroom and tells the jury:

“Thousands of years ago, the first man discovered how to make fire. He was probably burned at the stake he had taught his brothers to light. He was considered an evildoer who had dealt with a demon mankind dreaded. But thereafter men had fire to keep them warm, to cook their food, to light their caves. He had left them a gift they had not conceived and he had lifted darkness off the earth....
“That man, the unsubmissive and first, stands in the opening chapter of every legend mankind has recorded about its beginning. Prometheus was chained to a rock and torn by vultures—because he had stolen the fire of the gods.  Adam was condemned to suffer—because he had eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Whatever the legend, somewhere in the shadows of its memory mankind knew that its glory began with one and that one paid for his courage.”

Monday, July 30, 2012

Remembering Milton Friedman on His 100th Birthday.

I can remember precisely where I was the first time I met Milton Friedman. I was standing in the grand ballroom of the Fairmont Hotel atop Nob Hill. I was there for a banquet sponsored by the think tank where I worked. Someone brought over Milton and Rose Friedman to introduce them.

Of course I knew who they were. I had watched Free to Choose on television. I had read the book. Earlier I had read Capitalism and Freedom. I had followed his career for years. So, I was more than thrilled to meet someone I considered a hero.

Now, so many news accounts of his life have referred to him as a “giant” in his field. He was called “larger than life”. So perhaps it would come to many as a great surprise that he was not much over 5 feet tall. And I have to admit that was the first thing that struck me when he came walking up to me with Rose at his size; she stood no taller than he did.

My first thought, which I did not express, was: “Dr. Friedman, you write so much taller.” And he did. He wrote the words of greatness. He wrote about high ideals and principle.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"I don't want to die alone."

“I don’t want to die alone!” were the stinging words of 69-year-old Nancy Crick of Australia. Terminally ill, in constant pain, consistently nauseous and suffering diarrhea, Nancy Crick had decided that any meaningful life was over for her. She simply wanted to die.

However, in Australia “assisted suicide” is illegal, though suicide itself is not. The law is such that merely being present during a suicide is seen as assistance and could carry a penalty of life in prison.

In spite of this, 21 friends and relatives stayed by Crick’s side as she took the drugs that would end her suffering. She video taped a statement saying: “It’s my death. I’m doing it and no one else.” She told the press: “The thing that upsets me most is that the law says I can kill myself any time I want to, but no one can be with me because they just might have helped me. That’s just rubbish, and I don’t see why I should die alone. I don’t want to die alone.”

Opponents of assisted suicide argue that human life is sacred and must be preserved. But, it is the unique sacredness of human life which they deny. For these people life is merely the state of not being dead. It has nothing to do with all those characteristics of being human that separates us from a plant.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Who Wants to Burn Books?

 Pew polling asked people whether they thought books that “contain dangerous ideas should be banned from public school libraries.  Up until 2003 about 50%, or slightly more, of Americans agreed with the ban. But, after years of stagnation, the numbers have been dropping. By 2007 it was 47%, 2009 it was 46% and this year it is down to 40%.

So, who is more likely to support banning books today?
When it comes to political parties Republicans are the most in favor of banning books with 46% of them favoring bans. Only 38% of Democrats want to ban books, and independents, at 36% are the most libertarian.  Women are more likely to support banning books than men (43% to 37%).
Age groups show that older people are more totalitarian and younger people more libertarian.  Today 50% of people over the age of 65 want to ban dangerous books, but in 1999 it was 75%. Only 41% of individuals 50 to 64 support the banning of books, but individuals 30 to 49 are less pro-freedom, with 43% supporting bans. For those under 29 years of age support plummets to a mere 25%.
Hispanics are the most anti-freedom of the racial groups when it comes to book bans, with 61% supporting such bans, where 54% of blacks and only 34% of whites supports such policies.

Less educated people are more in favor of book bans than more educated.  55% of Individuals with a high school diploma or less favor book bans, while 36% of those with some college education support the notion, and only 21% of college graduates support the idea.
White evangelicals are the most anti-freedom of the religious groups surveyed with 52% supporting a ban. For white Catholics the support level is 35%, for mainline Protestants it is 34% and for those with no religious affiliation only 16% are ready to ban books.

For data go to Pew.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Homosexuality and the Miracle Makers

Note: In 1978 this article by James Peron appeared in booklet form and was the first expose of the nascent “ex-gay” movement ever printed. Since then others have noticed the fraud and deceit that is used by these Religious Right organizations. This is the original expose, with only a few minor typos corrected. A brief addendum can be found following, updating this information.

Gays are now being faced with a new type of resistance by the more fundamentalist sects in America. This resistance disguised as a ministry is riddled with the promises of understanding and healing for those “in the bondage of homosexuality.”

The August (1977) issue of Christian Life kicked off an extensive series of articles taking the hyper-conservative stance on the issue of homosexuality. The article dealt with Christians who discover their child is gay and how they should cope with the situation. The author, though not listed, is Barbara Johnson, the founder of the Spatula Club, “a branch of the growing EXIT team – a group of Christian ex-gays who have developed a ministry to the gay community...” (1) According to Mrs. Johnson, the Spatula Club was so named “because parents have to peel themselves off the emotional ceiling when they first learn of their child's homosexuality...” (2)

Mrs. Johnson distributes literature to all who write her. One of the letters of advice she received and redistributes is from C. S. Lovett of Personal Christianity and deals with how she should handle the fact that her son David is gay. “I think we're on the right track in placing David in Satan's hand so that he can land in the pigpen as quickly as possible.” (3) Johnson says that learning of a child's gayness “is no simple problem...treat it as a real DEATH or GRIEF (emphasis hers¹) is worse than death to me....” (4)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Independents are Winning the Culture War

On three contentious “culture-war” issues the American public continues to be generally libertarian. Support for gay marriage and gun rights have both risen, though one issue is supposed “right-wing” and the other “left-wing.” Libertarians would dispute that formulation as flawed.

Pew asks an either-or question on gun rights. They want people to say what is “more important” to them, “control gun ownership” or “protect the right of Americans to own guns.” In 2000 66% picked “control gun ownership” and only 29% wanted to protect Second Amendment rights. The most recent poll shows that the percentage wanting to protect gun rights has jumped 20 points while those supporting gun control has declined by 21 points.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Very Civil Union: F.A. Hayek and Marriage Equality

Friedrich Hayek, the Nobel prize winning philosopher and economist, argued that many traditions and institutions of modern civilization “which are clearly the results of human action” are often erroneously assumed to be “consciously designed by a human mind.”  Such institutions, he said, should not easily be tampered with by political powers as they were not designed, but rather evolved to fill certain functions. We often have very limited understanding of what those functions may be. On the surface, Hayek’s warnings should bolster the conservative case against marriage equality, as they appear to be a presumption in favor of the status quo—a sort of precautionary principle for conservatives. 1
Yet, Hayek himself said he was “not averse to evolution and change” and that when “spontaneous change has been smothered by government control, it [classical liberalism] wants a great deal of it.”2 Hayek’s liberalism was in conflict with the “conservative attitude” which was “fear of change, a timid distrust of the new as such.”3 Hayek said his view “is based on courage and confidence, on a preparedness to let change run its course even if we cannot predict where it will lead,” all of which sounds contrary to Hayek’s precautionary principle.
Hayek was not a fearful conservative. A Hayekian social order is one that evolves without coercion forcing change, or preventing it. Conservatives, Hayek said, believe order to be “the result of the continuous attention to authority.” They only feel safe when “assured that some higher wisdom watches and supervises change, only if he knows that some authority is charged with keeping the change ‘orderly.’” 4
Hayek argued that the social order could change, and often should change. He said that for these changes to “become legitimized…[they] have to obtain the approval of society at large—not by a formal vote, but by gradually spreading acceptance.” He thought such changes were especially critical if there is “conflict between a given rule and the rest of our moral beliefs.” Under those circumstances, we “can justify our rejection of an established rule.”5
Hayek wrote that “successive changes in morals were therefore not a moral decline, even though they often offended inherited sentiments, but a necessary condition to the rise of the open society of free men.”6 He said that it was “the evolution of tradition which made civilization possible.”7 In particular, Hayek noted that these changes came against the wishes of what we today would call the Religious Right:
Religious prophets and ethical philosophers have of course at all times been mostly reactionaries, defending the old against the new principles. Indeed, in most parts of the world the development of an open market economy has long been prevented by those very morals preached by prophets and philosophers, even before government measures did the same. We must admit that modern civilization has become largely possible by the disregard of the injunctions of those indignant moralists.8 [Emphasis in the original.]
 A brief inquiry into the history of marriage shows it to be a constantly evolving institution. At different times it served different purposes. The “traditional” family conservatives laud is a relatively modern invention. Often, marriage was not particularly concerned with raising children and it rarely dealt with the issue of love. Stephanie Coontz noted, “For many centuries the notion of family referred to authority relations rather than love ones.”9
Historically speaking, the primary purpose of marriage was often political, or related to the distribution and ownership of property. At times, a marriage had to be approved by the village in order to make sure that property arrangements were not disrupted in too chaotic a manner. As this notion of marriage waned, it was often replaced with the idea that marriage was about the division of labor—certain tasks were reserved to men, others to women.10 So, when Native American cultures allowed same-sex marriage, they did so with the proviso that one of the partners had to perform the tasks of the opposite gender.11
Until the rise of the Christian state, marriage evolved according to Hayekian principles. Endowed with state power, Christianity, however, attempted to take control of marriage and forced it to change in ways beneficial to the church’s ever expanding political power. Much of the Vatican’s interest in regulating marriage had to do with giving it power over members of the aristocracy seeking to marry or divorce. The Church could manipulate such relationships to its benefit, denying marriages deemed detrimental to Vatican power, or allowing them as the case may be. Similarly, the Church could permit annulments when beneficial to do so, or deny them when not.
Only in the 4th century did the Christian emperor Theodosius, as part of what historian John Boswell called a campaign of “greater and greater totalitarian control,” decree that only Christianity would be allowed to exist as a religion. He also banned same-sex marriages “which had hitherto been legal (at least de facto) and well known” in 342.12 Boswell argued that the Roman state went from tolerance of same sex relationships to intolerance “almost wholly” as a “consequence of the rise of corporate states and institutions with the power and desire to regulate increasingly personal aspects of human life.”13
The Church got involved in marriage only after state intervention on its behalf. Christian law professor Daniel Crane wrote that, "as the power of the church grew, it gradually sought to establish control over marriage directly."14 It was only in 1546 that the Roman Catholic Church declared that a marriage was only valid if performed by a priest, with two witnesses. This attempt to force marriage into the church was not an immediate success. It opposed centuries of tradition, where marriage was seen as a private contract and not a matter of religion at all.
Mary Ann Glendon, in The Transformation of Family Law, wrote:
“The greatest obstacle to the direct enforcement by the Church of the new Christian ideas about sex and marriage was that marriage was regarded everywhere in Europe in the first half of the Middle Ages as a personal and purely secular matter.”15
The church’s marriage coup was Fabian in nature. “At first, the Church barely tried to exercise jurisdiction in its own name, keeping its intervention in family affairs to primarily within the confines of the relationship between priest and penitent. Its involvement in the formation of marriage, for example, developed only slowly, with the priestly blessing of marriages which began as a custom and centuries later became a requirement.” It was only with the Council of Trent (1545-63) that the church mandated that a priest, with two witnesses, conduct a “marriage” for it to be valid. Prior to this, even private vows taken without the church were accepted to establish a marriage.16
One of the driving forces for more control over marriage was the issue of property. As Glendon notes, marriages often produced “shifts of wealth and power” which were unsettling to the aristocracy and the church. Until now Christians took little note of marriage other than as a private relationship, sometimes blessed by the church, but legitimized only by the consent of the couple themselves, not by church officials or the state. But the Church found the wealthy elites demanding some sort of control because of the property issues involved. “The advocates of change claimed that informal marriages threatened property rights, and endangered social peace and private morality.”17
This led to the Decree Tametsi requiring a marriage ceremony with a priest and two others as witnesses. “The Decree also mandated the publication of banns or marriage and the keeping of official records of marriage.”18 Publishing banns allowed family, and others interested in the distribution of property, to be warned of impending nuptials and gave them time to intervene to prevent marriages that would disrupt the distribution of property and power in unwanted ways.
Protestants rejected a religious monopoly over marriage. Crane wrote that Reformationists saw the state, not the church, as the prime custodian "of matrimony as a civil institution." The authoritarian John Calvin passed the "Marriage Ordinance of Geneva," requiring a state permit to marry.19
The other leading Protestant of the day, Martin Luther, wrote: "Since marriage has existed from the beginning of the world and is still found among unbelievers, there is no reason why it should be called a sacrament of the New Law and of the church alone."20 However, Luther feared clandestine marriages “for enabling strangers to marry into wealthy families and to obtain a share of estates.”21 Protestant jurisdictions started mandating the presence of a minister and requiring parental consent to protect property.
Within a few decades, most of Christian Europe had laws regulating marriage as a state institution. Contrary to the claims of the religious right, the State did not take marriage away from the Church. Protestant Reformers demanded that monopoly claims over marriage, recently asserted by Catholicism, be repudiated. Yet, the desire to protect property remained which meant “the newly emerging states acquired jurisdiction more or less by default.” Secular authorities “simply took over much of the ready-made set of rules of canon law” effectively meaning that Church law was being imposed by the State.22
This cozy relationship between church and state remained undisturbed until the rise of classical liberalism, with its libertarian sentiments about individual rights. Evangelical author John Witte argues this began with John Locke's Two Treatises on Government (1698) where Locke "suggested that a natural and contractual perspective could be defended without necessary reference to spiritual or social perspectives on marriage. He had hypothesized that a law of marriage based on contract could be valid even if God were not viewed as the founder of the marriage contract, nor His Church engaged as an agent in its governance."23
Classical liberalism became a major influence in Western culture, leading to the abolition of slavery, the rise in the status of women, de-monopolizing of agriculture from landed elites, free trade, and to the emergence of capitalism itself. It also brought “new” ideas about marriage into the legal system. Prof. Witte argues that the liberal reforms embedded two conflicting views of marriage into law, "one rooted in Christianity, a second in the Enlightenment. Each of these traditions has contributed a variety of familiar legal ideas and institutions—some overlapping, some conflicting."24
Catholics saw marriage as a church sacrament. Protestants said it was a relationship between a couple and the wider community, and thus more a political concern than a religious one. Witte wrote, "Enlightenment exponents emphasize[d] the contractual (or private) perspective."25 Marriage laws, according to Witte, changed drastically because of this:
Exponents of the Enlightenment advocated the abolition of much that was considered sound and sacred in the Western legal tradition of marriage. They urged the abolition of the requirements of parental consent, church consecration, and formal witnesses for marriage. They questioned the exalted status of heterosexual monogamy, suggesting that such matters be left to private negotiation. They called for the absolute equality of husband and wife to receive, hold, and alienate property, to enter into contracts and commerce, to participate on equal terms in the workplace and public square. They castigated the state for leaving annulment practice to the church, and urged that the laws of annulment and divorce be both merged and expanded under exclusive state jurisdiction.26
 The rise of classical liberalism, with its companion, capitalism, meant that income was no longer a function of the family as whole. Sociologist Barry Adam, in Christopher Street, observed: "Capitalism laid the groundwork for voluntary relationships based on personal preference, the precondition for 'romantic love.' Capitalism did not cause romantic love, it allowed it to flourish."27 Historians John D'Emilio and Estelle Freedman wrote that these changes meant that marriages could be chosen "with less attention to property and family considerations" and that "some young people even disregarded parental opinion altogether. Operating within a political climate that decried tyranny and exulted the rights of the individual some children married over parental objections while others failed to inform their parents at all."28
Of course, these shifts in the economic structure, and the emergence of a culture of individual rights, had a dramatic impact on gay and lesbian people. Prof. Steve Horwitz wrote, "This created both the "singles culture" of the 20th century but also enabled homosexuals to adopt the full identity of being gay or lesbian, as opposed to just engaging in homosexual acts. It's no surprise that gay/lesbian culture thrived early on in urbanized environments (industrial jobs and anonymity were the keys). Having made modern gay identity possible and having caused marriage and family to be focused on love and consumption, rather than child-making and child-raising complementarities, is it any surprise that gays and lesbians would want 'in' to the institution of marriage?"29
Marriage itself continually evolved, often as a result of the changing economic system brought about by capitalism. With the demise of home-based production, the gender-based division of labor began to decline. The principles of classical liberalism about equality of rights also started to be applied to women as well, and eventually even to homosexuals. The basis for marriage became romantic, not economic. Marriage was seen as a civil contract between two individuals that, by its nature, made the larger social structure more stable and prosperous—couples were more economically stable and less likely to impose on others, for instance.
The evolution of heterosexual marriage created the demand for same-sex marriage. Individuals became free to choose their own spouse. Previously such decisions were often left to families or sometimes the larger community, and were done for reasons of property or politics. Leaving individuals free to choose their spouse meant gay individuals might choose spouses of the same gender.
In addition, gender-based roles in marriage began to fall away. The work place became less male-centered and labor saving devices reduced the amount of time devoted to housework. The tasks of men and women, both in the labor market and at home, became more equal, with gender roles becoming less and less important. In addition the home became less and less about production of goods and services, with the division of labor, and more about shared consumption and the nurturing of family members. Love became the central focus of marriage.  
At the same time heterosexual marriage was evolving, the nature of the gay community was undergoing change as well. The Stonewall generation had aged and settled down. Many were in long-term relationships, often establishing families with children. Gays were discovering precisely how regulations banning same-sex couples from entering into marriage contracts were detrimental to their well being.30
They found they were taxed at higher rates by being denied marriage deductions. Cross-national couples found one partner being deported because, unlike their straight counterparts, the American partner could not sponsor the foreign partner for residency. They found that even with wills in place, the law gave family priority over “strangers,” as their spouses were legally defined, making it easier to challenge the will. While the law had undone harm inflicted on children deemed “bastards,” it created a new class of children with lesser protections and lesser rights: children in gay families.

When on their deathbed, some gay people were denied the right to be with their partner because hospitals restricted such visits to “family only.” In cases where a gay person was incapacitated, due to a stroke, courts recognized anti-gay relatives over loving spouses of many years—something not allowed to happen to married couples. Gay couples that attempted to achieve legal protections offered by a legal marriage contract often spent between $5000 and $10,000 on various legal documents only to find that they could often be ignored because state law trumped them, or found that there were simply situations that could not be anticipated. Often, there were simply issues that no private agreement could resolve—such as changing immigration laws, tax laws, child custody laws, etc.31
There are thousands of laws and hundreds of legal rights and benefits directly tied to one’s marital status. There is no groundswell to change this situation, not even from individuals who fight same-sex marriage on the grounds that all marriage should be privatized. Nor should it be ignored that many of these advocates of “private” marriage are themselves legally married. So, whether or not privatized marriage is desirable, it is not likely to be implemented anytime soon and there is no real effort to make that change. In the meantime, millions of same-sex couples are left in legal limbo, to the detriment of their rights.

Even if privatizing marriage is the optimal solution, the immediate harm being done to gay couples implies that the “second-best option,” marriage equality, be implemented. And it, unlike the “ideal” is politically feasible today.

Given that marriage has been evolving, and given that acceptance of same-sex couples has been evolving for some three decades, changing marriage laws to recognize same-sex relationships now satisfies Hayek’s concerns. Private acceptance of marriage has evolved quickly. Major corporations give benefits to their employees in such relationships and even national polls show that a slim majority of Americans favor same-sex marriage, while a substantial majority favors granting gay couples the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. In addition, this reform fits the major moral principles of libertarianism, the principles on which this country was founded. It respects the equality of rights of all individuals, and it limits the state’s power to deny gay couples access to the marital contract, while reducing the power the state has over these couples to thwart their choices.32

1.     F.A. Hayek, New Studies in Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and the History of Ideas. University of Chicago Press, 1978, p. 4.
2.     F. A Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty, University of Chicago Press, 1960, p. 399.
3.     Ibid, p. 400.
4.     Ibid.
5.     F.A. Hayek, Law, Legislation and Liberty: The Political Order of a Free People, Vol. 3, The University of Chicago Press, 1979, p. 167.
6.     Ibid.
7.     Ibid, p. 168.
8.     Ibid, pp. 165-166.
9.     Stephanie Coontz, The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap, Basic Books, 2000, p. 44.
10. See Stephanie Coontz, Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage, Viking, 2005 for an extended discussion regarding the various functions that marriage has served over the centuries from culture to culture.
11. William N. Eskridge, Jr., “A History of Same-Sex Marriage,Virginia Law Review, Vol. 79, No. 7, Oct., 1993), pp. 1419-1513.
12. John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality, The University of Chicago Press, 1980, p 123.
13. Ibid. p 37. Boswell wrote “gay people were actually safer under the Republic, before the state had the authority or means to control aspects of the citizenry’s personal lives. Any government with the power, desire, and means to control such individual matters as religious belief may also regulate sexuality, and since gay people appear to be always a minority, the chance that their interests will carry great weight is relatively slight.” For a discussion of the relative tolerance of Roman society regarding homosexual relationships see Craig A. Williams, Roman Homosexuality: Ideologies of Masculinity in Classical Antiquity, Oxford University Press, 1999.
14. Daniel A. Crane, “A ‘Judeo-Christian’ Argument for Privatizing Marriage”, Cardozo Law Review, Vol. 27:3, p. 1232.
15.  Mary Ann Glendon, The Transformation of Family Law: State, Law, and Family in the United States and Western Europe, The University of Chicago Press, 1989, p. 24.
16.  Ibid. Glendon wrote, “Until the Council of Trent, private and informal marriages were as valid as public, formal ones.” Informal marriages, however, remained common and were recognized as marriages until 1892. The Church of England recognized them until 1753, see page 30.
17.  Ibid. pp. 28-29.
18.  Ibid. p. 29.
19.  Crane, p. 1234. For information on Calvin’s positions on marriage see John Witte’s Sex, Marriage and Family in John Calvin’s Geneva, William Eerdmans Publishing, 2005.
20.  Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol 35. Ed., Abdel R. Wentz and Helmut T. Lehman, Fortress Press, 1959, p. 92.
21.  Glendon, p. 29.
22.  Ibid, p. 31.
23.  John Witte Jr., From Sacrament to Contract, Westminster John Knox Press, 1997, p. 196.
24.  John Witte Jr., An Apt and Cheerful Conversation on Marriage, Centre for Theology and Public Issues, 1999, p. 10.
25.  Witte, From Sacrament to Contract, p. 245.
26.  Ibid. pp 10-11.
27.  Barry Adams, Christopher Street, 64:50-53.
28.  John D’Emilio and Estelle Freedman, Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, The University of Chicago Press, 1988, p. 43. They noted, as well, that with the rise of classical liberalism, following the American Revolution, there was “an overall decline in state regulation of morality and a shift in concerns from private to public moral transgressions.” [p. 42]
29.  Steven Horwitz, “Lots of Thoughts on ‘The Future of Marriage,’ Cato Unbound,
30.  See George Chauncey, Why Marriage?, Basic Books, 2004, for a general discussion on why marriage became an issue within the gay community.
31.  Stephanie Coontz wrote that that a marriage license today “still determines what obligations a couple can keep—who gets hospital visitation rights, family leave, health care and survivor’s benefits.” The New York Times, “Taking Marriage Private,” November 25, 2007. Also see The Cost of Marriage Inequality to Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Seniors, Gary Gates and Lisa Bennett, Human Rights Campaign, January 29, 2004; Benefits Denied, Ben Furnas and Josh Rosenthal, Center for American Progress, March 2009; Sandra Block, USA Today, “Gay couples enter golden years with more risk”, May 16, 2004; and Evan Wolfson, For Richer, For Poorer: Same-Sex Couples and the Freedom to Marry as a Civil Right, Drum Major Institute for Public Policy at
32.  For a discussion on how the marriage contract limits the ability of the state to intervene in a relationship see Jason Kuznicki’s, Marriage Against the State: Towards a New View of Civil Marriage, Policy Analysis, No. 672, January 12, 2011, The Cato Institute.

This essay was written as an original submission to the libertarian/feminist anthology edited, The Free Woman, by Sharon Presley and Ross Kenyon, to be forthcoming.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Socialists of the Soul: Conservatives Vs. Social Liberalism

Marxists liked to condemn market liberalism. They called the lack of centralized control of the market economic anarchism. The socialists of the soul, our modern day conservatives, condemn social liberalism. The lack of centralized state control of morality, they argue, will lead to license.

But what is it that prevents liberty from turning into license?

First, social liberalism is merely liberalism applied to social issues and liberalism never argued that anyone is free to do anything, anywhere, anytime they please. Liberalism has also had important provisions, often ignored by conservative critics. Liberalism says that the freedom of each man is restricted by the equal liberty, or equal rights, of others. Herbert Spencer said that the “liberty of each, limited by the like liberty of all, is the rule in conformity with which society must be organized.”

But what does it mean? Thomas Jefferson wanted: "A wise and frugal government which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouths of labor the bread it has earned—this is the sum of good government."

The first limit to liberty is the rights of others. No one may injure another. No one may justly deprive another of their rights to their life, liberty or property.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Two New Projects That Need Your Help

As you may know, the Storey Institute is a non-profit organization. Our staff are volunteers, and in fact, help fund a great deal of our work. We have no wealthy benefactors behind us—but if you are one, we're here. There are numerous projects we are trying to work on, but lack of funds prevents it. Two are important.

First, we are doing research into the White Rose organization, which was a resistance movement to Nazism  in Germany. Several of these brave young people were beheaded by the Nazis because of their denunciation of the inhumanity of the Nazi regime. In order to publish the essays we have in mind, we need to obtain some research material currently not in our library. Approximate costs will be $250 to outfit our research library with this material. There are several areas of the White Rose that we wish to explore in particular to serve as reminders of what it means to fight for individual liberty.

Secondly, our main computer's hard disk crashed. This is quite serious as much of the work we have done on new book projects was on the computer. We are having to pay to recover the data and replace the hard disk. This repair will severely damage our cash flow. This is a bad time of year financially under normal conditions, but to have this expense hit us can be fatal. We can't afford to fix it, but we can't afford to not fix it. We don't have a confirmed cost but estimates to recover the data and replace the hard disk are in the range of $600.

Your donations are critical at this time. We are a recognized 501(c)3 non-profit and donations are tax deductible. In order to make a donation by Paypal, or with any credit card, go to this link and click on donate. If you want to donate without going through Paypal call our office toll-free at 866-254-3701.

Donations are particularly urgent at this time.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Myths, Lies and True Believers: Why Libertarians Should Be Cautious.

Perhaps you never heard of David Shaw Alexander, and it may be with good reason. Anti-gay Christians circulated the story of Alexander as a counter-example to the Matthew Shepherd murder in Wyoming. You may remember that Shepherd was the young college student beaten and left to die in the cold because he was gay.
According to an email allegedly sent out by David’s mother, poor “Davey” was in a restaurant near his college when “these homosexual men came in” and hit on him. They supposedly refused to take “no” for an answer and became belligerent. Then on New Year’s Eve Davey went to a party and “these same homosexuals were there” and  groped him in public and then followed him when he left. They allegedly attacked him, beat him and raped him in the parking lot. He supposedly died a few days later. The “mother” said, “This is what happens because our society doesn’t treat these homosexuals for the sick and perverse people they are.”
According to the emails circulated by Christians this took place in Edmonton, Canada. The problem was that the Edmonton police say there was no rape or murder reported to them. The university says no student by this name was enrolled, campus security says they never heard a word about such an incident. And, given that the temperature that night was -25 Celsius, pulling one’s privates out in public, a necessity for rape, would be a risky venture. In other words, it never happened.
When fundamentalists and conservatives claimed the Federal Communications Commission was being petitioned to make religious broadcasting illegal the FCC started getting 100,000 letters a month in protest. No such petition was circulated or submitted. It was a hoax.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Friday, February 10, 2012

Libertarianism and the Dilemma of Bigotry

If you want to destroy the movement toward greater human liberty, there is no better method than to poison it. And the poison I refer to is bigotry. Now, bigotry takes many forms. Some people only hate gays. Others only hate Jews, immigrants, women, or black people. But, in my experience bigotry, like other forms of human ignorance, tends to come in clusters. Someone who tends toward bigoted thinking toward one group, tends to hold similar positions toward other groups.
What Ayn Rand said about racism applies to all forms of bigotry. She said racism means, “that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions.” She said it “negates two aspects of man’s life: reason and choice, or mind and morality, replacing them with chemical predestination.” She called it the “lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.”
All bigotry, regardless of the objects of its hatred, treats the individual based on some collective trait, not their individuality. It denies the groups so targeted the same rights that are granted to others. It singles them out as somehow, inferior based on who they are, not on what they’ve done, or more particularly, not on what they’ve done to others.
That last part is important. Libertarianism holds that individuals are free to make their own choices and act provided they do not violate the equal rights of others.  This is what Herbert Spencer called the “liberty of each, limited by the like liberty of all.” This, he said, was the primary rule on “which society must be organized.”  Practicing Jews act Jewish. Judaism is not just a set of beliefs, but of actions centered around this faith and culture. But, acting Jewish does not inherently violate the equal rights of others. It doesn’t infringe on the life, liberty or property of other people.

Similarly, being black, or Mexican, or gay, does not violate the “like liberty of all.” There is nothing inherent in any of these collective identities that violates the rights of others. As such, none of these groups should be treated unequally before the law.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Proposition 8 Invalid Says Appellate Court: A Synopsis

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the decision to overturn Proposition 8, which stripped gay couples of their right to marry.  The Court said, “We consider whether that amendment (Prop 8) violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. We conclude that it does.”

The Justice noted that Prop 8 had only one intention: “It stripped same-sex couples of the ability they previously possessed to obtain from the State, or any other authorized party, an important right—the right to obtain and use the designation of ‘marriage’ to describe their relationships. Nothing more, nothing less. Proposition 8 therefore could not have been enacted to advance California’s interests in childbearing or responsible procreation, for it had no effect on the rights of same-sex couples raise children on the procreative practices of other couples. Nor did Proposition have any effect on religious freedom or on parents’ rights to control their children’s education; it could not have been enacted to safeguard these liberties.”
In essence, they found that Proposition 8 was intended to harm one class of people. They said it served no purposes except “to less the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationship and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples. The Constitution simply does not allow ‘for laws of this sort.’”

Saturday, February 4, 2012

There's nothing to crow about, Mr. President.

Given the state of the economy, after the dual disasters of Bush and Obama, I’ll take good news if I can find it. But does that mean we should believe the White House regarding a recent small decline in the unemployment rate?

Alan Krueger, of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers crowed on a White House website that the recent decline in unemployment is “further evidence that the economy is continuing to heal.”

The unemployment rate, however, is a strange bird. The government doesn’t actually know how many people, who want to work, can’t find a job. Government statistics come from a survey of 60,000 households on a monthly basis. The same households get interviewed several times, on a monthly basis, until they are dropped after their 4th interview. Then, after eight months, they are back in the survey for another four months until they are dropped for good.

The government says: “Respondents are never asked specifically if they are unemployed, nor are they given an opportunity to decide their own labor force status. Unless they already know how the Government defines unemployment, many of them may not be sure of their actual classification when the interview is completed.”

If individuals were asked if they were unemployed they would use the common sense definition. Those without jobs would say “yes” while those with jobs would say “no.” The government doesn’t want to define unemployed that way—the numbers would really make them look bad.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Libertarian Approach to Black History Month

The following article, by James Padilioni, Jr., originally appeared on the site for Students for Liberty.

The law perverted! And the police powers of the state perverted along with it! The law, I say, not only turned from its proper purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! The law become the weapon of every kind of greed! Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish! - Frederic Bastiat, The Law

Since 1976, the month of February has been promoted as Black History Month in the United States as an attempt to highlight the contributions and experiences of black Americans, long oppressed and exploited in American history.   With the development of the “new school” of history in the 1960s, scholars began to explore the different perspectives of minority and subaltern groups in the retelling of the American narrative; the national month-long focus in February is one outgrowth of this new approach.   While much work has been done in this field to reconstruct a forgotten history, libertarians by and large have not lent their voices to the dialogue.  The libertarian focus on the primacy of the individual tends to obscure our view to collectivist constructions like race, but I would contend that in the discourse on black history this has been a shortfall of libertarianism historically and represents a fruitful area for the development and further refinement of libertarian ideas.  Writing at his blog Austro-Athenian Empire, Roderick Long notes that black studies:

 “…much like libertarian studies, tend[s] to be enormously insightful in some areas and vastly ignorant in others. (Indeed, much of the knowledge generated by libertarian studies tends to lie in…black studies’ zone of ignorance, just as much of the knowledge generated by…black studies tends to lie in libertarianism’s zone of ignorance.)”

Both black studies and libertarian studies have complementary areas that would be better served by an integrated approach, and I have written this article to take up the implicit challenge in Dr. Long’s words.  For libertarians, Black History Month represents an exciting opportunity to bring the liberty message to a wider audience, and show the universal application of our ideas.  One such area of integration is critical race theory.