David Gordon

David Gordon

David Gordon is a senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He was educated at UCLA, where he earned his PhD in intellectual history. He is the author of Resurrecting Marx: The Analytical Marxists on Exploitation, Freedom, and Justice, The Philosophical Origins of Austrian Economics,An Introduction to Economic Reasoning, and Critics of Marx.

Articles by David Gordon

Misunderstanding Both Lincoln and Basic Economics

Our Ancient Faith: Lincoln, Democracy, and the American Experimentby Allen C. GuelzoAlfred A. Knopf, 2024; 247 pp.
Allen Guelzo has been carried away by Abraham Lincoln’s magniloquent rhetoric. Guelzo, a historian who has written a number of books about Lincoln, would like very much to believe that his hero was a champion of individual rights and economic freedom. Lincoln’s ideal for America was of a nation with a large number of small businesses, allowing people to work independently of domination by others. Slavery was the supreme denial of this ideal and, as such, abhorrent to him. In a phrase Guelzo often repeats, Lincoln wanted an America with “neither slaves, nor masters.” In this America, blacks would have the same citizenship rights as whites.
Further, Guelzo claims, the complaints

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The Failure of Conservatism

The Failure of American Conservatism and the Road Not TakenBy Claes G. RynRepublic Book Publishers, 2023; 468 pp.
Claes Ryn, a leading conservative intellectual who taught politics for many years at the Catholic University of America, is by no means a libertarian, but readers of The Misesian can learn much from this book. I’d like to discuss two topics: first, the criticism of Harry Jaffa and his mentor, Leo Strauss; and second, the full-scale assault on the Wilsonian and neoconservative view that America is the “hope of the world,” and, as such, entitled to exercise global hegemony.
Before addressing these topics, though, it is essential to say something about Ryn’s philosophical ideas. A key theme of the book is that conservatives, under the sway of William Buckley Jr.’s National

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The Last Conservative

Milton Friedman: The Last ConservativeBy Jennifer BurnsFarrar, Straus and Giroux, 2023; x + 587 pp.
Imagine that you come across this about the “education premium” on someone’s blog: “By going to college, you are more than tripling your chances for success in after life.” The statement is buttressed by a calculation of the extra lifetime earnings that a college degree will provide. Wouldn’t you think that the author is an economist? In fact, the author was a high school student, and he wrote this in 1927, before ever studying economics. As you will by now have guessed, the precocious student was Milton Friedman.
Jennifer Burns, a professor of history at Stanford, makes clear in her outstanding biography that many of Friedman’s characteristic intellectual traits were present at a very

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Lincoln Dissected

Thomas DiLorenzo, the President of the Mises Institute, has already reviewed Paul C. Graham’s Nonsense on Stilts: The Gettysburg Address and Lincoln’s Imaginary Nation (Shotwell Publishing 2024) in characteristically excellent fashion, but the book is so insightful that some further comments are warranted.

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The Dangerous Consequences of the German Historical School

Ludwig von Mises spends a good deal of time attacking the German Historical School of Economics in Human Action and other works. The doctrines of the school are no longer influential, although as the philosopher and economist Birsen Filip notes in her recent book The Early History of Economics in the United States: The Influence of the German Historical School of Economics on Teaching and Theory (Routledge, 2023), things were once different. Germany was the principal place for graduate work in economics in the years from the latter part of the nineteenth century to World War I. The leading lights of the school—who included Wilhelm Roscher, Bruno Hildebrand, Karl Knies, and Gustav Schmoller—were scholars of immense erudition who impressed many of their contemporaries, and many people

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Jacobin Capitalism?

In his review of Claes G. Ryn’s The Failure of American Conservatism, David Gordon points out that Austrian economic methodology is not a value-laden Jacobin experiment, but rather a workable explanation of how a successful economy works.
Original Article: Jacobin Capitalism?

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Does Socialism Protect Rights or Violate Them?

In last week’s column, I discussed Scott Sehon’s new book, Socialism: A Logical Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2024), and this week, I’d like to continue the analysis of the book, focusing on Sehon’s discussion of rights under socialism. The main topic we need to look at is whether socialism violates important rights that people ought to be accorded in a just political and social system.
Before addressing this topic, though, we need to look at Sehon’s definition of socialism. Readers may recall that by “socialism,” Sehon means a system with “(i) Collective ownership and control of the means of production and (ii) Equality of distribution or redistribution of wealth.” Sehon uses this definition to distinguish two types of socialism, which he calls “S-socialism” and “D-socialism”:

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If One Wishes to Discredit Capitalism, One Should at Least Understand How It Works

Socialism: A Logical IntroductionScott R. SehonOxford University Press, 2024; 268 pp.
This is a better book than I expected it to be, but it is not without its problems. Scott Sehon, a philosophy professor at Bowdoin College, is strongly inclined to believe that socialism is better than capitalism, but in the book, his main aim is to set forward some of the main arguments in favor of each system, indicating their strengths and weaknesses. He has an additional aim. He wants to teach people how to reason logically and believes that one way to do this is to state an argument in numbered premises and then discuss each premise. “My next philosophy teacher (at Harvard) Paul Hoffman, first showed me the amazing utility of breaking a philosopher’s argument down into numbered steps.” Sehon succeeds

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Why Society Doesn’t Need the State

Thomas Hill Green, an eighteenth-century English philosopher, didn’t believe it was possible to have a good society without a powerful state. David Gordon explains why Green’s argument fails to impress.
Original Article: Why Society Doesn’t Need the State

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Jacobin Capitalism?

In his important book The Failure of American Conservatism (2023), the political theorist and philosopher Claes G. Ryn offers some criticisms of libertarianism and free-market capitalism, and in this week’s column, I’d like to examine these.
Ryn is not an opponent of all forms of the free market, but he fears an extreme version of it can be dangerous. He defends what he calls “value-centered historicism,” according to which people’s values stem not from abstract reason but from the concrete particularities of their lives and traditions. From this perspective, he opposes ideologies that propose setting aside existing customs and social practices to remodel all social institutions according to a plan. He argues that the Jacobins of the French Revolution acted in this way; convinced of their

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Why Society Doesn’t Need the State

The nineteenth-century English philosopher Thomas Hill Green was one of the key figures in the transition from classical liberalism to “modern” liberalism, in which the state, no longer a mere “night watchman,” if it ever was that, takes on a much more active role. The state in Green’s view ought to aid people in realizing their “real selves,” and doing this often involves supplying them with various goods and services. For this reason, Green is regarded as one of the intellectual founders of the “welfare” state. But for Green the state was much more than a provider of welfare. Its function was to train people to regard themselves as free and equal citizens. Just as parents educate their children in virtuous behavior, so should the state promote a virtuous citizenry.
To establish that a

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FDR against the Bill of Rights

In this week’s column, I’d like to raise two questions suggested by David Beito’s excellent book The New Deal’s War on the Bill of Rights, which I reviewed last week. First, how can it be that Franklin Roosevelt has acquired a reputation among leftist historians as a champion of liberty, with his internment of Japanese Americans during World War II regarded as an aberration, in the face of the manifold violations of civil liberties that occurred during his administration? Second, given Roosevelt’s authoritarian proclivities, why wasn’t he successful in imposing the complete regime of censorship he wanted?
The answer to the first question is that Roosevelt preferred in most cases to work behind the scenes, aiding and abetting others to do his work. We see this in the activities of Hugo

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The Bad Deal That Was the New Deal: FDR’s Assault on Individual Rights

The New Deal’s War on the Bill of Rights: The Untold Story of FDR’s Concentration Camps, Censorship, and Mass Surveillanceby David T. BeitoIndependent Institute, 2023; x + 379 pp.
Few if any readers of this column admire Franklin Roosevelt, but as the historian David Beito reminds us in this outstanding book, most of his professional colleagues rank Roosevelt among our greatest presidents, second only to Abraham Lincoln. Those who accord him this rank usually stress his commitment to freedom and the “common man,” but they cannot escape one difficulty in so viewing him. Roosevelt authorized the imprisonment of 112,000 people of Japanese descent in concentration camps during World War II. Concerning these camps, Beito writes:
While conditions for Japanese-Americans were a world apart from

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Political Authorities and Covid: Creating Crises in the Name of Public Health

In the name of dealing with a so-called public health crisis, U.S. political and medical elites created even more crises. David Gordon reviews Tom Woods’ new book that deconstructs the disastrous decisions made by progressive politicians and medical authorities.
Original Article: Political Authorities and Covid: Creating Crises in the Name of Public Health

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How the Free Market Drove History’s “Great Enrichment”

Beyond Positivism, Behaviorism, and Neoinstitutionalism in Economicsby Deirdre Nansen McCloskeyUniversity of Chicago Press, 2022; 222 pp.
Deirdre McCloskey is a great economic historian, and in Beyond Positivism, she makes a number of valuable points that draw from her immense learning in this field. I’d like to concentrate on a few of these insights in this week’s column.
She stresses the importance of the “Great Enrichment,” the process by which the free market has, by rescuing millions from poverty, increased longevity and bettered conditions of life and material well-being far beyond all previous advancements. Concerning this, she says:
We economists have been trying ever since 1776 to explain the Great Enrichment. About the lower end of the Great Enrichment, the economic historian

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Our Friend the State

Economics in America: An Immigrant Economist Explores the Land of Inequalityby Angus DeatonPrinceton University Press, 2023; xiii + 273 pp.
Economics in America disappointed me, but I have only myself to blame. As you would expect from a Nobel laureate, Angus Deaton is very smart and erudite, but what you might not expect is that he is funny as well. The book contains much good sense, but it is quite unsympathetic to the free market. And this is what disappointed me. In his >e,>The Great Escape (Princeton, 2013), Deaton pointed out that the escape from poverty of millions of people in the last 250 years depended on accepting substantial inequality; and he is well-known as a critic of foreign-aid programs, arguing that they usually cause more harm than good. Because of these views, I

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What, Me Normative?

Visions of Inequality: From the French Revolution to the End of the Cold Warby Branko MilanovicHarvard Univerity Press, 2023; 359 pp.
Branko Milanovic’s Visions of Inequality contains one of the most misleading statements I have ever encountered by an author about the contents of his own book. Milanovic, an eminent economist who teaches at the City University of New York and was formerly the lead economist at the World Bank, addresses in this book what a number of economists from the eighteenth century to the end of the twentieth have said about measuring inequality of income and wealth. He is concerned, he tells us, with inequality as a fact, not with its normative implications. Nothing could be further from the truth. The book is a thinly veiled polemic against supporters of the free

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Friedman versus Rothbard

Murray Rothbard and Milton Friedman didn’t only disagree on the subject of economics. They also sharply disagreed on the direction American conservatism needed to go.
Original Article: Friedman versus Rothbard

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Political Authorities and Covid: Creating Crises in the Name of Public Health

Diary of a Psychosis: How Public Health Disgraced Itself During Covid Mania. By Thomas E. Woods, Jr. Libertarian Institute, 2023.
In the Foreword to this outstanding book, the eminent Stanford University physician Dr. Jay Bhattacharya makes an arresting claim. He says that people often make mistakes in recollecting the past because they confuse having intended to do something with actually having done it. That confusion is more likely to occur under emotional stress, and what could be more stressful than the Covid nightmare that lasted the better part of four years? In these circumstances, it is especially valuable to have a contemporaneous record of what has happened, so that past events can be accurately reconstructed.
There is no one better able to provide such a record than Tom Woods,

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Bourne Again

David Gordon reviews Only a Voice, by George Scialabba, dealing with the author’s comments on antiwar progressives Randolph Bourne and Dwight Macdonald.
Original Article: Bourne Again

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Friedman versus Rothbard

When we think of Milton Friedman and Murray Rothbard, what come to mind first are their contrary views on economics, but I’d like to discuss a different subject that might surprise some of my readers because they don’t associate Friedman with positions on it: American foreign policy. Jennifer Burns’s outstanding new biography Milton Friedman: The Last Conservative (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2023) enables us to grasp more fully the differences between the foreign-policy views of Friedman and Rothbard, who unfortunately is not mentioned at all in the book.
Friedman strongly favored America’s entry into World War II, backed the Cold War, and egged William F. Buckley Jr. on to purge isolationists and “extremists” from the ranks of the Right.
Friedman secured his first academic job in 1940, a

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The Taxman Cometh

Philip Goff wants to solve the why of the universe, but his answers are not always logically coherent, as David Gordon explains.
Original Article: The Taxman Cometh

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The Unknown Reasoner

How States Think: The Rationality of Foreign Policyby John J. Mearsheimer and Sebastian RosatoYale University Press, 2023; 304 pp.
How States Think surprised me. John Mearsheimer is a well-known critic of American foreign policy, and his analysis of the Ukraine war has been deservedly influential. As result, I anticipated that this book would expand his critique. The book does contain some critical discussion of American foreign policy, but, for the most part, the aims of Mearsheimer and his coauthor, Sebastian Rosato, lie elsewhere.
They endeavor to show that most of the time states are rational actors in their relations with one another, and their arguments for this thesis take them into areas that students of Austrian economics will find of great value. Their criticisms of competing

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Non Amo Te, Ahmari

Sohrab Ahmari has written a passionate indictment of the free market. The core of his indictment is expressed in one of the book’s epigraphs. It is from the Vulgate, and in translation reads: “Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts” (James 5:4, NAB).
Ahmari, a well-known journalist who has written for the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal, is a major participant in a dispute that has divided the American Right. To what extent should conservatives favor the free market? Should free trade give way to nationalist economic policies? Does the market erode culture and religion? Ahmari represents the most extreme faction of the conservative market critics, and in

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The Power of Austrian Causal-Realist Analysis

For many economists, economic growth is a mystery. By “economic growth,” Shawn Ritenour has principally in mind economic progress in the less developed countries, but his recipe for growth applies universally. Why is growth a mystery? Ritenour explains why in this excellent book: “Indeed, a major reason modern macroeconomics has not solved the mystery is that as a whole—dare I say, in the aggregate—its analytical approach fosters neither asking nor answering the correct questions.”
This point raises another question: What is the analytical approach of modern macroeconomics? It aims to come as close as possible to the method used in the physical sciences. To do this, the modern macroeconomists construct mathematical models, derive testable predictions from the models, and then see how close

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Bourne Again

In his new book Only a Voice: Essays (Verso, 2023), the critic and essayist George Scialabba brings to our attention the wisdom of two authors who analyzed the dangers of war: Randolph Bourne and Dwight Macdonald. In this week’s column, I’d like to discuss what Scialabba says about them.
Bourne will be a familiar name to many readers owing to Murray Rothbard’s praise of him, but he was not a libertarian. Like John Dewey, he was a Progressive and a pragmatist who looked forward to “scientific management” as the way to solve America’s social problems. Scialabba describes Bourne’s view in this way:
In the experimental, antidogmatic, and—not least important—communal character of scientific practice, pragmatists beheld the image of a possible future. Dewey had shown, Bourne wrote, that the

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Blaming the Free Market (Even Where It Doesn’t Exist)

Nobel Prize winner Angus Deaton claims that the free market cannot provide adequate medical care. Of course, he goes on to describe government failure but calls it a free market.
Original Article: Blaming the Free Market (Even Where It Doesn’t Exist)

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The Taxman Cometh

Philip Goff’s new book Why? The Purpose of the Universe is an outstanding investigation of cosmic purpose written from the author’s panpsychist point of view. It’s an impressive contribution to metaphysics, but, you may ask, why I am talking about it in this week’s column? The answer is that the author includes an appendix, “P.S. Is Taxation Theft?,” in which he raises some very relevant points about libertarianism. You may now wonder why a book on cosmic purpose includes a section about the moral status of taxation, but the answer to this you will have to find out for yourself. If the curiosity leads you to read the book, all the better.
Goff says that many people assume they have a right to all of their income and property. If the state taxes part of what you own, it is stealing from

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Exposing Our Fed-Driven Bubble Economy

The Great Money Bubble: Protect Yourself from the Coming Inflation Stormby David A. StockmanHumanix Books, 2022; 229 pp.
David Stockman served for a short while as budget director during Ronald Reagan’s first term as president, but he soon resigned owing to Reagan’s refusal to cut government spending. He has since that time worked as a private investment adviser, at which difficult profession he has been highly successful, and he has written a number of books, among which the monumental Great Deformation (Public Affairs Press, 2013), is the most notable. The Great Money Bubble contains many vital lessons about money and macroeconomics, and in what follows I’ll discuss a few of these. But I’m not able to assess one part of the book.
Stockman identifies a common failing in Keynesian

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Is a Welfare State Consistent with Libertarianism?

David Gordon reviews Dan Moller’s book Governing Least: A New England Libertarianism, in which the author examines the issue of a welfare state in a libertarian society.
Original Article: Is a Welfare State Consistent with Libertarianism?

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Blaming the Free Market (Even Where It Doesn’t Exist)

Critics of the free market often aim at the wrong target. They assail the market for “failures” that are actually the result of government intervention in the economy. In this week’s column, I’d like to discuss an example of this mistake in Angus Deaton’s Economics in America (Princeton, 2023).
Deaton was the winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize for economics, about which he says:
As many previous recipients have reported, the experience is both exhilarating and overwhelming. I often think of the story of the dog that liked to chase buses but had little idea of what it would be like to catch one. The Nobel is not just catching the bus but being run over by it. Over and over again.
As you will have gathered, Deaton is very funny. In a section of the book called “Trying to Be a Good Hip-Op

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Rothbard on Suits for Defamation

David Gordon explains Murray Rothbard’s famous assertion that laws against libel and slander should not be on the books.
Original Article: Rothbard on Suits for Defamation

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Battling Beasts and Bureaucrats: Naomi Wolf and the American Medical-Government Police State

Facing the Beast: Courage, Faith, and Resistance in a New Dark Ageby Naomi WolfChelsea Green Publishing, 2023; 232 pp.
Naomi Wolf was, until the covid era, “a well-known feminist nonfiction writer for thirty-five years . . . privileged to be part of the cultural ‘scene’ made up of influencers on the progressive Left.” With great courage, she rejected the masks, lockdowns, and vaccines urged upon us by the state, viewing them as totalitarian impositions upon us. Her heroic stance turned her into a “nonperson”: her friends and associates on the left shunned her.
As a result, she has rethought her political alliances and now finds herself in the company of conservatives and libertarians. In what follows, I’d like to discuss some of her insights about covid and then to focus on how she sees

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Rothbard on a Priori History

Rothbard warned against the assumption that because democracies are “better” than dictatorships, they are necessarily more peace loving.
Original Article: Rothbard on a Priori History

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Is a Welfare State Consistent with Libertarianism?

Governing Least: A New England Libertarianismby Dan MollerOxford University Press, 2021; xii + 326 pp.
Dan Moller’s thoughtful book is packed with arguments, and in what follows I’ll be able to discuss only a few points of interest. The central thread of the book concerns the welfare state in contemporary capitalist societies. Moller is not a strict natural rights libertarian in the style of Murray Rothbard, who would rule out the welfare state in principle as a violation of the nonaggression principle (NAP); but nevertheless, Moller argues that most welfare state measures can be shown to conflict with the implications of moral principles that are widely accepted.
We may well have moral duties to aid others in certain circumstances, Moller contends, but to coerce people to fulfill these

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Rothbard on Suits for Defamation

Murray Rothbard often shows an unusual ability to counter an objection to something he says by showing that the objection actually supports his view. In this week’s column, I’d like to discuss one example of this. Rothbard believes that libel and slander should not be crimes or torts. If he is right, people shouldn’t be fined or imprisoned for defaming people or be subject to a civil suit for damages resulting from this.
A common objection is that this would allow people to spread lies about others that could severely damage their reputation with complete impunity. To be clear, Rothbard’s position isn’t just that you should be able to say or write what you want about people so long as you believe what you said, or at least think it might be true. He says that there should be no

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Rothbard on a Priori History

Murray Rothbard is well-known as one of the greatest exponents of praxeology, which operates through a priori reasoning. He was careful, however, to distinguish praxeology from history. The latter could be studied only through empirical investigation. In this week’s column, I’d like to discuss some observations he makes about this in For a New Liberty, which was published fifty years ago.
In the section called “Avoiding a Priori History,” Rothbard warns against the assumption that because democracies are “better” than dictatorships, they are necessarily more peace loving. Of course, Rothbard wasn’t a supporter of democracy and wrote eloquently against its defects; indeed, he does so in this book. But we can say, at least for the purposes of the argument, that a government with relatively

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Living Libertarian: Brief Biographies

Libertarian Autobiographies: Moving toward Freedom in Today’s Worldedited by Jo Ann Cavallo and Walter E. BlockPalgrave Macmillan, 2023; xx + 533 pp.
Jo Ann Cavallo and Walter Block have done those interested in libertarianism a great service, but they have set the reviewer of their book an impossible task. They have gathered together eighty short accounts in which well-known libertarians describe their various paths toward their political and economic beliefs. In the space I have available, I cannot comment on all of these accounts. Instead, I’ll discuss a few topics that come up in them. But I must issue a warning. My selection is influenced by my own interest in philosophy.
Gerard Casey was attracted by the intellectual power of Ludwig von Mises’s a priori reasoning:
Having discovered

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Understanding Hegel from a Straussian Viewpoint

While Leo Strauss did not share G.W.F. Hegel’s acceptance of historicism, nonetheless he gives Hegel a sympathetic review. David Gordon takes a closer look at both men.

Original Article: Understanding Hegel from a Straussian Viewpoint

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“Social Justice” Is Neither Social nor Just

Social Justice Fallaciesby Thomas SowellBasic Books, 2023; 224 pp.
Thomas Sowell has given us a penetrating criticism of the approach to justice taken by many political philosophers, especially John Rawls and his innumerable followers. He says that they construct an image of the way society ought to be but fail to ask whether their plans are feasible. His criticism is well-taken, although he does not offer an adequate account of the rights that people have.
He says about Rawls:
In much of the social justice literature, including Professor John Rawls’ classic A Theory of Justice, various policies have been recommended, on grounds of their desirability from a moral standpoint—but often with little or no attention to the practical question of whether those policies could in fact be carried

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Marxist States Never “Wither Away” as Marx Predicted

David Gordon continues his analysis of Graham Priest’s book, Capitalism: Its Nature and Its Replacement. While Priest might not understand either Marxism or capitalism, his book has useful insights.
Original Article: "Marxist States Never "Wither Away" as Marx Predicted"

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Can We Find a Basis for Private Property Rights?

Property and Justice: A Liberal Theory of Natural Rightsby Billy ChristmasRoutledge, 2021; xii + 184 pp.
What is the basis for property rights? Murray Rothbard’s answer starts from self-ownership. Each person owns himself and on that basis can acquire unowned resources by appropriating them. Most contemporary political philosophers reject Lockean theories of this sort. One of their key reasons for doing so has to do with a crucial part of property rights, the right of exclusion. It may well be, the objectors say, that you are free to gather some tree branches no one else has taken for firewood, and it would be wrong for someone to try to wrest the branches away from you if you are holding them; but if you put them down, why do you have the right to stop anyone else from using them? And

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A Procapitalist Philosopher

Most contemporary political philosophers view free market capitalism with suspicion, if not outright loathing, but one exception is Gerald Gaus, who taught for many years at the University of Arizona. Gaus was by no means a Rothbardian but rather worked within the framework of “public reason” set forward by John Rawls, though Gaus greatly modified it. In this week’s column, I’d like to discuss some of the arguments about property that Gaus makes in Public Reason and Diversity: Reinterpretations of Liberalism (Cambridge University Press, 2022), a posthumous collection of his essays edited by his student Kevin Vallier.
The arguments about property that I’m going to discuss don’t depend on the “public reason” approach and are of great value to those who take other standpoints. Two of these

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Slobodian Contra Rothbard

Crack-Up Capitalism will be of interest to many readers of The Austrian because of what it says about Murray Rothbard; and for the most part, I shall limit my review to discussing this. The main point of the book is easy to grasp. In recent decades, the notion of a centralized state has come under fire in various ways, including attempts to secede, to create “enterprise zones” within states, and to establish societies without a state at all. Quinn Slobodian, a professor of the history of ideas at Wesleyan University, does not approve of these developments. They replace democracy with control by capitalists, who exploit workers by offering them low wages and suppressing labor unions and civil liberties.
Although Slobodian teaches the history of ideas, his own ideas lack analytical

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Deneen’s Common Good Statism

It’s likely that many readers of The Austrian support the free market and also support “traditional” social values, but in Patrick Deneen’s opinion, this is an unstable amalgam. Deneen, a political theorist who teaches at Notre Dame, thinks that the market undermines tradition and that those of us who resist the “woke” Left and want to preserve tradition ought to abandon what he sees as an uncritical devotion to the market.
Deneen says that classical and medieval political philosophy recognized that an objective good exists and posited that a political system must take account of the interests of both the few and the many. Liberalism, which comes in classical and progressive varieties, by contrast aims primarily to advance the interests of the elite, and, put into practice, it destabilizes

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Understanding Hegel from a Straussian Viewpoint

This book offers an account of Hegel that will surprise many readers—at least it surprised me. The political philosopher Leo Strauss often criticized “historicism,” the view that human beings do not have a fixed nature or essence. Instead, as José Ortega y Gasset put it, “Man, in a word, has no nature; what he has is—history.” G.W.F. Hegel was one of the foremost historicists, so you might expect Strauss to attack him. But, although he does suggest that Hegel’s philosophy has problems, his presentation is sympathetic.
In this week’s column, I’m going to comment on a few points of interest, but first I should say something about the book itself. It is a transcript of a seminar on Hegel’s Philosophy of History that Strauss offered at the University of Chicago in 1965, sometimes supplemented

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Marxist States Never “Wither Away” as Marx Predicted

In this week’s column, I’d like to continue discussing Graham Priest’s unusual book Capitalism: Its Nature and Its Replacement. Priest uses ideas he gets from Marxism and Buddhism to criticize capitalism. Last week, I said that Priest has interesting things to say about Marxism but I avoided Buddhism. This time I won’t avoid it, because the account of human personality he gets from it is crucial to his rejection of libertarianism.
Priest is an eminent logician, and he is quick to cut through nonsense. He says about historical materialism:
Marx and Engels . . . draw a distinction between the base and the superstructure of a society. The base comprises the means and relations of production: the superstructure comprises the consciousness of people. And the base determines the

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What Marxists Say about “Market Socialism”

Following the collapse of the USSR, many socialists pinned their hopes upon the development of a "market socialism" that would be economically efficient and create equality. Marxist philosopher G.A. Cohen wisely dissented.

Original Article: "What Marxists Say about "Market Socialism""

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Saving Marxism from the Labor Theory of Value: It Is Still Bad Theory

Capitalism—Its Nature and Its Replacement: Buddhist and Marxist Insightsby Graham PriestRoutledge, 2021; 312 pp.
The title of this book seems at first sight puzzling: what has Buddhism to do with Marxism? When we learn that the author accepts Karl Marx’s analysis of capitalism and also wishes to replace capitalism with a type of socialism, we might be tempted to toss the book aside. It would be a mistake to do so. The author is a distinguished logician and the book contains an interesting account of Marxist economics. In this week’s column, I’ll discuss one of Priest’s main arguments. I won’t have anything to say about Buddhism.
Priest tries to rescue Marxist economics from a familiar criticism. His attempt is interesting, but I do not think it succeeds. In the standard Marxist account,

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Cracked-Up Slobodian

Professor Quinn Slobodian believes that free markets must lead to tyrannical worker exploitation, and socialism is the only solution. In truth, market competition is the answer. 

Original Article: "Cracked-Up Slobodian"

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“National Greatness” Is Not the Appropriate Response to “Wokeism”

Up from Conservatism: Revitalizing the Right after a Generation of DecayEdited by Arthur MilikhEncounter Books, 2023; 328 pp.
The contributors to Up from Conservatism, most of whom are associated with the Claremont Institute, think that “movement” conservatism has failed, in large part through acceptance of the premises of the Left. The Right needs to carry the battle to the enemy, aiming at its destruction and its replacement by a sounder regime. The contributors include Michael Anton, David P. Goldman, Scott Yenor, and, much in the news of late, Richard Hanania, and their essays make many useful points; but the book suffers from a fatal flaw.
On the one hand, it protests against the tyranny of the state; but on the other, it calls for the expansion of that very state to bring about its

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Lost Continetti: A Neoconservative History of the Right

[The Right: The Hundred-Year War for American Conservatism. By Matthew Continetti. Basic Books, 2022. 503 pages, Amazon Kindle Edition.]
Why should we be interested in this book? At first glance, it appears that we shouldn’t be. Though the history of American conservatism is of great importance, and the author has amassed a great deal of information about it, he lacks an illuminating analytic framework; the “history” he recounts is little more than one item after another, and when he touches on intellectual matters, he is often wrong. The answer to our question is this: Continetti has a distinctive vision of what American conservatism should be, derived, for the most part, from neoconservatives. He views the political and economic ideas of Murray Rothbard and Ron Paul as inimical to the

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Outside the Universe?

David Gordon take a critical look at Markus Gabriel’s Moral Progress in Dark Times, and although he finds parts that are disturbing, he also discovers important areas of agreement.

Original Article: "Outside the Universe?"

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Praxeology with Good Huemer

Michael Huemer has made my life easier. One of my tasks at the Mises Institute is to teach praxeology to students, and doing so involves explaining a priori knowledge (i.e., what we can know just by thinking about it), a notion which many students find difficult to grasp. The task becomes even harder when you add that the a priori knowledge in question is “synthetic” knowledge that isn’t analytically true but that we can still know to be true just by thinking about it.
In order to accept synthetic a priori knowledge, must we embrace Immanuel Kant’s notoriously difficult theory of knowledge? If we decline to do so, Murray Rothbard has an alternative way to justify synthetic a priori knowledge; he appeals to Aristotelian essences, or natures. I follow him in this, but, once again, this isn’t

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What Marxists Say about “Market Socialism”

After the collapse of socialism in the Soviet Union, many socialists, reluctant to abandon their socialist convictions, shifted to a belief in “market socialism.” The great Marxist philosopher G.A. Cohen was not among them, and in this week’s column, I’d like to examine what he says about market socialism in his essay “The Future of a Disillusion,” published in the New Left Review (November–December 1991).
Cohen acknowledges that socialists were wrong to think that the market is inefficient:
We now know that the traditional socialist view about the market’s lack of planning was misconceived. It failed to acknowledge how remarkably well the unplanned market organizes information, and, indeed, how difficult it is for a planning centre to possess itself of the information about preferences

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The Ten Men Who Made the West

Download lecture slides at Mises.org/MU23_PPT_24.
Recorded at the Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, on 26 July 2023.

The Ten Men Who Made the West | David Gordon

Video of The Ten Men Who Made the West | David Gordon

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Mises and Nationalism

At a time when ethnic politics were tearing Europe apart, Ludwig von Mises believed that such ethnic devotion did more harm than good.

Original Article: "Mises and Nationalism"

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Praxeology

Praxeology is the method of economics.
Download the slides from this lecture at Mises.org/MU23_PPT_05.
Recorded at the Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, on 24 July 2023.

Praxeology | David Gordon

Video of Praxeology | David Gordon

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Mises and Nationalism

Nationalism is a potent force in the modern world, and it is not surprising that some libertarians have been attracted to it. Indeed, in some circles the slogan “Blood and Soil” has come into to use to denote a people’s attachment to the land. It should be noted that although this slogan was used by the Nazis, especially by Walter Darré, it did not originate with them but was common among German nationalists such as Oswald Spengler. It would be wrong, then, to think that libertarians who use it today are signaling a covert admiration for the Third Reich and its führer. That being said, the attitude it expresses was decidedly not that of Ludwig von Mises.
Mises makes this clear in his discussion of German nationalism in Omnipotent Government. He points out that who counted as “German” to

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Outside the Universe?

Moral Progress in Dark Times: Universal Values for the 21st Century by Markus Gabriel, translated by Wieland Hoban Polity Press, 2022; xii + 281 pp.
It would be easy to give this book a negative review, as it advocates a number of policies that from our standpoint are wrongheaded. Gabriel is especially alarmed by the dangers of “climate change” and also extols the spirit of cooperation that the German people displayed in acceding to the necessary measures to cope with the coronavirus pandemic (the book is a translation of a German work that was published in 2020, when panic about the virus was at its height).
The temptation to toss the book aside is difficult to resist when we learn that
in Germany we rely on the state as a vehicle of moral progress—an idea that came about in the context

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Misreading Mill

Patrick Deneen writes that the nonaggression principle promotes a liberalism that is harmful to society, as evidenced by John Stuart Mill’s idea of the tyranny of public opinion.

Original Article: "Misreading Mill"

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Cracked-Up Slobodian

Crack-Up Capitalism: Market Radicals and the Dream of a World without Democracyby Quinn SlobodianMetropolitan Books, 2023; 336 pp.
Quinn Slobodian, a professor of the history of ideas at Wellesley College, has a good deal to say about Murray Rothbard, and I have attempted to respond to that in a review that is to be published in the next issue of The Austrian. Slobodian also includes some comments on the Mises Institute, Lew Rockwell, and Hans-Hermann Hoppe, but concerning these, as Dante says, let us not speak of them, but look, and pass on. But the central argument of the book needs to be addressed as well.
Slobodian is very concerned with the rise in recent decades of what he calls “zones.” “What is a zone? At its most basic, it is an enclave carved out of a nation and freed from

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Huerta de Soto Reigns in Spain

Jesús Huerta de Soto, who is professor of economics at the Rey Juan Carlos University of Madrid, is the leading representative of the Austrian school of economics in Spain. He is a renowned teacher, and two of his many doctoral students, David Howden and Philipp Bagus, both now themselves professors of economics, have edited a festschrift in his honor. The contributors include students, colleagues, friends, teachers, two of his daughters, and his son. The two-volume festschrift contains many valuable essays, but I cannot do more here than comment on a few of them, as there are no less than twenty-seven essays in the first volume and twenty-four in the second, as well as two introductory essays by the editors, “Jesús Huerta de Soto: A Biographical Sketch” in the first volume and “Jesús

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In DeLong Run …

J. Bradford DeLong, who teaches economics at UC Berkeley and was a protégé of Larry Summer’s dislikes Austrian economics, which he sometimes assails on his blog. You might reasonably expect that for this reason, I will lambaste his book, which, to no one’s surprise, defends Keynesian economics and the welfare state. But I’m going to disappoint expectations. The book contains a number of insights that merit highlighting, albeit accompanied by some bad arguments as well, and I will stress the former in what follows.
Before getting to the insights, though, I’d like to address a couple of gross distortions. DeLong asks, “Have I committed an error by lumping fascists in with Nazis? A great many people did (and some do) applaud fascists, after all. . . . Economist and darling of the far right

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The Problem with Belloc’s Distributist Economy

The Political Economy of Distributism: Property, Liberty, and the Common Goodby Alexander William SalterCatholic University of America Press, 2023; xiii + 238 pp.
Distributism attracted considerable attention during the 1920s and ’30s among people who wished to apply Catholic social teaching to the modern capitalist economy, and it has recently had a revival. The appearance of The Political Economy of Distributism is particularly welcome for those seeking further information about distributism.
The author of the book, Alexander William Salter, an economist who teaches at Texas Tech University, is favorable to the free market but also sympathetic to distributism, and readers could not ask for a better guide. If after reading the book we find less value in a number of distributist proposals

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Deneen on Elitism

Last week, I discussed the way in which Patrick Deneen misreads John Stuart Mill in his book Regime Change. I’d like to continue the assault on Regime Change this week by looking at an argument he makes against libertarianism. Libertarians, Deneen alleges, are elitists. They think that ordinary people need to be ruled by an elite class of experts. They favor restrictions on democracy in order to entrench laws about property rights that benefit the rich at the expense of the masses.
Deneen tells us that
throughout its history [liberalism] has sought to preserve the idea of a knowledgeable class in advancing progress against the threat posed by the backwardness of ordinary people. Liberalism was a philosophy that posited the theoretical equality of humankind in order to justify a new

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Misreading Mill

In his just-published book Regime Change: Toward a Postliberal Future (Sentinel, 2023), the political theorist Patrick J. Deneen indicts modern liberalism, in which he includes both classical liberalism and progressive liberalism. One of his main charges against liberalism is that it rejects the view, taught both by Christianity and classical political philosophy, that true liberty consists of virtuous conduct. In this view, people must hold their passions in check in order to be truly free. Modern liberalism thinks otherwise, claims Deneen, substituting individual autonomy for virtue. According to modern liberalism, assertions that there is an objective good to be discerned, rather than chosen, are mistaken.
Deneen sees John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty (1859) as a principal source of the

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Edmund Phelps on Egalitarianism

The classical liberal economist Edmund Phelps wants government to aid poor people, but he clearly is not an egalitarian. His philosophy would be unacceptable to today’s "woke" egalitarians.

Original Article: "Edmund Phelps on Egalitarianism"

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Don’t Get on the Nationalist Bus

Like so many others in the "national greatness" movement, Christopher Buskirk understands some of the problems the country faces but fails to grasp the solutions.

Original Article: "Don’t Get on the Nationalist Bus"

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Rothbard on Utilitarianism

No matter how many times you have read a book by Ludwig von Mises or Murray Rothbard, you will find new insights if you read the book again. I found this to be true when preparing for Rothbard Graduate Seminar (RGS) this year. One of our readings was Rothbard’s For a New Liberty, and this year some of Rothbard’s arguments that I hadn’t concentrated on before attracted my attention. Usually, if you are looking for Rothbard’s views on ethics, Ethics of Liberty is the place to go, but there are some points in For a New Liberty that are different. I’m going to discuss some of Rothbard’s arguments in this week’s column.
One of the most interesting of these arguments is this:
The utilitarians declare, from their study of the consequences of liberty as opposed to alternative systems, that liberty

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There’s No Place like Noam

Noam Chomsky’s latest offering—a series of interviews—presents the best (and worst) of one of America’s premier public intellectuals.

Original Article: "There’s No Place like Noam"

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Edmund Phelps on Egalitarianism

The eminent economist Edmund Phelps is a “liberal” in the modern sense, not a libertarian, but in his recent book My Journeys in Economic Theory (Columbia University Press, 2023), he makes a number of points that those of us who are libertarians will find useful.
Opponents of rights-based libertarianism like Andrew Koppelman in his book Burning Down the House say that without government welfare programs, the poor would perish. This outcome is fine with libertarians, Koppelman thinks. Those who can’t take care of themselves deserve to die. Supporters of the free market respond, however, that private charity would not be lacking in a free society.
Phelps points out that people voluntarily donate substantial amounts of money to charity:
Standard economic theories fail to account adequately

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The Attack on the Western Tradition

[This article is adapted from a lecture delivered at the Reno Mises Circle in Reno, Nevada. on May 20, 2023.]
We are faced today with a concentrated attack on the great thinkers of the Western tradition, who are dismissed as “dead white European males.” Robert Nozick used to say that what offended him most in this phrase was the word “dead.” It’s not nice to beat up on people who can’t fight back because they are no longer here! But the attack I’m talking about is no joke. A free society depends on certain principles, and Western thinkers played a major role in their development, though they have counterparts in other civilizations as well. And there is something even more essential. In order to find out about the principles of a free society, we need to think. We must use our reason. But

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Don’t Get on the Nationalist Bus

America and the Art of the Possible: Restoring National Vitality in an Age of Decayby Christopher BuskirkEncounter Books, 2023; xxv + 162 pp.
Christopher Buskirk is the publisher and editor of the magazine American Greatness, and the title of that magazine, like that of the book, shows his principal concern. How can the American people regain the sense of optimism and purpose which we once had but have now lost?
Buskirk says that in
the public sphere, civilizational vitality is shown in a capacity for collective action, which is rooted in what the fourteenth-century Arab philosopher Ibn Khaldun called asabiyya. This concept can be understood as social cohesion, national or civilizational purpose, a feeling of being in it together and for the same reasons. (p. xi)
Later in the book,

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The Men Who Made the West

Every day, more and more Americans are awakening to the reality that the institutions in control of this nation are failing them. From violence in the streets, inflation in our stores, increasing tyranny and censorship, and absolute buffoonery on public display in halls of political power. The ruling class is getting richer while most of us suffer, and new generations are becoming increasingly warped by the dangerous ideologies of the left.
Recorded at The Depot Craft Brewery & Distillery in Reno, Nevada on May 20th, 2023.

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Is Social Justice Just? A Review

Modern Western culture is dominated by demands for "social justice." But how does one even define this term, and does social justice even produce justice in the end?

Original Article: "Is Social Justice Just? A Review"

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There’s No Place like Noam

Illegitimate Authority: Facing the Challenges of Our Timeby Noam Chomsky, edited by C.J. PolychroniouHaymarket Books, 2023; x + 330 pp.
Noam Chomsky is universally respected for his contributions to linguistics and to the philosophy of mind, but he is a “public intellectual” as well, and it is in the public arena that opinion about him is divided. Illegitimate Authority is a collection of thirty-four interviews of him by C.J. Polychroniou, the book’s editor, and the economist Robert Pollin, and reading it makes clear why people react strongly to Chomsky’s opinions. He speaks with supreme self-confidence, and if you disagree with him, you are likely to turn away angrily. I often felt like doing this while reading the book, but nevertheless what he says is often insightful. In brief, Chomsky

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Practice Makes Parfit

Parfit: A Philosopher and His Mission to Save Moralityby David EdmondsPrinceton, 2023; xx + 380 pp.
The British philosopher Derek Parfit ranks as one of the most influential moral philosophers of the past century. But as David Edmonds says in his outstanding biography of him, Parfit was a “philosopher’s philosopher” who did not write for the general public. Edmonds, who has a gift for explaining difficult ideas simply, has made Parfit’s ideas accessible to a wide audience. You might ask, why has he done so as a biography, rather than as a guidebook confined to Parfit’s thought? The answer is that Parfit was one of the great British eccentrics—in the opinion of his student and friend Ruth Chang, “probably the strangest person” she knew, and the book is filled with anecdotes about him. I

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Lincoln’s Main Target Was “Anarchy” and Secession, Not Slavery

Once the Southern states accepted the Thirteenth Amendment, Lincoln was entirely content for the old Southern elites to resume their positions of power and for many blacks to continue in a condition little better than bondage.

Original Article: "Lincoln’s Main Target Was "Anarchy" and Secession, Not Slavery"

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Is Social Justice Just? A Review

Is Social Justice Just?Edited by Robert M. Whaples, Michael C. Munger, and Christopher J. CoyneIndependent Institute, 2023; xxiii + 348 pp.
Before one can answer the question posed by this excellent book’s title, one needs to ask what social justice is, and answering this proves to be no easy task. As Robert Whaples says, “For many, the term social justice is baffling and useless, with no real meaning. Most who use it argue that social justice is the moral fairness of the system of rules and norms that govern society.”
The book contains nineteen essays by distinguished scholars favorable to the free market. The essays attempt to determine what social justice is and to assess its merits. It contains, as well, a foreword by the famous psychologist Jordan Peterson, a preface by the eminent

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Equality Requires State Violence

Although equality and "equity" are modern buzzwords, the only way to reach such a social nirvana is through violent means. Do we really want to go there?

Original Article: "Equality Requires State Violence"
This Audio Mises Wire is generously sponsored by Christopher Condon.

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The Environmentalist Revolt against Humanity.

The Revolt against Humanity: Imagining a Future without Usby Adam KirschColumbia Global Reports, 2023; 100 pp.
Aristotle says in book 1 of the Nicomachean Ethics that “happiness, therefore, being found to be something final and self-sufficient, is the End at which all actions aim.” The Greek word eudaimonia, “happiness” in this edition, is often translated as “flourishing.”
Isn’t it obviously true that you want your life to flourish? Of course, all sorts of bad things can happen to you, but they aren’t what you aim for. Some people think there is more to morality than happiness, or define “morality” so that it includes only duties to others, but even those who do this usually acknowledge that seeking your own happiness is important.
In his new book, Adam Kirsch, a poet and literary critic

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An American Originalist

Scalia: Rise to Greatness, 1936–1986by James RosenRegnery Publishing, 2023496 pages
James Rosen, who has written biographies of John Mitchell and Dick Cheney, and was for many years a reporter for Fox News, is a neoconservative and Reagan Republican. He has found an ideal biographical subject in Antonin Scalia, a Reagan Republican, who served for thirty years on the Supreme Court. The volume under review, the first of two, covers the time from Scalia’s birth to his appointment to the court; it concludes with Scalia’s installation ceremony. Rosen has made much more extensive use of Scalia’s papers than two previous biographers, as he never ceases to remind us; and it is easy to see why he has been granted this access. His attitude toward Scalia falls little short of adulation.
The book also

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Lincoln’s Main Target Was “Anarchy” and Secession, Not Slavery

In a recent column, I discussed an argument about secession made by Abraham Lincoln and sympathetically expounded by Michael P. Zuckert in his important book A Nation So Conceived. Lincoln maintained that a nation once formed could not allow secession because doing so would open it to unlimited fissiparous tendencies, culminating in anarchy. This argument did not address the problem of slavery, surely relevant to the concrete circumstances of the Civil War. Zuckert has a suggestive, though in my view mistaken, discussion of Lincoln’s view of secession and slavery, and in this week’s article, I’ll try to explain Zuckert’s position and the difficulties he faces defending it.
Zuckert’s position is this: Lincoln considered slavery to be morally wrong and contrary to the Declaration of

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If at First You Don’t Secede . . .

David Gordon explores how Abraham Lincoln’s stated view on secession was fundamentally Hobbesian, cynical, and violent. 

Original Article: "If at First You Don’t Secede . . ."
This Audio Mises Wire is generously sponsored by Christopher Condon.

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Equality Requires State Violence

In his excellent new book In Defense of Capitalism (Republic Book Publishers, 2023), the historian and political scientist Rainer Zitelmann asks a vital question about inequality. In asking this question, he makes a move characteristic of his work. Demands to reduce inequality of wealth and income are widespread, and often debates about proposals to do this are centered in political philosophy. Do people have natural rights to their property that state-mandated measures of redistribution violate? Is inequality inherently bad?
Zitelmann has some interest in questions like these, but his primary focus is elsewhere. He asks what the empirical record tells us about measures to promote equality. He in effect says to defenders of redistribution, “You will have to pay a price for what you want

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If at First You Don’t Secede . . .

A Nation So Conceived: Abraham Lincoln and the Paradox of Democratic Sovereigntyby Michael P. ZuckertUniversity Press of Kansas, 2023; 416 pp.
Michael Zuckert, a political philosopher who teaches at the University of Notre Dame, tries to make the best case he can for Abraham Lincoln, but in doing so he offers substantial material that supports those critical of the Great Emancipator. The book analyzes a number of speeches Lincoln gave, beginning with an early talk about the perpetuation of American institutions, delivered in 1838, and ending with the second inaugural address in 1865, and also discusses the political contexts within which these speeches were given.
Zuckert, a follower of Leo Strauss, argues that the speeches are always carefully organized and thought out and sometimes,

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Wisdom from a Yenta

Philosopher Susan Neiman may be a leftist, but she recognizes the dangers of woke progressivism.

Original Article: "Wisdom from a Yenta"
This Audio Mises Wire is generously sponsored by Christopher Condon.

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Wisdom from a Yenta

Left Is Not Wokeby Susan NeimanPolity Press, 2023; 155 pp.
There is much to dislike in this book. Susan Neiman, a former philosophy professor who now heads the “Einstein Discussion Group” in Potsdam, is a socialist who has good things to say about Communist East Germany and parrots every anticapitalist cliché in the book. I have blasted some of her work in earlier reviews. In Left Is Not Woke, though, she makes some good points, and I’m going to concentrate on them in this week’s column.
As you would expect, she sympathizes with the grievances of blacks and other minorities and supports Black Lives Matter. But she thinks that some people in the “woke” Left have gone too far. In their eagerness to find racism everywhere, they dismiss rights and justice as ideological concepts and denounce

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The Rise of the Medical Security State

The New Abnormal: The Rise of the Biomedical Security Stateby Aaron KheriatyRegnery Publishing, 2022; xxv + 278 pp.
Aaron Kheriaty is a medical doctor who taught for many years at the University of California Irvine School of Medicine and headed the school’s medical ethics program. Though highly regarded as a teacher, he became a “nonperson” when he challenged the university’s compulsory covid vaccination policy and was fired from his position: “In 2021 I found myself in the teeth of the unfolding biomedical security regime. . . . I sacrificed my career as an academic physician to challenge the constitutionality of vaccine mandates.”
As an expert in medical ethics, Kheriaty soon came to question compulsory vaccination. The vaccine had not been adequately tested, and evidence that it often

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Nonmeasure for Nonmeasure

How do people in a pluralistic society live peacefully with each other? In his review of Kenneth McIntyre’s book, David Gordon points to negative liberty as the best way to preserve values.

Original Article: "Nonmeasure for Nonmeasure"
This Audio Mises Wire is generously sponsored by Christopher Condon.

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The Balfour Declaration

Teaching high schoolers economics means teaching Austrian principles.

Original Article: "The Balfour Declaration"
This Audio Mises Wire is generously sponsored by Christopher Condon.

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Nonmeasure for Nonmeasure

Nomocratic Pluralism: Plural Values, Negative Liberty, and the Rule of Lawby Kenneth B. McIntyrePalgrave Macmillan, 2021; xii + 214 pp.
Kenneth McIntyre, a political theorist and historian who teaches at Sam Houston State University, addresses one of the most difficult questions in political philosophy in his excellent book. It is a question that should interest everyone who wants a free society. McIntyre sets forward his answer with an immense command of the scholarly literature and makes many acute remarks along the way. In what follows, I’ll comment on a few of the issues he discusses.
McIntyre’s basic argument is this. People have different values, and there is no procedure rationally compelling to everybody by which to show that there is one set of values that is best. It isn’t that

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The Balfour Declaration

Economics in ActionBy Brian BalfourThales Press, 2022; 306 pp.
“Public” high schools are for the most part rotten to the core, and it is widely recognized, if not quite “a truth universally acknowledged,” that they need to be replaced. But what should students in private schools or homeschooling programs be taught? If we wish to rescue our young people from the socialist and “woke” propaganda inflicted on them in government institutions, it is essential that they have sound textbooks and other programs of learning. In the effort to provide these, no one has done as much as the renowned entrepreneur and friend of the Mises Institute Robert Luddy, who has established the Thales Academies, which are based on a classical curriculum.
One of the key subjects high school students ought to learn

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Once More unto the Veatch

Human Rights: Fact or Fancy?by Henry B. VeatchLSU Press, 1985; xii + 258 pp.
Henry Veatch was one of the foremost philosophers of the twentieth century, though sadly neglected by most contemporary analytic philosophers. He was a resolute defender of Aristotelian ethics against rival ethical systems, and in this week’s column, I’d like to look at an argument which he deploys against these rivals in his book Human Rights: Fact or Fancy?
The argument is this. A system of ethics must offer a convincing answer to the question “Why be moral?” Answers to this question must meet two requirements, but the requirements seem difficult to meet at the same time. Only Aristotelian ethics has an intellectually satisfying answer.
For Veatch, then, moral motivation is crucial. He says,
When it comes to a

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Mill at a Loss

On John Stuart Millby Philip KitcherColumbia University Press, 2023; 152 pp.
John Stuart Mill wasn’t Murray Rothbard’s favorite philosopher, and Philip Kitcher’s short book would confirm this dislike. Rothbard viewed Mill as a fuzzy thinker, overly prone to compromise and averse to firm principles. These qualities are among those that lead Kitcher to praise Mill, but Rothbardians nevertheless have much to learn from Kitcher, who is a leading analytic philosopher, especially notable for his work on Immanuel Kant and the pragmatists.
His book, the title of which evokes Mill’s famous essay On Liberty, includes a number of interesting arguments, many of them mistaken. But Kitcher also presents in the book a brilliant point about aggregative versions of utilitarianism, so good that it almost

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The Government Seeks Totalitarian Money

The Global Currency Plot: How the Deep State Will Betray Your Freedom, and How to Prevent Itby Thorsten PolleitLudwig von Mises Institute, 2023; 190 pp.
Thorsten Polleit’s outstanding new book is packed with insights about both the philosophy of economics and economic policy, and as he shows, his philosophical standpoint enables him to grasp the essence of the financial world, of which he is a master.
Polleit is a follower of Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, and Hans-Hermann Hoppe, and like them, he argues that economics offers us a priori truths about the world. “What is meant by the term a priori theory? The term a priori means that something is evident, that can be regarded as true and universal, independent of experience.” By “independent of experience,” Polleit of course doesn’t

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Ethics for Inhumans

What We Owe the Futureby William MacAskillBasic Books, 2022; 333 pp.
William MacAskill, a philosophy professor at Oxford and a leading light of the effective altruism movement, has recently been in the news owing to the frenzied and fraudulent finance of his protégé Sam Bankman-Fried, who now awaits trial. The “effective altruists” took seriously the implications Peter Singer drew from his famous thought experiment: Suppose you come across a small child who is drowning in a pond. You can easily rescue the child, but if you do so, you will ruin the expensive pair of shoes you are wearing. If you refuse to save the child, wouldn’t this show you are a heartless brute? But, Singer says, nothing in the moral point of the example depends on your close physical proximity to the child. If you had

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R.G. Collingwood on the Collapse of Civilization

R.G. Collingwood, a philosopher, historian, and archaeologist who taught at Oxford in the first half of the twentieth century, was much esteemed by Ludwig von Mises, especially for his essay “Economics as a Philosophical Science” and, more generally, for his work in the philosophy of history. In this week’s column, I’d like to consider a point that Collingwood makes in his “Fascism and Nazism,” published in Philosophy in 1940, that helps us answer a vital question that confronts us today.
The question is this. The case for a complete free market and a noninterventionist foreign policy is an excellent one. Mises showed conclusively that socialism cannot work, and there is no intermediate system between capitalism and socialism that is sustainable in the long run. The failure of an

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Review: Free Market: The History of an Idea

Jacob Soll is a distinguished historian, and Free Market contains much of value, but the book cannot be considered a success, and indeed as it reaches the twentieth century, it becomes a disaster. Even in the parts of the book worth reading, Soll is in the iron grip of a central thesis, one that his historical approach by its nature makes impossible to prove.

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Democracy without Foundations

In last week’s column, I criticized Jedediah Purdy for the ignorance of economic theory on display in his Two Cheers for Politics. Fortunately, the book contains much of interest, reflecting the author’s wide knowledge of the history of political philosophy. I have to say, though, that the main argument of the book strikes me as utterly unconvincing.

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Review: The Politically Incorrect Guide to Economics

Like Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard, Tom DiLorenzo is an economist with an extraordinary knowledge of history, and this shows to great advantage in his brilliant new book. In it, he stresses that economists who fail to grasp how the free market works often devise elaborate theories to show “market failures,” but when examined in the light of historical evidence, these theories fall to the ground.

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What Is Wrong with the Fed’s Inflationist Policy?

Christopher Leonard’s book brings to mind the familiar line from Faust: “Two souls, alas! dwell in my breast.” Leonard offers a penetrating criticism of the Fed’s vast expansion of the money supply, which has won for him praise from the noted hard-money advocate and friend of the Mises Institute James Grant.

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This Professor Hates the Austrian School. But He Clearly Doesn’t Know Much about It.

Rob Larson, who is a professor of economics at Tacoma Community College in Washington, does not agree with Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, and Friedman that the free market promotes freedom and prosperity and that socialism is the “road to serfdom.” That is an understatement, and you won’t find any understatements in this book. To the contrary, the book abounds in wild accusations.

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Why There Is No Free Lunch

Caleb Fuller, an economist who teaches at Grove City College, thinks that many people have a mistaken conception of economics. It is, they think, a dull and dry subject, the “dismal science,” of primary interest to specialists. Fuller disagrees. He says that “economics changed my life” (p. 11; all page references are to the Amazon Kindle edition), and in this wonderful short book, which can be read in an hour or so, he conveys his infectious enthusiasm for it.

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The Battle over the Free Market

Nicholas Wapshott is a British journalist and biographer with a strong interest in economic theory. He says that the Nobel laureate Edmund Phelps is his mentor. One theme in twentieth-century economics dominates his work: the clash between economists who favor the free market and those who support a “mixed economy,” in which the government plays a large role.

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Why Worrying about Everything Is Bad Foreign Policy

The subtitle of John Mueller’s excellent new book suggests that something unusual is in store for the reader. If someone is called complacent, he is hardly being complimented; how then can there be a “case for complacency”? In brief, Mueller thinks that most of the threats and dangers that confront nations are really not that much to worry about, if they are not altogether imaginary.

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Is Self-Ownership Necessary?

Audio Mises Wire

Isn’t a principle of nonaggression against others another way of stating the self-ownership principle? "Not necessarily," says the insightful philosopher Chandran Kukathas.

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Community and Civil Society over State

Raghuram Rajan has written a surprising book. Now teaching finance at the University of Chicago, he is an international bureaucrat in good standing, and not a minor one at that; he was chief economist of the International Monetary Fund. Yet far from calling for an increase in “global governance,” as one might expect from someone with his background, he wants to strengthen the local, “proximate,” community.

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Hayek, Friedman, Buchanan: The Villains of “Neoliberalism”

Wendy Brown, a well-known political theorist who teaches at UC Berkeley, does not like Friedrich Hayek very much. She in part blames him and others as well, including Milton Friedman and James Buchanan, for policies that have led to the bad state of the world in general and America in particular today.

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Double Standards, Reparations, and War Crimes

Joan Wallach Scott, a historian who is a professor emerita at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, has come up with a most valuable insight. She is decidedly not “one of us,” but her insight makes her sound as if she might be.

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Escaping Paternalism

Some economists, such as the 2017 Nobel Laureate Richard Thaler and his colleague Cass Sunstein, have proposed an unusual justification for government interference with people’s choices. They do not intend, they say, to override the preferences that people have. They don’t want to tell people what they “should” want, according to an external standard that people don’t accept.

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Mises and Moral Relativism

I heard several days ago from my friend Larry Beane that people in Walter Block’s seminar who had been reading Theory and History wondered whether Mises is a moral relativist. As I’ll try to show, the answer depends on what you mean by “moral relativist,” but in the way the term is usually understood in contemporary philosophy, he isn’t.

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Monetary Policy Flapping in the Wind

Stephanie Kelton’s new book has attracted much attention, and Bob Murphy and Jeff Deist have already reviewed it, with devastating results. Why another review? The policies proposed in the book are so pernicious that further exposure of what she has in store for us is needed, and I have some new points to offer for your consideration.

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Walter Berns and the Cult of “Patriotic” Sacrifice

[unable to retrieve full-text content]In his great new book The Problem with Lincoln, Tom DiLorenzo brought back an old memory. As Tom points out, Walter Berns, who taught political science at Cornell and then worked for the American Enterprise Institute, was one of the main figures urging us to worship Honest Abe.

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Does the Free Market Corrupt People?

The political theorist Michael J. Sandel is a popular teacher at Harvard, and his lectures circulate widely on YouTube and elsewhere. He attracted attention as a serious political theorist with his critical work on John Rawls, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (1982). As most readers will know, I’m no fan of Rawls, and it’s easy to find poor arguments in his A Theory of Justice. But Sandel totally misunderstands him, and his attack on Rawls fails.

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Rothbard: The Constitution Was a Coup d’État

[Conceived in Liberty: The New Republic, 1784–1791. By Murray N. Rothbard. Edited by Patrick Newman. Mises Institute, 2019. 332 pages.] We owe Patrick Newman a great debt for his enterprise and editorial skill in bringing to publication the fifth volume, hitherto thought lost, of Murray Rothbard’s Conceived in Liberty.

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Money, Inflation, and Business Cycles: The Cantillon Effect and the Economy

Abstract: Austrian economists hold that money matters a great deal in concrete terms in the immediate short run and has permanent long-run effects. Sierońs book investigates the Cantillon effect, which indicates that money is not neutral because inevitabily it is injected unevenly, creating economic distortions. These distortions are important to the long run and the Austrian theory of the business cycle.

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Luck and Taxes

“Luck egalitarianism” is a philosophical fad, and in the past I have had some characteristically unkind things to say about it. I’d like today to discuss a new argument that concerns luck and government. The economist Robert H. Frank says in Under the Influence, Because successful people often fail to appreciate the importance of seemingly minor random events in life, they tend to develop an exaggerated sense of entitlement to the enormous material rewards they command in the marketplace.

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Economist: Your Freedom Is Dangerous Because You Might Set a Bad Example

Last week I discussed a new argument against paternalism in the important book of Mario Rizzo and Glen Whitman, Escaping Paternalism. Today I’d like to give the other side a chance. Robert H. Frank is an economist at Cornell University, well-regarded for his work on the emotions and usually anxious to stress the flaws of the free market. In his just-published Under the Influence, he offers, among many other things, a defense of high taxes on cigarettes, and this is what I’m going to talk about today.

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Why Paternalists Keep Calling Us “Irrational”

Some economists, such as the 2017 Nobel Laureate Richard Thaler and his colleague Cass Sunstein, have proposed an unusual justification for government interference with people’s choices. They do not intend, they say, to override the preferences that people have. They don’t want to tell people what they “should” want, according to an external standard that people don’t accept. They claim, however, that accepting the actual preferences people have still leaves room for government intervention. How is this possible? Their answer is that people often choose in an irrational way.

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Is Greater Productivity a Danger?

It is bad enough that opponents of the free market wrongly blame capitalism for environmental pollution, depressions, and wars. Whatever the failings of their causal theories, at least they are focused on undoubtedly bad things. We have really gone beyond the pale, though, when the market is blamed for something good.

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Failing to Emigrate Does Not Mean You Give Consent to the State

Eric Nelson, a Professor Government at Harvard, has published this year a brilliant and imaginative book, The Theology of Liberalism (Harvard University Press, 2019). Nelson, it should be said, is no leftist, despite what you might expect from his Harvard affiliation. To the contrary, he is a conservative and favors, though not to the fullest extent, the free market and private property rights.

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Yes, Taxation Is Theft

Libertarians think that taxation is theft. The government takes away part of your income and property by force. Your payments aren’t voluntary. If you think they are, try to withhold payment and see what happens.
An influential book by Liam Murphy and Thomas Nagel, The Myth of Ownership, tries to show that this view of taxation is wrong. Many people, they say, foolishly resent taxes.

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6b.) P: Mises.org 2015-04-06 21:25:00

Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito

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