The Many Presidents Before George Washington

By Sarah Stone

Schools in the United States teach children from an early age that the first president of the United States was George Washington. But teachers often forget to mention a small, kind of important detail- George Washington was the first U.S. president under the current United States Constitution, but he wasn’t the country’s first president.

Before the U.S. Constitution came into being, the Articles of Confederation served as the glue which held all thirteen states together as a single country. (See: The Articles of Confederation: The Constitution Before the Constitution) The Articles went into effect in 1781, and they established a loose alliance among the states. The Articles also defined the role of Congress to oversee the national needs, as well as the office of the president.

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Rethinking the Articles of Confederation

by H.A.Scott Trask

An assumption that dominates American historical studies is that the wealth and prosperity of the country would be much less without the existence of a powerful central government. This theme is but part of a larger, and now international, orthodoxy that larger political jurisdictions, as long as they are “democratic,” foster liberty and economic growth while smaller ones stifle it.

In Europe, elites hold up an all-European government as the golden road to a brighter and wealthier future. Others go further, such as Atlantic Monthly correspondent Robert D. Kaplan, and argue that eventual “world governance” by “global elites” is both inevitable and desirable. Kaplan, whose books are read by high-ranking government officials and journalists, believes that free markets, democracy, and liberty shall thrive under a world regime.

The truth is far different. All of history attests that the centralization and concentration of power breed despotism. In the history of European civilization, liberty and civilization have thrived when political power has been dispersed and checked. Contrast the Greek city states with the polyglot Alexandrian empire, the Roman Republic with the world-sprawling Roman Empire, medieval Europe with 20th century Europe. The nature of man being what it is, irresponsible, unchecked power has been, and always will be, abused, and there is no better way of rendering state power oppressive than by concentrating rather than dispersing it.

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How the Left Exploits Anti-Racism to Attack Capitalism

by Ryan McMaken

Joseph Schumpeter once observed “capitalism stands its trial before judges who have the sentence of death in their pockets.” Capitalism is to be condemned no matter what, even if the executioners have yet to settle on the specific reason for its condemnation.

The forces of anti-capitalism have long morphed into whatever form best suits them for taking advantage of the zeitgeist. Whatever the latest injustice may be — from a polluted environment to poverty to racism — the solution is always the same: the destruction of markets and market freedom. As Ralph Raico has noted:

In earlier times, they [i.e., the anti-capitalists] indicted capitalism for the immiseration of the proletariat, inevitable depressions, and the disappearance of the middle classes. Then, a little later, it was for imperialism and inevitable wars among the imperialist (capitalist) powers. …

Capitalism was charged with being unable to compete with socialist societies in technological progress (Sputnik); with promoting automation, leading to catastrophic permanent unemployment; both with creating the consumer society and its piggish affluence and with proving incapable of extending such piggishness to the underclass; with “neo-colonialism”; with oppressing women and racial minorities; with spawning a meretricious popular culture; and with destroying the earth itself.

At the moment, the Left has apparently settled on racism as the justification for the latest round of anti-capitalist invective. Indeed, if we delve into the Left’s narrative underpinning of the current Black Lives Matter movement we find a sizable undercurrent of anti-capitalism. This isn’t to say anti-racism has nothing to do with the controversy. Clearly it is an element of the movement. Moreover, it may certainly be the case that most of the movement’s rank and file — those who demonstrate in the streets — are animated simply by a desire to end mistreatment by government police. But when it comes time to formulate policy responses to the current crises of police abuse, we’re likely to discover the Left is demanding a “solution” that goes far beyond merely holding abusive cops accountable, and will focus instead on further dismantling what’s left of the market economy.

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Rothbard’s Challenging History of the Revolutionary War and the Constitution

Written by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel

The Constitution has traditionally been viewed as the culmination of the American Revolution, brought about through judicious compromise by the country’s most distinguished and enlightened statesmen. Some version of this established American folklore still tends to be repeated in high school and college texts and in the popular media. But the interdisciplinary and prolific libertarian scholar, the late Murray Rothbard, in the fifth and final volume of Conceived in Liberty, portrays the Constitution as a reactionary counter-revolution against the Revolution’s radical principles, orchestrated by a powerful array of mercantile, creditor, and landed interests that sought a central government that would reproduce many of the hierarchical and mercantilist features of the eighteenth-century British fiscal-military State. 

Having this volume finally available is an unexpected and noteworthy accomplishment. The first volume of Conceived in Liberty was published in 1975. It was part of a projected multi-volume history of America from the founding of the colonies to the adoption of the Constitution. Three more volumes came out in due course. But the fifth volume, which promised to explore the period from the end of the American Revolution to the Constitution’s ratification, never appeared. Rumors circulated that Arlington House, the conservative publisher of the first four volumes, was not happy with Rothbard’s critical approach to the Constitution. But the actual explanation is probably more mundane, given that Arlington House went out of business in the early 1980s. By the time of Rothbard’s death in 1995, any trace of the fifth volume was thought to be irretrievably lost. But it turns out that an early manuscript copy, partly typed but mostly handwritten, ended up in the Mises Institute archives. Economic historian Patrick Newman, after painstakingly deciphering Rothbard’s scrawl, has shepherded the volume into publication. 

When the first volume of Conceived in Liberty came out, I was a graduate student, and my field at the time was colonial history. The volume’s 531 pages, written with the assistance of Leonard Liggio, covered the American colonies during the 17th Century. I already knew a good bit about the subject. Yet upon reading this volume, I was amazed at its comprehensive coverage, detailed accuracy, and above all, its unique and revealing interpretations. The next three volumes, all shorter, lived up to the same high standard. Newman has enhanced the readability and usefulness of the fifth volume by perceptively dividing Rothbard’s manuscript into sections and chapters, adding an explanatory introduction, and creating an index. The introduction also includes brief summaries of the earlier volumes to help orient readers, although no summaries can do these works full justice and substitute for consulting them directly. 

This final volume is not quite up to the earlier volumes. How could it be? It does not have the kind of thorough bibliographic essay that graced each of the previous volumes, although Newman has partly remedied this by supplementing Rothbard’s few footnotes with his own editorial footnotes, providing supporting references. Despite Rothbard’s reputation for being able to make his first draft his final draft, his earlier volumes definitely went through some editing by others. And the fact that Rothbard’s original manuscript for the fifth volume apparently dates back to 1966, well before publication of any of the other volumes, strongly suggests that Rothbard would have done much editing himself, expanding on certain sections. In the other volumes, he clearly consulted important sources that appeared only after 1966. Finally the last volume could have done without Judge Andrew P. Napolitano’s fervid foreword, which tends to weaken the book’s appeal to a wider audience. 

The book is still vintage Rothbard, from start to finish. Not everyone will be comfortable with how he infuses the narrative with his own strong opinions and anti-State ideology. As in all of his historical writing, he starkly identifies those he considers heroes or villains. That sometimes leads to a lack of nuance, understating or ignoring the flaws of his heroes and the virtues of his villains. To paraphrase Ayn Rand, although principles may be black and white, men and women are often gray. But on the other hand, Rothbard’s partisanship actually helps to vividly capture the acrimonious sectarian and personal divisiveness of the period and serves as an antidote to the tendency of many other accounts to minimize these disputes and conflicts. I don’t accept every single one of Rothbard’s judgments, but there are very few serious works of history that I agree with entirely.

Like the previous volumes of Conceived in Liberty, the fifth is richly detailed with actors and events. The more you already know about whatever historical period Rothbard treats, the more insights you will find, with the downside that general readers may get a bit overwhelmed. At the same time, this volume feels slightly less comprehensive compared with the others. He does not get into some topics I would have expected him to cover, and there are other topics I would have expected him to cover in greater length. Nonetheless, the final volume of Conceived in Liberty remains a valuable and impressive scholarly contribution. It deftly synthesizes the myriad studies of other historians into a compelling and singular survey.

The first section of the book deals with the so-called “critical period” in U.S. history, after the war had ended. Rothbard quickly disposes of the common belief, both at the time and among some historians, that the post-war economic hardships were due to excessive importation of inexpensive British goods. Anticipating the more recent findings of economic historians, he attributes these hardships partly to the fact that, after the war ended, the U.S. faced all the mercantilist restrictions that Britain applied to other foreign countries. When the colonies were still inside the empire, they were hindered by some of these restrictions but aided by others. Consequently Britain had been the colonies’ major trading partner, and independence forced a painful reorientation of American trade. This in turn created pressures from merchants and artisans for a more powerful government that could retaliate with navigation laws protecting American shipping and tariffs protecting American manufactures.

A second economic problem was the lingering Revolutionary War debt. The state governments devoted the largest portion of their post-war expenditures not only to servicing their own war debts but also, in some cases, to assuming Congress’s debts. Doing so required a tax burden undreamed of before the war. Eventually most states adopted a gradual approach, easing the burden with various forms of taxpayer relief, including in seven states, new issues of paper money. But the Massachusetts government was exceptionally aggressive in trying to pay both interest and principal on its debt quickly. This is what provoked Shays’ Rebellion in the western part of the state in 1786. Although portrayed by nationalists then and by historians for a long time afterwards as a debtor’s revolt, Shays’ Rebellion was essentially a tax revolt, like the American Revolution before and the Whiskey Rebellion later…

The rest of the story continues here.

Slavery Rampant In Africa, Middle East; The West Wrongly Accuses Itself

Authored by Giulio Meotti via The Gatestone Institute,

The United States abolished slavery 150 years ago, and has affirmative action for minorities. It is the country that elected a Black president, Barack Obama — twice! Yet, a new movement is toppling one historic monument after another one, as if the US is still enslaving African-Americans. Activists in Washington DC even targeted an Emancipation Memorial, depicting President Abraham Lincoln, who paid with his life for freeing slaves.

Today slavery still exists in many parts of Africa and Middle East, but the self-flagellating Western public is obsessively focused only on the Western past of African slavery rather than on real, ongoing slavery, which is alive and well — and ignored. For today’s slaves, there are no demonstrations in the streets, no international political pressure, and virtually no articles in the media.

“We must not forget that Arab-Muslims have been champions in this field,” Kamel Bencheikh, a Muslim poet, wrote in Le Matin d’Algerie.

The article continues here at this link.

Random Thoughts: Economics and Human Action

“Even apart from the instability due to speculation, there is the instability due to the characteristic of human nature that a large proportion of our positive activities depend on spontaneous optimism rather than mathematical expectations, whether moral or hedonistic or economic. Most, probably, of our decisions to do something positive, the full consequences of which will be drawn out over many days to come, can only be taken as the result of animal spirits—a spontaneous urge to action rather than inaction, and not as the outcome of a weighted average of quantitative benefits multiplied by quantitative probabilities”~John Maynard Keynes

Introduction

Since the advent of John Maynard Keynes’ economic system, economists are constantly expanding Keynes’s system. Governments are using more and more statistical analysis for the development of public policy. Subsequently, Economists are available to correlate how government policies allegedly are helping the economy. In turn, elected officials can provide reports, for example, on how favorable GDP metrics are demonstrating economic growth. How do these items correlate to the individual citizen?

What is Economics?

Economics:  A science that is highly misunderstood by many. Many presume that it is a study about money. Or, they believe it is a study about investing in the stock market. While money is something that is analyzed inside the body of knowledge of economics, it is not the only subject matter in economics. In a typical entry level economics course, the student is introduced to graphs, charts and diagrams. These items are utilized to help the user understand economics, but are they the basis of economic thought? While stats, math, and calculus are valuable tools used by economic scientists, these tools do not provide the foundations of economic thought. Here is a definition of economic thought: Economics is the study of humans managing scarce resources with alternative uses. Since this is the case, Economics is a human behavioral science. On average, Economists do not venture into the notion of why someone makes the decision, they simply explain outcome of the decision. The rationale of the human action is left up to a different branch of behavioral science.(e.g. Psychology, Philosophy, Sociology, and the like)

If economics is about humans managing scarce resources, and those resources have alternative uses, how do these resources become scarce? What is scarcity?  What are the alternative uses? The foundation of these questions not only are addressed in the field of economics, but also in the studies of philosophy.

Human Action

As previously mentioned, the average person presumes Economics is simply dealing in matters of money—using math, graphs, and a large amount of technical jargon. While math is used in Economics, it is an attempt to quantify what happened and project what could happen; this forward thinking speculation is rooted on what has happened. However, at the core, this is not needed to make economic analysis, albeit it is useful. It is not needed to gain an above average understanding of economics. What is needed to be made clear: Economics is rooted in human action. Diagrams and complex calculus are simply means to attempt to explain human action. The axioms of human behavior are not derived from math, as they are derived from logical a priori reasoning. It is worth repeating: Math is vital in helping to understand what happened, with regards to economic activity, however, it is not going to address all what happened with regards to human action.

With human behavior, it is always purposeful. It is driven based upon a need to improve the current condition—many would call this process, “the pursuit of happiness”. That need to improve the current condition is subjective to the individual. This drive to improve one’s condition, to seek happiness, is initiated by the human will.

This will is in all living creatures. It is the drive to push humans, and living creatures, to expand, grown, transform..similar to metamorphosis of a caterpillar to a monarch butterfly. This transformation must occur..organically, as if it is done any other way, it shall be to the detriment of the butterfly.

Human Action is Subjective

With humans, the use of the notion of will combined with other factors helps shape their direction in economic interactions. Since all humans are unique and subjectively different, the objectives and goals shall be different.

This notion was not uncovered, in the field of economics, until the thinkers such as Carl Menger, Stanley Jevons, and Leon Walras. Ironically, these three thinkers were able to draw similar conclusions regarding human behavior: Humans preferences are subjective. Since those preferences are subjective, mathematics can not capture all of the human action in a model, albeit it is still a useful tool to utilize.

Human action..Its subjectivity lends itself to dynamic interplay between individuals, firms, and the like. This makes the interaction very unpredictable…for central planners to accurately map out and manage an economy. Consider this: If an economy comprises millions of individuals, and those individuals each have their own subjective preferences, which change each second, the task of successfully planning an economy would be near impossible. That is because it is impossible. The Soviets, for example, tried, failed, and the collapse was inevitable.

Subjective Value Ranking

Humans are driven by the human will, as a life force that pushes them to action. However, the individual things that humans prefer to act upon are varied. That variance is based upon the fact that humans value things differently. This leads to the concept of utility. Utility is an economic term that describes, simply put, the things the economic actor places a value therein. Those things of value are not equal. Also: Since humans can place values upon multiple things, yet they can act on one value at a time, therefore, the human will have a ranking of some sort. This is not a conscious endeavor, as this ranking derives from other psychological means. The top of the utility ranking represents the highest valued items, as the ranking proceeds down, those value become less valuable to the human engaged in economic activity. It should be noted that this ranking can be altered at any moment in time, and many items are constantly changing, based upon a myriad of internal and external factors. From this value ranking concept, this begins the myriad of concepts used in economic thought. For example, the notion of interest rate is derived from this concept, as it is all about choosing items, from the utility ranking during different periods of space and time.

Centrally Planned Models

Based upon the fact, that value is subjective, and humans have individual things that value and rank, this lends itself to be impossible to “plan” out an economy using technical analysis. The central planner maybe able to gather some of the economic data, but it will simply be a partial historical account of human action. Statisticians can utilize that historical incomplete historical data and perform regression analysis to speculate future human behavior, to develop public policy, but there is a risk of error. This risk is magnified due to the fact that human’s value ranking is constantly changing, and if that phenomenon is aggregated with millions of humans, in an economy, that risk of error is increased exponentially.

When centrally planned models place a great deal of emphasis on centrally planning out a nation’s economy, it places a high cost upon it’s citizens. It does not allow the natural flow of human action to take place in the marketplace, causing stagnation and malaise. The natural flow of will, which exists in each individual, is impeded due to the high costs of Government fiat from its planners.

With a few individuals attempting to plan out the economic future for the masses, it would require a demigod to gather all the information, namely, the dynamically changing utility ranking of all its citizens, in order to successfully plan out an economy. Since no demigods are walking the planet, this would explain how egregiously centrally planned economies end up in tyranny. The economic costs are too high to have prosperity. Due to those high economic costs, the economic actors perceive that the attainment of their objectives are too costly. At this point, the human will is turned inward, and nihilism creeps into the psyche of the masses.

“What does nihilism mean? That the highest values evaluate themselves.”-Friedrich Nietzsche

During the time of the greatest Innovation and  Technology in human history, there is a paradox. The proliferation of technologies in various fields-all designed to make our lives simpler. New companies are able to blossom each second, providing new products and services. This increased competition, in many markets, has allowed natural resources to flourish and, as an end result, the end consumer has more options. The access to capital is unparalleled to no other time in the history of mankind. The advent of smart phones, internet, computers, and the like, have allowed consumers to connect across the vast globe more effectively and efficiently. Now: A trans Atlantic flight may take 5-6 hours. The flow of goods and services, across the globe is coming s a cheaper cost, as that benefits consumers everywhere. This translates into a higher standard of living, as compared to humans in prior centuries. Contrast these things to several centuries ago: It took weeks, well months to cross the Atlantic Ocean. The simple things in life, many of them were non existent: A microwave oven, a Television, and many more inventions.

At the time of this writing, per the mainstream economists, the economy is performing beyond expectations. The unemployment rate, per the central planners, is at record lows.
However, there is still this sentiment of malaise, despair, and frustration. Why is this the case?
One would think, with all of these external conveniences, people would have less discontentment. However that is not the case. The news continues to push forward a narrative of hopelessness, in the political arena, it virtually impossible to engage in a dialogue about public policy without the exchange turning into a vituperative verbal donnybrook.

The notion on nihilism, per the quote, has crept into many in the citizenry. Although, there is a cornucopia great things that are occurring during this epoch, things that were once held as important virtues, are not non-existent. How is this the case? Answer: The proliferation of the size and scope of Government.
Although this exposition is not a case for anarchy, nor is a case against the need for government, it is simply making an observation, rather, a critique of the current state of affairs.
The pervasive spirit, in today’s world is that solutions to internal problems must be looked outward for solutions. This way of thinking is misplaced.
The source of the will of power exists on the inside of each individual, without it, man is doomed to not expand or grow. When solutions are looked upon to, let us say, Government, this creates a long term hurdle to the will to power. How is this possible?