Book review: Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion

Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion is a book about communication of libertarian ideas written by Michael Cloud. Mr. Cloud’s approach is to begin with stories that illustrate libertarian positions on issues as well as some lessons about communicating libertarian positions. He then discusses a number of persuasion techniques, and finishes by analyzing the psychology of some failed approaches to libertarian persuasion.

The persuasion techniques outlined in the book are useful not just for libertarians seeking new converts to their political philosophy, but for anyone who wishes to persuade someone else to do almost anything. With interest in libertarianism rising, the book is sure to help libertarians increase the number of people who will join the libertarian movement.

The book contains a serious flaw, however. Mr. Cloud’s view of anarchism and its position within the libertarian movement is certainly not welcoming to anarchist libertarians. On page 77, Mr. Cloud says quite plainly that “libertarians are not anarchists.” This is only true of the more political types of libertarians. Those who have a philosophical understanding of libertarianism from first principles are necessarily anarchists, because such an approach leaves no room for a state to function, as it cannot do so without violating absolute moral principles. He also says in multiple places in the book that “libertarians advocate small government,” which again is only true of political libertarians, or those who do not apply libertarian philosophy consistently and from first principles.

Despite the flaw of his treatment of anarchism, Mr. Cloud has still written a useful book, and Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion is still worth a read.

Rating: 4/5

The Real Reason Why We Pay Taxes

A page present on the website of the South Carolina Department of Revenue (SCDOR) contains a short explanation written by agents of the state concerning the reasons why citizens pay taxes. The arguments are typical of the arguments frequently made by statists to attempt to justify the moral criminality of taxation. Let us examine the SCDOR perspective and construct a rebuttal.

“Everyone pays taxes in one form or another – mostly income and sales taxes. But why do we pay these taxes?”

We will see the real answer to this question at the end of this rebuttal. For now, let us move along.

“There are many services offered to citizens…”

This is a deceptive way of describing the nature of government services. To offer means to present for acceptance or rejection. If citizens reject government services, they are still forced to pay for them.

“…that could not be managed effectively under any other system.”

This is a positive claim, so the burden of proof is upon SCDOR. However, no evidence is provided by SCDOR to attempt to fulfill this burden of proof. We may therefore disregard the SCDOR claim that the current system of taxation and government provision of services is necessary because SCDOR has committed the argumentum ad ignorantium fallacy.

“The federal government uses your tax dollars to support Social Security, health care, national defense and social services such as food stamps and housing. Services provided by taxes in South Carolina are public schools, safe highways, health care, prisons and social services for low-income citizens. The city or county where you live provides water and garbage service, police and fire protection and also contributes to public schools.”

Let us examine how governments are managing these services, and what alternatives are currently available. Social Security is not being adequately supported, and will be insolvent by 2033 if no action is taken. Medicare will be insolvent as soon as 2026 if no action is taken. National defense is currently being threatened by the actions of the armed forces, as an interventionist foreign policy creates enemies that would not otherwise exist. Social services have ultimately destroyed poor families, leading to increases in child abuse, drug abuse, and violent crime. Public schooling is a euphemism for forced indoctrination, as government maintains a monopoly on the education of children and refuses to allow true competition. (Private schools and homeschooling exist, but are held to government standards.) As for safe highways, South Carolina actually has the most dangerous highways in the nation, ranking no higher than 33 out of 50 in any measured category. Prisons are more expensive than they need to be because they are housing more criminals than the prisons of any other nation. Water and garbage services are currently available in the private sector. In South Carolina, private security officers have the same authority as sheriff deputies, being able to respond to calls, make arrests, use blue lights and traffic radar, and are authorized to issue traffic tickets. Volunteer fire departments exist in many small towns that cannot afford a government-run fire department.

“We can all admit that these services are necessary.”

No, we cannot all admit this. Some of these services are necessary, and some of them are not. But as the need for government to provide these services was not proven, this is a red herring.

“But why must they be paid for with taxes?”

We will return to this question a bit later.

“Why shouldn’t we just pay individually for what we use? The answer is simple: Because no one could afford it. Each person would have to pay the full fee for the service regardless of their ability to pay.”

Here, SCDOR claims that services in a free society would be too expensive. This claim ignores that people in a free society would have much more money to spend because taxation would not be stealing their income as well as discouraging production. Regulations would be set by the market rather than by bribed bureaucrats, leading to increased economic efficiency. Also, competition among service providers would drastically reduce costs compared to the current statist monopoly. Finally, this claim disregards the role of charity, as a business owner in a free society would not want to have a reputation of refusing poor people in desperate situations because of an inability to pay.

“But why must they be paid for with taxes?”

The reason is that the state has monopolized these services and used its violence to eliminate all open competition.

“Our tax system is based on our ability to pay. The more money we earn, the more taxes we pay. And the opposite is true. If we earn a small income, we pay less taxes.”

This is true for the most part, but it is irrelevant to why we pay taxes.

With the above rebuttals having been made, let us return to the first question:

“Everyone pays taxes in one form or another – mostly income and sales taxes. But why do we pay these taxes?”

The answer is simple. We pay taxes because agents with guns will kidnap and imprison us if we do not, and exercising one’s logical right of self-defense against such action will result in one being murdered by the agents of the state, and such murder being portrayed as just in the establishment media.

Book review: The Handbook of Human Ownership

The Handbook of Human Ownership: A Manual for New Tax Farmers is a book about historical and political theory written by Stefan Molyneux. In The Handbook of Human Ownership, Molyneux presents a theory of history and politics from the view that government emerged and evolved as a way for elites to control the masses. The book is presented as a welcome message and instruction manual from the ruling elites to a newly elected member of a government.

Molyneux makes the argument that history has been a process of the evolution of human ownership, beginning with primitive cannibalism and continuing through the slavery of classical antiquity, the serfdom of the medieval period, and the current period of free labor and taxed wages. He then portrays the role of public education as a means to keep the ruling classes from being overthrown by teaching children that government is necessary. Molyneux next discusses the origin of the socialist movement as a response to the declining influence of the church in the 19th century, and how the remnants of religion combined with socialism have been used to support and extend the power of the state. He finishes his historical theory by noting that the cycle of human ownership is nearing its end, as the system of fiat currency and government-protected corporations mathematically cannot continue.

Molyneux’s views of history and the future prospects of humanity are certainly not discussed in the mainstream, but the book does a good job of explaining this as well. For anyone who wishes to take a philosophical look at the current world situation and is unafraid of strong medicine, The Handbook of Human Ownership is an excellent, if short, read.

Rating: 5/5

Book review: The Law

La Loi (The Law) is a book about legal theory written by Frédéric Bastiat. In The Law, Bastiat analyzes the role that law has played in society, compared with its original purpose: to act as a shield against injustice, and thereby defend the natural rights to life, liberty, and property. He examines various government policies that have acted to do more than this, and shows that such actions lead to infringements upon individual rights.

Bastiat identifies two main ideological causes of such actions: stupid greed and false philanthropy. He shows that it is man’s nature to resort to crime when it is profitable to do so, and that the law becomes a tool for the commission of crime when enough people can convince a government to plunder on their behalf. He then points out a fundamental flaw of democratic government: when it is time for an election, the people are held up as experts on all important matters, but after the election, the people are viewed as little more than clay to be molded by politicians. Bastiat goes on to show that various government programs to help people ignore what people could have done to help themselves without government interference.

Bastiat’s view of God and religion may be off-putting to atheists, and his lack of consideration for anarchism is understandable for the time in which he wrote (1850), but if his reliance on a divine origin (rather than a logical origin) for natural rights can be overlooked, then The Law is an excellent blueprint for a free society.

Rating: 5/5

Book review: Education Free and Compulsory

Education Free and Compulsory is a collection of three articles written by Murray Rothbard in 1971 about the origins of compulsory public education, as well as the moral and practical cases against it.

Rothbard begins by noting that each person is self-educated to some degree, as education is not limited to formal schooling, but is also formed by everyday experience. He then states the fundamental limitation of formal schooling: it can teach children a subject of study, but it cannot teach them to think. It can only give students the tools they need to be able to think more effectively. Next, Rothbard points out that any imposition of uniformity does not bring the lowest people up; instead, it smashes the highest people down. This is an aggressive act against the brightest students, as resources that would in a free society be used to help the brightest students achieve greatness are instead squandered on the least capable children, who will likely be unproductive members of society no matter what is done to educate them. Rothbard deduces that where instruction is necessary, the instruction is always best done on an individual basis and is usually best done by a child’s parents.

The next two chapters explore the historical origins of public education, beginning with its origins in ancient Greece and Rome. Next, Rothbard observes that education was relatively a private, free market affair in the Middle Ages. He then discusses the modern form of public education, which began with the Lutheran and Calvinist models of religious indoctrination, advanced to the Prussian model of statist indoctrination, and was forced upon American children during the Progressive Era.

While the book is a useful historical guide, it lacks some of the philosophy and libertarian principle that Rothbard’s writings are known for. And at under 100 pages, Education Free and Compulsory is a rather terse treatment of the subject. While any fan of Rothbard will enjoy the book, anyone who is looking for an exhaustive treatment of the issue should look elsewhere.

Rating: 3/5

The Moral Crimes Of The IRS And Their Punishments

The recent scandal concerning the discrimination of the Internal Revenue Service against conservative non-profit organizations has brought discussion of the integrity of the IRS into the establishment media discourse. But while the establishment media is quite willing to discuss the various aspects of the current scandal, they are not discussing the morality of the regular activities and functions of the IRS. Let us look at the definition of several crimes, see how taxation relates to them, and see what punishments would be inflicted upon any private citizen who acted in the same manner as the IRS. The definitions and punishments come from the United States Code.

Robbery: According to the United States Code, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 103, Section 2111, whoever, within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, by force and violence, or by intimidation, takes or attempts to take from the person or presence of another anything of value, shall be imprisoned not more than 15 years.
How taxation relates: If a person disagrees with the tax policies of the government and acts upon that disagreement by refusing to pay, then the state will initiate force against that person. If the delinquency persists, then agents of the state within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, by force and violence, or by intimidation, will take or attempt to take from the person or presence of the tax resister something of value as a lien on the tax “debt.” Therefore if anyone else did what the IRS does, they would be guilty of robbery.

Slavery: According to the United States Code, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 77, Section 1589, whoever knowingly provides or obtains the labor or services of a person by any one of, or by any combination of, the following means— (1) by means of force, threats of force, physical restraint, or threats of physical restraint to that person or another person; (2) by means of serious harm or threats of serious harm to that person or another person; (3) by means of the abuse or threatened abuse of law or legal process; or (4) by means of any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause the person to believe that, if that person did not perform such labor or services, that person or another person would suffer serious harm or physical restraint, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. Also, whoever knowingly benefits, financially or by receiving anything of value, from participation in a venture which has engaged in the providing or obtaining of labor or services by any of the means described above, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that the venture has engaged in the providing or obtaining of labor or services by any of such means, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. If death results from a violation of this section, or if the violation includes kidnapping, an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, the defendant shall be fined under this title, imprisoned for any term of years or life, or both.
How taxation relates: Forcible taxation on one’s personal income makes one a slave because the state is knowingly providing or obtaining the labor or services of a person by means of force, threats of force, physical restraint, or threats of physical restraint to that person or another person. As IRS agents receive their salaries from tax revenue, they knowingly benefit, financially or by receiving anything of value, from participation in a venture which has engaged in the providing or obtaining of labor or services by any of the means described above, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that the venture has engaged in the providing or obtaining of labor or services by any of such means. Therefore if anyone else did what the IRS does, they would be guilty of two counts of slavery.

Receipt of stolen monies: According to the United States Code, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 113, Section 2315, receives, possesses, conceals, stores, barters, sells, or disposes of any goods, wares, or merchandise, securities, or money of the value of $5,000 or more, which have crossed a State or United States boundary after being stolen, unlawfully converted, or taken, knowing the same to have been stolen, unlawfully converted, or taken, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.
How taxation relates: The conduct of the IRS in collecting taxes meets the definition of robbery, therefore the tax money is stolen. The IRS receives and possesses the money which has crossed a State or United States boundary after being stolen, and taxes are frequently levied in amounts exceeding $5,000. Therefore if anyone else did what the IRS does, they would be guilty of receipt of stolen monies.

Transportation of stolen monies: According to the United States Code, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 113, Section 2314, whoever transports, transmits, or transfers in interstate or foreign commerce any goods, wares, merchandise, securities or money, of the value of $5,000 or more, knowing the same to have been stolen, converted or taken by fraud, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.
How taxation relates: The conduct of the IRS in collecting taxes meets the definition of robbery, therefore the tax money is stolen. The IRS transmits the money across state lines, and taxes are frequently levied in amounts exceeding $5,000. Therefore if anyone else did what the IRS does, they would be guilty of transportation of stolen monies.

Conspiracy: According to the United States Code, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 19, Section 373, whoever, with intent that another person engage in conduct constituting a felony that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against property or against the person of another in violation of the laws of the United States, and under circumstances strongly corroborative of that intent, solicits, commands, induces, or otherwise endeavors to persuade such other person to engage in such conduct, shall be imprisoned not more than one-half the maximum term of imprisonment or (notwithstanding United States Code, Title 18, Part II, Chapter 227, Subchapter C, Section 3571) fined not more than one-half of the maximum fine prescribed for the punishment of the crime solicited, or both; or if the crime solicited is punishable by life imprisonment or death, shall be imprisoned for not more than 20 years.
How taxation relates: IRS agents work together to enforce tax laws. As any other group of people who worked together to do what the IRS does would be engaging in conduct that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against property or against the person of another in violation of the laws of the United States, and under circumstances strongly corroborative of that intent, solicits, commands, induces, or otherwise endeavors to persuade such other person to engage in such conduct, they would be guilty of conspiracy to commit those crimes.

When we add up the above sentences, we get that any private citizen who acted in the same manner as an IRS agent would be looking at a maximum prison term of (15+20+20+10+10)*1.5=112.5 years, as well as a fine of up to $250,000*4*1.5=$1,500,000. So when the day that the rule of the state is abolished, the agents of the state are denied their claimed moral exceptions, and government is suppressed as a criminal enterprise comes, a sentence of up to 112.5 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $1,500,000 for carrying out the functions of the IRS would be in keeping with the principle that one should be judged by the same standards that one judges.

Notes: This analysis only accounts for the minimum acts involved in taxation, and may not be exhaustive in doing so. An arrest and imprisonment for evading taxes, for example, would add additional charges, as this would be kidnapping if a private citizen engaged in such activity.

The Unfairness Of The Marketplace Fairness Act

This week, the US Senate is considering a bill known as the Marketplace Fairness Act that has the stated purpose of “restoring States’ sovereign rights to enforce State and local sales and use tax laws, and for other purposes.” The bill would allow states to require all Internet sellers with out-of-state sales exceeding $1 million per year to collect sales taxes for the state and local governments of the buyers. State governments would be required to provide software free to Internet retailers to calculate sales taxes. The bill passed a vote to take up the legislation for debate and amendment by a 74-20 margin on April 22.

If enacted, the legislation would cost online shoppers an estimated $22-24 billion in tax payments.

The Obama administration has endorsed the legislation, saying that it “will level the playing field for local small business retailers that are in competition every day with large out-of-state online companies.”

“We think this is inevitable, with states looking for revenue, with the growth of e-commerce,” said Stephen Schatz, a spokesman for the National Retail Federation.

“What it means is a lot of money for states and localities,” Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) said on April 22, 2013. He is supporting the legislation.

From a philosophical libertarian perspective, however, this bill is a disaster. Taxation is a violation of the natural rights of property ownership and voluntary association, and by current legal statutes, it meets the definitions of the crimes of armed robbery, possessing and receiving stolen goods, slavery, felony trespassing, communicating threats, and conspiracy to commit the aforementioned crimes. The Marketplace Fairness Act seeks to solve the problem that some businesses are victimized by the crimes of the state by attempting to victimize all businesses.

Let us also consider the practical implications of the bill. Online merchants larger than a certain size would have to become tax collectors for every jurisdiction in the United States, which is not a burden that is placed on brick-and-mortar establishments. Then there is the case of the owners of large businesses who wish to use the violent monopoly of the state to bring down smaller competition. For retailers that have sales in the billions of dollars, such as Amazon ($61.09 billion in 2012) and Walmart ($5.28 billion in 2011), compliance costs of such regulations are hardly noticeable. But for smaller retailers who barely meet the $1 million threshold, having to correctly apply and calculate thousands of tax rates depending on the jurisdiction of the buyer could cost enough to sink a business. The CEOs of larger companies know this and want to use this to their advantage to stifle free market competition for their own private gain. The $1 million threshold is of no concern, as companies smaller than that cannot mount an effective challenge to the market share of the largest retailers.

Next, there is the existential problem of the state. The state does not exist in the physical sense; only its constituent parts, such as people, buildings, and guns, have physical existence. As the state is only an idea in the minds of people that has no physical existence, it is impossible for it to have rights. Thus the claimed objective of “restoring States’ sovereign rights” is nonsensical.

Finally, there is the historical argument. “No taxation without representation” was one of the major grievances of British colonists in America in the 1750s and 1760s that contributed to the American Revolution. Since that time, it has been generally accepted that requiring merchants to collect taxes in places where they have no physical presence is even worse than the basic criminality of taxation, because even the political recourses of those inside a jurisdiction are denied to those who exist and do business outside of it. A desire for the expansion of statism is not a justification for forgetting this.

Rand Paul’s CPAC 2013 speech: a philosophical libertarian response

On March 14, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) spoke at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference. Video of the speech can be found below, and a transcript is available here. While much of his speech was sound from a philosophical libertarian perspective, there were some points of contention. Let us examine these philosophically.

“The message for the President is that no one person gets to decide the law, no one person gets to decide your guilt or innocence.”

The law is a collection of opinions enforced by the guns of the state. As law in a statist society depends upon the initiation of force, law is immoral in a statist society. As for guilt or innocence, it is impossible for any number of people to decide such a thing because truth is independent of belief, whether it is the belief of one person with absolute power, twelve people on a jury, or thousands of people in a lynch mob. A person is guilty or innocent based upon the truth and facts of a case, and anyone trying to determine guilt or innocence for the purpose of punishing criminals is, at best, using the facts which are available to make an educated guess. Thus, it is not just that no one person gets to decide the law and no one person gets to decide guilt or innocence, it is that making such a decision is logically impossible.

“The presidential oath of office states ‘I WILL protect, preserve, and defend the Constitution,’ NOT ‘I intend to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.’ Mr. President, good intentions are not enough. We want to know, will you or won’t you defend the Constitution? …We prize our Bill of Rights like no other country. Our Bill of Rights is what defines us and makes us exceptional. …Do we have a Bill of Rights or not? Do we have a Constitution or not and will we defend it? …The Constitution must be our guide.”

As Lysander Spooner once said, “But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case it is unfit to exist.” It is important to remember that our rights do not come from the Constitution. The Constitution merely claims that the government it purports to justify will not infringe upon the natural rights that have always existed for sentient beings. History has proven this claim made by the Constitution false beyond any reasonable doubt.

“If we allow one man to charge Americans as enemy combatants and indefinitely detain or drone them, then what exactly is it our brave young men and women are fighting for?”

This is an important question, but unfortunately Sen. Paul did not give the proper answer to the question. The answer is the same as it has always been; soldiers fight at the command and for the interests of the ruling class. This truth is independent of whatever beliefs the members of the general public or the soldiers themselves may hold concerning any more noble motives.

“Government cannot give us our liberty; our rights come from our Creator.”

An appeal to the divine in a logical context is the refuge of someone who has no rational arguments to make. Rights do not come from a Creator any more than they come from a Constitution. Rights exist because of logical proofs by contradiction. Such a proof assumes that a right does not exist, and uses logic and reason to find a contradiction. A contradiction in a logical argument is a sufficient condition for falsehood. Proving that the nonexistence of an entity is false is equivalent to proving that the existence of that entity is true, therefore rights can be shown to exist through the method of proof by contradiction.

“I’m here to tell you, what we need to do is leave more money in the pockets of those who earned it. …With my five-year budget, millions of jobs would be created by cutting the corporate income tax in half, by creating a flat personal income tax of 17%…”

All money should be left in the pockets of those who earned it. Taxation is armed robbery, possessing and receiving stolen goods, slavery, trespassing, communicating threats, and conspiracy to commit the aforementioned crimes. No utilitarian argument can make virtue out of this evil.

“I say, not a penny more to countries that burn our flag.”

Because foreign aid is ultimately paid for by taxation, inflation caused by legalized counterfeiting through the Federal Reserve System, or debt enslavement of the unborn, not a penny more should be given to any country, regardless of whether its citizens burn our flag. Again, no utilitarian argument can justify the means employed.

“This month, I will propose a five-year balanced budget.”

Even if one believes in the need for government, and therefore a government budget, why not propose a one-year balanced budget, as proposed by 2012 Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson? He did break the record for votes received by a Libertarian presidential candidate, even in an election with a fairly close popular vote. Fiscal conservatives who found Mitt Romney to be unconvincing had something to do with this.

“My budget eliminates the Department of Education, and devolves power and money back to the states where they belong.”

Power and money do not belong to states; they rightfully belong to individuals through the natural rights of self-ownership and property ownership.

“Our party is encumbered by an inconsistent approach to freedom.”

All statists are encumbered by an inconsistent approach to freedom, not just the members of the Republican Party.

“…God bless America.”

If there is a God, then Sen. Paul has no business telling Him what to do. If there is not a God, then this is a meaningless expression.

Book review: We Who Dared to Say No to War

We Who Dared to Say No to War is a collection of essays gathered by progressive Murray Polner and libertarian Thomas Woods. The book includes anti-war writings by prominent Americans from the War of 1812 to the Iraq War. Accordingly, the authors whose works are included range across the political spectrum from socialist Eugene V. Debs to anarcho-capitalist Murray Rothbard.

Highlights of the book begin with Daniel Webster’s speech before Congress in which he compared military conscription for the War of 1812 to slavery and murder, an argument which Vietnam-era politicians would have done well to remember.

The second section contains an admonition against the Mexican War by Henry Clay, as well as the speech in which then-Congressman Abraham Lincoln demanded to know the exact spot upon which American forces were attacked by Mexican forces (it was in Mexican territory, but this did not faze the war hawks of the time).

The Civil War section contains arguments that show how war was not necessary to end slavery in the South and that the primary motivation was economic domination of the southern states by northern banking interests, many of which are made most effectively by Lysander Spooner, better known for his essay No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority.

Next, the essays deal with U.S. imperialism around the turn of the century, focusing on the Spanish-American War and the occupation of the Phillippines, as well as how imperialism is contrary to the ideals of earlier generations of Americans.

The fifth section contains essays from such luminaries as Eugene V. Debs, Helen Keller, and Robert La Follette, and demonstrates how people of all walks of life opposed World War I. Most prominent among this group of essayists is Randolph Bourne, whose refrain “The state is the health of war” remains a key part of the anti-war lexicon.

An explanation by Jeanette Rankin of why she voted against the declarations of both world wars bridges the gap between the World War I section and the World War II section. The World War II section is a bit sparse, containing a few essays by draft resisters but lacking the multiple hard-hitting pieces of both the previous and following sections. Stuart Chase’s “Assumptions about War” does as good of a job as one essay can, but it needs more support from other pieces. There are many surviving arguments against the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the inclusion of only Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy’s brief quote on the matter is mystifying.

The Cold War section highlights the non-interventionist wing of the Republican Party that was driven underground in the 1950s and 1960s and has only recently resurfaced with the rise of Ron Paul. Here, the most prominent piece is by Murray Rothbard, who did an excellent job of explaining the foundations of libertarianism and the illegitimacy of the state apparatus.

The Vietnam War, while technically a part of the Cold War, gets its own section, due to the massive social unrest caused by it. In this section, Wayne Morse speaks against the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, General David M. Shoup makes a solid case for non-interventionism, and 1972 Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern delivers one of the most potent verbal lashings ever given to Congress, telling them “this chamber reeks of blood.”

The lessons that current policy-makers should have learned from the preceding eras of American history are brought to bear in the Iraq War section, which also includes Barbara Lee’s rationale for her lone vote against the Afghanistan War. Particularly moving is the resignation letter of John Brady Kiesling, who resigned as a U.S. diplomat on February 25, 2003 in protest of the Iraq invasion.

The final section is devoted to various criticisms of war in general, from John Quincy Adams speaking about foreign policy to Harvey Wasserman’s insightful comparisons of the false pretenses that have started many wars. The best summary of the preceding chapters is given by Sheldon Richman with the title of his essay, “War is a Government Program.”

While the book does an excellent job of presenting the anti-war case, it could have been improved by the inclusion of speeches and essays against the brutality inflicted upon Native Americans in the 19th century, as well as more criticism of World War II and the many smaller interventions of the current era. Nonetheless, it is still a treasure trove of sound arguments against the worst government program of all.

Rating: 4/5

A president frequently forgotten on Presidents Day

Today is Presidents Day, and many people will be thinking of two presidents who are considered by many people to be among the best in history, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. But there was another president who was born in February who receives no recognition whatsoever in mainstream discussion. His name was William Henry Harrison.

William Henry Harrison was born on February 9, 1773 into a prominent political family in Charles City County, Virginia. His father, Benjamin Harrison V, was a delegate to the Continental Congress, a signatory of the Declaration of Independence, and served as governor of Virginia from 1781 to 1784. William enrolled at the Presbyterian Hampden-Sydney College in 1787 and stayed there until his father removed him in 1790. His father died in 1791, leaving him without funding for further schooling. Governor Henry Lee of Virginia heard of William’s situation and persuaded him to join the army.

Harrison served as aide-de-camp to General “Mad Anthony” Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794, which ended the Northwest Indian War. Harrison then married Anna Symmes, a member of another prominent political family, in 1795. After resigning from the Army in 1798, he became Secretary of the Northwest Territory. In 1801 he became Governor of the Indiana Territory, serving 12 years.

As time went on, tensions between settlers and Indians reached the breaking point. The conflict became known as Tecumseh’s War. The Battle of Tippecanoe, for which Harrison was most famous, disrupted Tecumseh’s confederacy but failed to diminish Indian raids.

In the War of 1812, Harrison was given the command of the Army in the Northwest with the rank of brigadier general. At the Battle of the Thames on October 5, 1813, his forces defeated the combined British and Indian forces, and Tecumseh was among the fallen in battle. The remaining Indians scattered and never again offered serious resistance to American expansion in what was then called the Northwest.

Harrison returned to civilian life after the war, serving as a U.S. Representative from Ohio from 1816 to 1819, an Ohio state senator from 1819 to 1821, a U.S. Senator from 1825 to 1828, and Minister to Colombia from 1828 to 1829.

In the 1836 presidential election, the Whig Party tried an unorthodox tactic of running four different nominees in four different regions of the nation, and Harrison was the candidate in most of the northern states. The tactic was unsuccessful, as Martin Van Buren won the election with 170 electoral votes to Harrison’s 73, Hugh Lawson White’s 26, Daniel Webster’s 14, and Willie Person Magnum’s 11.

In 1840, the Whigs ran Harrison as their sole nominee. Harrison based his campaign on his military record and on the struggling economy of the time, caused by the Panic of 1837. Harrison won the popular vote against Van Buren by 146,536 votes (which was 6.1% of the vote at the time), but won an electoral landslide, 234 to 60.

On March 4, 1841, the day of his inauguration, Harrison was 68 years and 23 days old, making him the second oldest president to take office in American history, behind only Ronald Reagan (69 years and 348 days.) He would also be the last president born before American independence from Great Britain. Facing accusations that he was frail and unintelligent, he decided to give a lengthy and sophisticated inauguration speech which lasted two hours, despite being edited for length. He did so on a cold, rainy day without clothing appropriate for the conditions. Harrison then rode in the inaugural parade and attended three inaugural balls.

On March 26, Harrison became ill with a cold, which later developed into jaundice, pleurisy, pneumonia, and septicemia. These complications killed him on April 4, making him the first United States president to die in office. His last words were to his doctor, but assumed to be directed at Vice President John Tyler, “Sir, I wish you to understand the true principles of the government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more.” Harrison served the shortest term of any American president: 30 days, 12 hours, and 30 minutes.

From a libertarian perspective, Harrison’s actions and policies were certainly not the best; after all, he wanted to reestablish the Bank of the United States, which was the 19th-century equivalent of the Federal Reserve System. He was also in favor of the institution of slavery, and had fought to remove Indian tribes from their ancestral lands. But despite these blemishes, he did nothing of great consequence while in office and served the shortest term in the history of American presidents. To see how powerful of an example this could have been, imagine what America would be like if every president died after only a month in office. How would the government function without a steady executive presence? Who would even want to be president if it meant having only one month to live? We would probably have managed to remove the burdensome yoke of government long ago and would probably have a functioning stateless society by now if each president only lasted a month. At the very least, we would not be suffering from the overreach of the executive branch that is so prevalent in America today, since no president would live long enough to overstep the powers of the office. For these reasons, Harrison is a unorthodox but convincing candidate for the best president in American history.