Yes, I Can: Home Economics from My Family to Yours

By Sarah Skwire

I taught myself to can the year that I got divorced. My life felt a bit beyond my control, so I wanted something to do that would provide immediate results and distract me in the evenings after my kids went to bed. Though this skill had always intimidated me, some googling around and a great little book called Food in Jars persuaded me that I could probably manage to learn this skill. So I bought some fruit and some jars, and got to work.

These days, I have a set of shelves in the basement that’s loaded with jams, salsa, and pickles. For me, that stash of deliciousness is plenty of justification for my hobby. But as with my other hobby — knitting — I occasionally run into people who cannot imagine why I’d take the time to can when grocery stores are able to provide me with delicious pickles and preserves for a fraction of the cost. Sometimes I explain myself by handing them a spoon and a jar of homemade jam. Sometimes, though, they need more of an explanation. For those folks, and for other canners who face the same questions, here are some of my answers.

Canning is a consumption good. That doesn’t just mean that I consume the jams and pickles that I can. (Although I do, and they’re yummy!) It means that I take a lot of pleasure in the process of making jam, or in discovering that it’s possible to make pickled summer squash out of the overabundance that appears in my garden every summer. The time spent in the kitchen, canning food, is leisure time for me. I enjoy using it this way. I “consume” my canning time in much the same way that I’d consume time spent at a summer movie or tanning by the pool.

It’s a sign of how wealthy we are as a society that we can think of canning as consumption rather than production.

For thousands of years, preserving food during harvest seasons in order to have it during fallow times was a matter of life and death, not of leisure. Adam Smith knew this would happen. He points out in his Wealth of Nations that “hunting and fishing, the most important employments of mankind in the rude state of society, become in its advanced state their most agreeable amusements, and they pursue for pleasure what they once followed from necessity.” Or, as economist Steve Horwitz has pointed out, “We’re rich enough to play at being poor.” Like knitting, or having backyard chicken coops, or camping, canning food is a pleasure that used to be a necessity.

Though I know I’m only doing it for fun (and for an endless supply of jam for my morning toast), I also like the feeling of independence that canning gives me. With fairly regular governmental attempts to crack down on such insidious and detrimental practices as front yard vegetable gardens, rainwater collection, and urban composting, canning my own food at home — especially if I grew it in my own garden — feels just a little rebellious. The liberty revolution won’t plant its flag on a barricade built of pint jars, but it’s fun, every once in a while, to imagine that it might.

While I don’t homeschool, I do appreciate the opportunities that canning has offered for exploring a whole range of intellectual questions and pursuits with my kids. We have learned what makes jam gel and what to do when it doesn’t. We have explored flavors that go together well and badly. We have talked about the fallacy of composition as a way to explain why blueberry jam is great, and dill pickles are great, but blueberry and dill pickle jam is awful. We do math every time we double a recipe or divide our pickling spices among three jars. We talk about the importance of not wasting food, of eating things that are healthy and delicious, and of cooking for people we love.


Canning gives me the chance to nurture the intimate order, the “micro-cosmos” that Hayek contrasted so usefully to the macro-cosmos of the marketplace. 

Perhaps most pleasurably, canning gives me the chance to nurture the intimate order, the “micro-cosmos” that Hayek contrasted so usefully to the macro-cosmos of the marketplace. My daughters and I are building memories and creating family stories whenever we preserve food together. I always have a gift on hand to bring to a friend or to a sick neighbor. The girls have apple and honey jam to give their teachers for Rosh Hashanah. And every time we do those things, we strengthen the bonds that make communities worth having.

If you have canned, you know that it takes a surprising amount of fruit to make a fairly small amount of jam. Three pounds of berries and five cups of sugar produce just three small jars. But there’s a lot more in that jar than fruit. And I get a lot more out of it.

Capitalists from Outer Space

By B.K. Marcus

When the aliens stop trifling with crop circles, bumpkin abduction, and indelicate probes and finally introduce themselves to the rest of humanity, will they turn out to be partisans of central planning, interventionism, or unhampered markets?

This is not the question asked by the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute, but whether or not the institute’s scientists realize it, the answer is crucial to their search.

Signs of Intelligent Life

The SETI Institute was founded by Frank Drake and the late Carl Sagan. Its scientists do not believe we have been visited yet. UFO sightings and abduction stories don’t stand up under scientific scrutiny, they say. Nor are they waiting for flying saucers. Because the aliens’ signals will likely reach Earth before their spaceships do, SETI monitors the skies for transmissions from advanced civilizations orbiting distant stars.

The scientific search for evidence of advanced alien societies began in 1960, when Drake aimed a 25-meter dish at two nearby stars. The previous year, the journal Nature had published an article called “Searching for Interstellar Communications,” which suggested that distant civilizations might transmit greetings at the same wavelength as the radio emission of hydrogen (the universe’s most common element). Drake found no such signals, nor has SETI found any evidence of interstellar salutations since. But it’s not giving up.

The Truth Is Out There

Before we can ask after advanced alien political economy, we must confront the more basic question: Is there anybody out there? SETI has been searching for over half a century. That may seem like a long time, but there are, as Sagan underscored, “billions and billions of stars.” How many of them should we expect to monitor before finding one that’s transmitting?

In an attempt to address, if not answer, the question, Drake proposed an equation in 1961 to summarize the concepts scientists think are relevant to any educated guess.

Here is how Sagan explains the Drake equation in the book Cosmos:

N*, the number of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy;

fp, the fraction of stars that have planetary systems;

ne, the number of planets in a given system that are ecologically suitable for life;

fl, the fraction of otherwise suitable planets on which life actually arises;

fi, the fraction of inhabited planets on which an intelligent form of life evolves;

fc, the fraction of planets inhabited by intelligent beings on which a communicative technical civilization develops;

and fL, the fraction of a planetary lifetime graced by a technical civilization.

The End of the World as We Know It

Sagan expounds on all the terms in the equation, but it’s that last one that absorbs him: How long can an advanced civilization last before it destroys itself?

Perhaps civilizations arise repeatedly, inexorably, on innumerable planets in the Milky Way, but are generally unstable; so all but a tiny fraction are unable to survive their technology and succumb to greed and ignorance, pollution and nuclear war.

Sagan wrote Cosmos toward the end of the Cold War. He mentioned other threats — greed, ignorance, pollution — but the specter of mutual annihilation haunted him. When he imagined the end of an advanced society, he pictured something permanent.

“It is hardly out of the question,” he wrote, “that we might destroy ourselves tomorrow.” Perhaps, Sagan feared, the general pattern is for civilizations to “take billions of years of tortuous evolution to arise, and then snuff themselves out in an instant of unforgivable neglect.”

The Rise and Fall of Civilization

We cannot know if the civilizational survival rate on other planets is high or low, and so the final term in the Drake equation is guesswork, but some guesses are better than others.

“One of the great virtues of [Drake’s] equation,” Sagan wrote, “is that it involves subjects ranging from stellar and planetary astronomy to organic chemistry, evolutionary biology, history, politics and abnormal psychology.”

That’s quite an array of topics to inform an educated guess, but notice that he doesn’t mention economics.

Perhaps he thought politics covered it, but Sagan’s political focus was more on questions of war and peace than poverty and wealth. In particular, he considered the end of civilization to be an event from which it would take a planet billions of years to recover.

The history of our own species suggests that this view is too narrow. Yes, a nuclear war could wipe out humanity, but civilizations do destroy themselves in less permanent ways.

Yes, a nuclear war could wipe out humanity, but civilizations do destroy themselves in less permanent ways. 

There have been two dark ages in Western history: the Mycenaean-Greek and the post-Roman. Both were marked by retrogression in technology, art, and literacy. Both saw a drop in overall population and in population density, as survivors left towns and cities for a more autarkic existence in the countryside. And both underwent a radical decline in foreign trade and the division of labor. Market societies deteriorated into disparate cultures of subsistence farming.

The ultimate causes of the Greek Dark Age are a mystery. As with the later fall of the Roman Empire, the Mycenaean demise was marked by “barbarian” invasions, but the hungry hoards weren’t new: successful invasions depend on weakened defenses and deteriorating infrastructure. What we know is that worsening poverty marked the fall, whether as cause, effect, or both.

The reasons for the fall of the Roman West are more evident, if still debated. Despite claims of lead poisoning, poor sanitation, too much religion, too little religion, and even, believe it or not, inadequate central planning, the empire’s decline resulted from bad economic policy.

Civilization cannot advance in poverty. Wealth and civilization progress together.


To help us see this more clearly, Freeman writer Nicholas Davidson suggests in his magnificent 1987 article “The Ancient Suicide of the West” that we look to the signs of cultural and economic decline rather than to the changes, however drastic, in political leadership. While the Western empire did not fall to the barbarians until the fifth century AD, “The Roman economy [had] reached its peak toward the middle of the first century AD and thereafter began to decline.” As with the Mycenaean Greeks, the decay was evident in art and literature, science and technology. Civilization cannot advance in poverty. Wealth and civilization progress together.

How to Kill Progress

“The stagnation in all aspects of society,” Davidson writes, “was associated with a continuous extension of governmental functions. Social engineering was tried on the grand scale. The state relentlessly expanded into commerce, industry, and private life.”

As we look to our own future — or anticipate the politics of our alien brethren — we can draw on the experience of humanity’s past to help us appreciate the economics of progress and decline. Over and over, we see the same pattern: some group gains a temporary benefit from a world in flux. When further social and economic changes check those advantages, the old guard turn to the state to protect them from the dynamism of a healthy society. Adaptation is stymied. Nothing is allowed to evolve. The politically privileged — military and civilian, rich and poor — sacrifice their civilization in a doomed attempt to ward off change.

The Sustainable Society

Evolutionary science, economic theory, and cybernetics yield the same lessons: stability requires flexibility; complexity flourishes under spontaneous order; centralization leads to stagnation.

To those general lessons, economics adds insights specific to the context of scarcity: private property and voluntary exchange produce greater general wealth, longer time horizons, and ever more investment in the “luxuries” of scientific investigation, technological innovation, and a more active stewardship of the environment. Trade promotes peace, and a global division of labor unites the world’s cultures in mutual self-interest.

If, as Sagan contends, an advanced civilization would require political stability and sizable long-term investment in science and technology to survive an interstellar spacefaring phase, then we should expect any such civilization to embrace a planetwide system of free trade and free markets grounded in private property. For the civilization to last the centuries and millennia necessary to explore and colonize the stars, its governing institutions will have to be minimal and decentralized.

The aliens will, in short, embrace what Adam Smith called “the system of natural liberty.” Behind their transmissions, SETI should expect to find the invisible hand.

Scientists versus Freedom

When we do make contact, “the consequences for our own civilization will be stunning,” Sagan wrote. Humanity will gain “insights on alien science and technology, art, music, politics, ethics, philosophy and religion…. We will know what else is possible.”

What did Sagan himself believe possible? Had he survived to witness first contact, would he be surprised to learn of the capitalist political economy at the foundation of an advanced extraterrestrial civilization?

Neil deGrasse Tyson, who remade the Cosmos television series for the 21st century, recommends reading Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations but only “to learn that capitalism is an economy of greed, a force of nature unto itself.”

We shouldn’t assume that Tyson represents Sagan’s economic views, but when Sagan did address questions of policy, he advocated a larger welfare state and greater government spending. When he talked about “us” and “our” responsibilities, he invariably meant governments, not private individuals.

Sagan wrote, “It may be that civilizations can be divided into two great categories: one in which the scientists are unable to convince nonscientists to authorize a search for extraplanetary intelligence … and another category in which the grand vision of contact with other civilizations is shared widely.”

Why would scientists have to persuade anyone else to authorize anything? Sagan could only imagine science funded by government. It was apparently beyond credibility that less widely shared visions can secure sufficient funding.

Sagan could only imagine science funded by government.

It’s a safe guess, then, that when he talks of civilizations that are “unable to survive their technology and succumb to greed,” Sagan is talking about the profit motive.

And yet, it is the profit motive that drives innovation, and it is the great wealth generated by profit seekers that allows later generations of innovators to pursue their visions with fewer financial inducements. Whether directly or indirectly, profits pay for progress.

Self-Interested Enlightenment

Why does it matter if astronomers misunderstand the market? Does SETI really need to appreciate the virtues of individual liberty to monitor the heavens for signs of intelligent life?

Scientists can and do excel in their fields without understanding how society works. But that doesn’t mean their ignorance of economics is harmless. The more admired they are as scientists — especially as popularizers of science — the more damage they can do when they speak authoritatively outside their fields. Their brilliance in one discipline can make them overconfident about their grasp of others. And increasingly, the questions facing the scientific community cross multiple specialties. It was the cross-disciplinary nature of Drake’s equation that Sagan saw as its great virtue.

Scientists can and do excel in their fields without understanding how society works. But that doesn’t mean their ignorance of economics is harmless.


The predictions of the astronomer looking for extraterrestrial socialists will be different from those of someone who expects the first signals of alien origin to come from a radically decentralized civilization — a society of private individuals who have discovered the sustainable harmony of self-interest and the general welfare.

After that first contact, after we’ve gained “insights on alien science and technology” and we get around to learning alien history, will we discover that their species has witnessed civilizations rise and fall? What was it that finally allowed them to break the cycle? How did they avoid stagnation, decline, and self-destruction?

How did they, as a culture, come to accept the economic way of thinking, embrace the philosophy of freedom, and develop a sustainable civilization capable of reaching out to us, the denizens of a less developed world?

Obama: ‘I’m the 1st Kenyan-American’ president


President Obama

President Obama took time during his Kenya visit to drag out the birth-certificate issue again – just as he did in April and in March – and do some drive-by mocking of those who still question where he was born.

He said, during a 45-minute speech to the country that focused mostly on economic development: “I am proud to be the first American president to come to Kenya. And of course, I’m the first Kenyan-American to be president of the United States. That goes without saying.”

Previously, Obama delivered remarks that contained self-deprecating statements about his origin of birth.

At the dinner sponsored by State officials, Obama said: “I suspect that some of my critics back home are suggesting that I’m back here to look for my birth certificate.”

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After the crowd laughed, he intoned: “That is not the case.”

This is the third time in just a few months Obama has brought up the birth-certificate matter at a very public venue. During the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in April, Obama spoke through comedian Keegan-Michael Kay to assure, in angry tones, “I have a birth certificate. … I have a hot diggity, daggity, mamase mamasa mamakusa birth certificate, you dumb-ass crackers,” Breitbart reported.

And a month earlier, Obama used his Gridiron Club dinner platform to speak of his longtime friendship with Clarence Page, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

He said then, as WND previously reported: “[We go] way back. Before he took office, he felt comfortable asking me for tips on being a successful black president. And I told him, you want to keep your birth certificate handy.”

As WND has also reported, a range of politicians and American figures, from billionaire and presidential candidate Donald Trump to Sheriff Joe Arpaio, from Arizona, have questioned the authenticity of the birth certificate Obama’s team has presented to the public.

See the comments from Kenya:

Ben Shapiro has assembled the details you need to know here: “The People Vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against the Obama Administration.”

Liberty Still Has a Fighting Chance

By Lawrence W. Reed

This speech was delivered at FreedomFest in Las Vegas, Nevada, on July 8, 2015.

Over a nine-month period beginning in 1831, a 26-year-old Frenchman visited nearly every corner of what were then the 24 states of the American Republic. He traveled from New England to the upper Midwest to the Gulf Coast in the Deep South to the mid-Atlantic. Then he wrote a great book full of amazing insights. It made its appearance 180 years ago, in 1835. Perhaps nobody before or since has defined the essence of America better than he did; but then, no other nation in history offered an essence so profoundly exceptional.

Less than half a century after the ratification of the Constitution, America was still an infant nation, but Alexis de Tocqueville sensed the stirrings of greatness. He praised our entrepreneurial drive and initiative, our self-reliance and personal independence, and our vibrant civil society institutions and voluntary associations. He felt that our ideals would eventually lead us to lead the world. He believed that America had placed two sacred principles — freedom and equality — on a higher pedestal than any previous civilization had. They were, he said, our most defining characteristics, the sources of our strength. But he also feared that we would carry one to an extreme that would undermine the other. Milton Friedman was echoing Tocqueville when he said in the 20th century, “A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.”

Tocqueville’s appreciation of freedom knew few bounds. Here is perhaps his most eloquent endorsement of it:

Even despots accept the excellence of liberty. The simple truth is that they wish to keep it for themselves and promote the idea that no one else is at all worthy of it. Thus, our opinion of liberty does not reveal our differences but the relative value which we place on our fellow man. We can state with conviction, therefore, that a man’s support for absolute government is in direct proportion to the contempt he feels for his country.

He masterfully described how the growth of government could smother our freedoms:

After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the government then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence: it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

Tocqueville’s view of equality is more nuanced. He had no issue with the ideal of equality before the law or even equality of opportunity. He hated slavery and any unwarranted discrimination. He agreed with the words of our Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.” But he had no illusions that individuals were thereafter equal in their energies, their talents, their ambitions, their intellect or their character. He was afraid that our egalitarian impulses might someday get the better of us.

Here we are now, decades into the very egalitarian welfare state Tocqueville warned would be the death of American exceptionalism.

“I have a passionate love for liberty, law, and respect for rights,” he wrote. “Liberty is my foremost passion. But one also finds in the human heart a depraved taste for equality, which impels the weak to want to bring the strong down to their level, and which reduces men to preferring equality in servitude to inequality in freedom.”

This issue is so critical to our freedoms and our future that I want to dwell on it for a moment.

Remember this: Free people are not equal, and equal people are not free.

Put another way, in terms of economics, think of it this way: Free people will earn different incomes. Where people have the same income, they cannot be free.

Economic equality in a free society is a snare and a delusion that redistributionists envision. But free people are different people, not programmable robots, so it should not come as a surprise that they earn different incomes. Our talents and abilities are not identical. We don’t all work as hard. And even if we all were magically made equal in wealth tonight, we’d be unequal in the morning because some of us would spend our newfound wealth, and some of us would save it.

To produce even a rough measure of economic equality, governments must issue the following orders and back them up with punishment and prisons: Don’t excel or work harder than the next guy, don’t come up with any new ideas, don’t take any risks, and don’t do anything different from what you did yesterday.

In other words, don’t be human.

Economic inequality, when it derives from the voluntary interaction of creative individuals and not from political power or connections, testifies to the fact that people are being themselves, putting their unique skills to work in ways that are fulfilling to themselves and of value to others. As Tocqueville himself might say, Vive la différence!

People obsessed with economic equality do strange things. They become envious of others. They covet. They divide society into two groups: villains and victims. They spend far more time dragging somebody down than they do pulling anybody up. They’re not fun to be around.

And if they make it to a legislature, they can do real harm. Then they not only call the cops — they are the cops.

If economic inequality is an ailment, punishing effort and success is no cure in any event. Coercive, envy-based measures that aim to redistribute wealth prompt the smart or politically well-connected “haves” to seek refuge in havens here or abroad, while the hapless “have-nots” bear the full brunt of economic decline. A more productive expenditure of time would be to work to erase the mass of intrusive government that ensures that the “have-nots” are also the “cannots.”

People obsessed with economic equality do strange things. They spend far more time dragging somebody down than they do pulling anybody up.

Another superb alternative to coercive redistribution would be to work on our character — each of us, one at a time — so that we’re not only good enough for liberty, but good enough to earn a living instead of voting for one.

This economic-equality thing is not compassionate. When it’s just an idea, it’s bunk. When it’s public policy, it’s compulsory insanity. To those who can’t understand how different or unequal we are as individuals, I say, “Get over it!”

Tocqueville warned that this unhealthy obsession with economic equality, combined with an erosion in the respect for liberty and property, would produce what we today would call the welfare state. Let me offer you a description of the welfare state. Somebody once said that it got its name because in it, the politicians get well and the rest of us pay the fare. Just picture people in a giant circle with each having one hand in the next person’s pocket.

The whole notion of the welfare state rests on this really dumb proposition: since people are not decent and compassionate enough to assist their deserving fellows in distress, we must expect them to elect politicians who are more decent and compassionate than they are. How ridiculous! Those politicians then take money from us under threat of imprisonment, launder it through an expensive bureaucracy, and spend what’s left not to actually solve the problem but to manage it into perpetuity for endless dependency, demagoguery, and political gain. And then the advocates of the welfare state compliment themselves for possessing a monopoly on compassion and totally ignore the destructive results of their own handiwork.

So here we are now, decades into the very egalitarian welfare state Tocqueville warned would be the death of American exceptionalism. It threatens to make us like all the other forgettable welfare states that languish in history’s dustbins, Greece included. Should we just assume it’s inevitable and go along for the ride? Or should we muster the character that built a nation and that Tocqueville identified as quintessentially American?

If you’re pessimistic, then you’re no longer part of the solution. You’ve become part of the problem. What chance does liberty have if its supposed friends desert it in its hour of need or speak ill of its prospects?

Ask yourselves, What good purpose could a defeatist attitude possibly promote? Will it make me work harder for the causes I know are right? Is there anything about liberty that an election or events in Congress disprove? If I exude a pessimistic demeanor, will it help attract newcomers to the ideas I believe in? Is this the first time in history that believers in liberty have lost some battles? If we simply throw in the towel, will that enhance the prospects for future victories? Do we turn back just because the hill we have to climb got a little steeper?

This is not the time to abandon time-honored principles. I can’t speak for you, but someday, I want to go to my reward and be able to look back and say, “I never gave up. I never became part of the problem I tried to solve. I never gave the other side the luxury of winning anything without a rigorous, intellectual contest. I never missed an opportunity to do my best for what I believed in, and it never mattered what the odds or the obstacles were. I did my part.”

Remember that we stand on the shoulders of many people who came before us and who persevered through far darker times. The American patriots who shed their blood and suffered through unspeakable hardships as they took on the world’s most powerful nation in 1776 are certainly among them. But I am also thinking of the brave men and women behind the Iron Curtain who resisted the greatest tyranny of the modern age and won. I think of those like Hayek and Mises who kept the flame of liberty flickering in the 1940s. I think of the heroes like William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson who fought to end slavery and literally changed the conscience and character of Britain in the face of the most daunting of disadvantages. And I think of the Scots who, 456 years before the Declaration of Independence, put their lives on the line to repel English invaders with these thrilling words: “It is not for honor or glory or wealth that we fight, but for freedom alone, which no good man gives up except with his life.”

As I think about what some of those great men and women faced, the obstacles before us today seem rather puny.

This is a moment when our true character, the stuff we’re really made of, will show itself. If we retreat, that would tell me we were never really worthy of the battle in the first place. But if we resolve to let these challenging times build our character and rally our dispirited friends to new levels of dedication, we will look back on this occasion someday with pride at how we handled it. Have you called a friend yet today to explain to him or her why liberty should be a top priority?

Nobody ever promised that liberty would be easy to attain or simple to keep. The world has always been full of greedy thieves and thugs, narcissistic power seekers, snake-oil charlatans, unprincipled ne’er-do-wells, and arrogant busybodies. No true friend of liberty should just roll over and play dead for any of them.

Take an inventory every day of what you’re doing for liberty. Get more involved in the fight. There are plenty of things you can do. If your state isn’t a right-to-work state, work to make it so. Support people and organizations like the Foundation for Economic Education that are teaching young people about the importance of liberty and character. Get behind the Compact for America and its plan for a balanced federal budget and an end to reckless spending and debt. Work for school choice in your state to help break the government monopoly on education. And be the very best example for liberty and character that you can possibly be in everything you do.

Whatever you do, don’t give up no matter what. Remember these words of the great US Supreme Court justice George Sutherland: “The saddest epitaph which can be carved in memory of a vanished liberty is that it was lost because its possessors failed to stretch forth a saving hand while yet there was time.”

Can Tocqueville’s American exceptionalism be restored? Can it last? You bet it can. The American Dream still lives, in the hearts of those who love liberty and refuse to meekly surrender it. So let’s wipe the frowns off our faces and get to work. Our future, our children’s future — liberty’s future — all depend on us. 

Donald Trump dominates in new CNN poll

(CNN) — In the first national telephone poll since Donald Trump earned rebukes from Republican leaders over his comments about Senator John McCain’s military service, the real estate mogul has increased his support among GOP voters and now stands atop the race for the party’s nomination.

The new CNN/ORC Poll finds Trump at 18% support among Republicans, with former Florida governor Jeb Bush just behind at 15%, within the poll’s margin of error.

They are joined at the top of the pack by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, with 10% support among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who are registered to vote. Trump’s backing has climbed 6 points since a late-June poll, while support for Bush and Walker has not changed significantly.

New pics show Bush administration reaction to 9/11

(PBS) In never-before-released photographs taken on Sept. 11, 2001, the shock, horror and gravity of the terrorist attacks can be read on the faces of President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, their wives Laura and Lynne, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, CIA Director George Tenet and other senior Bush and Cheney staffers.

The photos were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Colette Neirouz Hanna, coordinating producer for the Kirk Documentary Group, which covered the Bush administration in many films for FRONTLINE, including Bush’s War, Cheney’s Law and The Dark Side.

The photographs, which were taken by the vice president’s staff photographer, show Cheney watching footage of the World Trade Center attack in his office. Other photos show Cheney and other senior staffers meeting in the President’s Emergency Operations Center, or the secure bunker deep underneath the White House.

Supreme Court: No More Lifetime Appointments

By Doug Bandow

Democrats and Republicans alike have turned Supreme Court appointments into a partisan slugfest. No wonder: while the judiciary has long been described as the least dangerous branch of government, the court has become instead a continuing constitutional convention. Just five votes can turn the Constitution inside out.

The latest Supreme Court term was seen as a shift to the left. The high court rewrote Obamacare to save the president’s landmark legislation to socialize American health care and completed a social revolution by nationalizing gay marriage. These decisions set off a flurry of promises from Republican Party presidential candidates to confront the judiciary.

Extreme Measures

Jeb Bush said he would only appoint judges “with a proven record of judicial restraint,” even though previous presidents claiming to do the same chose Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, and John Roberts, among many other conservative disappointments.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) called for judicial retention elections. Such a change at the federal level would require a constitutional amendment, though it would mimic the practices of some 20 states. Even more controversially, Cruz suggested that only those whose case was brought before the justices had to respect Supreme Court rulings.

Extreme measures seem necessary because a simultaneously progressive and activist judiciary has joined the legislature and executive in forthrightly making public policy.

Should Justices Serve for Life?

The influence of judges has been magnified by their relative immunity from political pressure. Although the courts sometimes follow the election returns, in many cases — such as abortion and gay marriage — judicial decisions have short-circuited normal political discourse.

That fact alone makes judicial appointments important. Their significance is magnified by judges’ life tenure.

Lose the battle over filling a Supreme Court slot and you may suffer the consequences for decades. Gerald Ford’s unelected presidency merits little more than a historical footnote, but his Supreme Court legacy long persisted through Justice John Paul Stevens, a judicial ideologue hostile to liberty in most forms. Republicans going back to Dwight Eisenhower publicly lamented the evolution of their appointees, and every one of them made at least one choice that ultimately advanced a big-government agenda. Anthony Kennedy and John Roberts fill that role today.

Lifetime tenure has other consequences. The appointment process is endlessly arbitrary, as judges hang on, irrespective of advancing age. Although instances of obvious infirmity are few — the last clear Supreme Court case was William O. Douglas, who served more than 36 years before retiring in 1975 — outcomes should not be affected by actuarial tables. A gerontocratic court differs dramatically from the society on behalf of which its members purport to speak. The lack of turnover also may deaden court debate, reinforcing established patterns of thinking.

Fixed terms would establish judicial accountability.


Independence versus Accountability

Life tenure is enshrined in the Constitution and rooted in history. The justification for lifetime appointment is to insulate the courts from transient political pressures. Some such protection is necessary if judges are to feel free to make unpopular decisions upholding the nation’s fundamental law.

Yet, judicial independence does not require lack of accountability. Judges are supposed to play a limited though vital role: interpreting, not transforming, the law. The dichotomy of activism versus restraint is the wrong prism for viewing judges. They should be active in enforcing the law, striking down legislation, and vindicating rights when required by the Constitution. They should be restrained in substituting their policy preferences for those of elected representatives.

When jurists violate this role, as do so many judges, they should be held accountable. Unfortunately, many of the proposed responses are more dangerous than the judges themselves. For instance, limiting court jurisdiction or impeaching errant jurists, oft proposed in the past, provides obvious opportunities for abuse. Worse is Cruz’s idea that most people should ignore the Supreme Court. Where government branches collide, someone must have a final say, or else the result will be enduring political conflict and limited legal legitimacy.

Ignore the Court?

More important, Cruz would presumably not want politicians to ignore court rulings with which he agreed. After all, as originally conceived, the judiciary was tasked with the critical role of holding the executive and legislative branches accountable, limiting their propensity to exceed their bounds and abuse the people. For instance, Alexander Hamilton imagined independent courts playing a “peculiarly essential” role to safeguard liberties and being an “excellent barrier to the encroachments and oppressions of the representative body.” Indeed, he contended, the judiciary would “guard the Constitution and the rights of individuals” from “the people themselves.”

Thomas Jefferson argued that judges would provide a “legal check” on political majorities. James Madison, often viewed as the father of the Constitution, predicted that

independent tribunals of justice will consider themselves in a peculiar manner the guardians of [Bill of Rights guarantees]; they will be an impenetrable bulwark against every assumption of power in the legislative or executive; they will be naturally led to resist every encroachment upon rights expressly stipulated for in the constitution by the declaration of rights.

Of course, all too often the judiciary fails to fulfill this role today. No less than the presidents and congressmen, judges have become avid advocates of statism. Jurists as well as politicians should be held accountable. Unreviewable power is always dangerous.

Throw the Bums Out?

Some 20 states have implemented Cruz’s second idea, of retention elections. Few judges are defenestrated, but on occasion, the results are dramatic. Three decades ago, California voters ousted three state supreme court jurists who had effectively repealed the death penalty. In 2010, Iowa voters defeated three state supreme court judges who ruled in favor of gay marriage.

National judicial elections, however, would be far more problematic. Should the decision be made via national vote or by a majority of state votes? Moreover, it is hard to believe that Americans who today choose their president based on 30-second television spots would pay serious attention to esoteric legal issues and make the fine distinctions characteristic of legal and constitutional analysis. Worse, judicial votes might reinforce the reigning political consensus, allowing majorities to remove justices most prepared to enforce the constitution against those in power. Unfortunately, further politicizing the judiciary would be an uncertain means of counteracting the problem of a politicized judiciary.

There is a better alternative.

The Solution: Fixed Terms

The Constitution should be amended to authorize fixed terms for federal judges. Perhaps one term of 10 or 12 years for Supreme Court justices, though Federalist Society founder Steve Calabresi suggested 18-year terms. Another option would be a renewable term of 6 or 8 years. Staggering terms would ensure every president at least a couple of appointments. Mixing short and long terms would expand diversity.

Such an approach would offer several advantages. While every appointment would remain important, judicial nominations would no longer be as likely to become political Armageddon. The new justice’s service would be bounded with his exit from office already set, and another appointment would be due a couple of years later.

Term limits also would ensure a steady transformation of the court’s membership. New additions at regular intervals would encourage intellectual as well as physical rejuvenation of the court. No longer would justices attempt to desperately hang on in order to outlast a president of another party. Law rather than health would determine the pace of judicial appointments.

Most important, fixed terms would establish judicial accountability. Justices still would be independent, largely immune to political retaliation for their decisions. Thus, if so inclined, they still could “resist every encroachment upon rights expressly stipulated for in the constitution by the declaration of rights.”

Nevertheless, abusive judges would no longer serve for life. Elective officials could reassert control over the court without destroying the judicial institution. There would be no court-packing, a la Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as transformation would take time, over two or three presidencies.

The Supreme Court has become as consequential as the presidency in making public policy. Indeed, contrary to their originally envisioned role, judges have become as likely as politicians to push to expand state power and limit individual liberty. It is necessary to find a way to impose accountability while preserving independence. Appointing judges to fixed terms would simultaneously achieve both objectives.

War Is No Excuse for Socialist Planning

By Robert P. Murphy

After the Soviet Union fell, just about everybody — except some humanities professors at Harvard — agreed that full-blown central planning was a bad way to produce food, cars, and television sets. However, people still seem to have a soft spot for planning when it comes to a “war economy.”

Even many who claim to support laissez-faire will make exceptions for such an “emergency,” going so far as to embrace price controls, rationing, and even conscription of labor. President George W. Bush, for example, claimed in 2008 that he had “abandoned free market principles to save the free market system” — and many conservatives supported him.

However, if the country’s security is at stake, this is precisely when we need the superior efficiency of markets the most. If we can agree that capitalism produces more food and better computers than socialism, we should trust it to produce more bombs and better tanks, too.

Who Plans for Victory?

In his classic treatise Human Action, Ludwig von Mises — who had served in an artillery unit in World War I and was no stranger to the Nazis’ military might — explained the flaws in the popular notion that government economic planning is needed in a major war:

What America needed in order to win [World War II] was a radical conversion of all its production activities. All not absolutely indispensable civilian consumption was to be eliminated. The plants and farms were henceforth to turn out only a minimum of goods for nonmilitary use. For the rest, they were to devote themselves completely to the task of supplying the armed forces. (Human Action, Scholar’s Edition, pp. 821–22)

But did the government need direct control of industry in order to manage the war economy? Mises says no:

The realization of this program did not require the establishment of controls and priorities. If the government had raised all the funds needed for the conduct of war by taxing the citizens and by borrowing from them, everybody would have been forced to cut down his consumption drastically. The entrepreneurs and farmers would have turned toward production for the government because the sale of goods to private citizens would have dropped. The government, now by virtue of the inflow of taxes and borrowed money the biggest buyer on the market, would have been in a position to obtain all it wanted.

Indeed, if it were true that the Roosevelt administration needed to establish controls on steel, rubber, oil, and so forth to ensure an adequate supply for the war effort, then it is hard to see why such controls shouldn’t be maintained in peacetime for equally important tasks — such as providing adequate food and shelter to Americans.

On the other hand, if we can agree that a decentralized market economy, in which individual entrepreneurs strive to earn profits, is the best way to “leverage” our available resources when it comes to cars, radios, and sweaters, then likewise it would be foolish to impose top-down bureaucratic controls when fighting Hitler.

Political officials take their people into unnecessary conflicts all the time.


The Draft

The logic of voluntary market arrangements holds in the case of conscription as well. Suppose a foreign nation has amassed millions of soldiers on the border, and is preparing to invade. Wouldn’t even a classical-liberal government have to hold its nose and impose a draft on its citizens, just to deal with this emergency?

The answer is no. To see why, change the example: If a foreign nation drafted millions of its people into working on collectivized farms, would the United States need to do the same, if it wanted to grow more food? Of course not. The way to maximize food production (especially if we care about quality) would be to get the federal government out of agriculture as much as possible.

A similar pattern holds in military struggles. A free society could easily defend itself from, say, two million poorly equipped conscripts with little training, by using only, let’s say, 100,000 elite, volunteer troops supplied with advanced weaponry and vehicles from 400,000 civilians working in factories cranking out helicopters, body armor, tanks, and artillery. Foreign dictators’ reliance on a large labor-to-capital ratio for their military hardly means that is an efficient practice for a freer nation to emulate.

We must always remember that government edicts do not create real resources. All they can do is divert resources into different channels from what the voluntary market process would have produced. Besides being morally abhorrent, slave labor is also incredibly inefficient. A nation relying on involuntary servitude (that is, military conscripts) to fight its wars will not be nearly as effective, other things equal, as a nation relying on free labor — where anyone can accept or reject the terms of employment, or negotiate for a better deal.

Give Peace a Chance

There is a final consideration in favor of reliance on the market and rejection of “emergency” wartime powers for the government. So far, I have been conceding for the sake of argument that the nation ought to be at war; the question was merely how best to wage it. But in reality, political officials take their people into unnecessary conflicts all the time.

One way they get away with it is by hiding the costs of war through monetary inflation while imposing the more visible costs on those with the least political influence. But when a government has to pay for its wars by entering the market and bidding away resources — including labor — from other possible uses, and then presents its citizens with the explicit tax bill, people realize just how expensive the conflict really is. Furthermore, the costs of war fall more evenly on the population, rather than being concentrated on young, able-bodied men (as occurs under a draft).

When it comes to conventional consumer goods, the free-market economy makes the best use of resources by relying on the ingenuity of millions of entrepreneurs rather than the rigid blueprint of a few central planners. The same principles carry over to waging military conflicts. Beyond narrow measures of efficiency, however, a respect for property rights would also force government officials to be more judicious in their use of resources during a war, especially the lives of volunteers, rather than squandering conscripts as cannon fodder.

Inspectors general seek criminal probe of Hillary emails


Hillary Clinton

The Justice Department has been asked to open a criminal investigation to see if Hillary Clinton mishandled sensitive information when she used her private email account while serving as secretary of state.

Two inspectors general for the State Department asked for the investigation, senior government officials told the New York Times. That request comes on the heels of the two inspectors general’s finding that Clinton’s private email account contained “hundreds of potentially classified emails,” the newspaper reported.

It’s not clear if these “potentially classified emails” were clearly marked as classified at the time Clinton either sent or received them, the New York Times reported. She said in March none of the emails she sent or received over her personal account contained classified information.

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Her March statement: “I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified material. So I’m certainly well aware of the classification requirements and did not send classified material.”

The Justice Department hasn’t determined if it will open an investigation into Clinton yet.

But the request alone could have an impact on Clinton’s presidential campaign, which has already been dotted by poor poll showings due primarily to trust issues with the voters. Her campaign has also seen a somewhat shocking stall from the rising popularity of Sen. Bernie Sanders, the self-declared socialist from Vermont who’s been reeling in large crowds on his campaign run for the White House.

The inspectors’ general request comes just a day after a federal judge chided attorneys for the State Department about their perceived stall of several Freedom of Information Act requests from the Associated Press. Some were made four years ago and still haven’t been fulfilled.

“I want to find out what’s been going on over there – I should say, what’s not been going on over there,” said Judge Richard Leon of the United States District Court, Politico reported. “For reasons known only to itself [the State Department] has been, to say the least, recalcitrant in responding.”

Capitol Hill politicians have also sharply criticized the seeming failure of the State Department to provide adequate excuses for not providing subpoenaed documents.

“The State Department has used every excuse to avoid complying with fundamental requests for documents,” said Rep. Trey Gowdy, the New York Times reported.

Meanwhile, another Clinton-tied scandal has just loomed. As WND reported, an arms dealer has just accused the Obama administration of protecting Clinton by sending the Department of Justice to prosecute an innocent man.


FBI chief: ISIS recruiting in all 50 states


FBI Director James Comey discusses terrorist threats in the U.S. during an interview in Aspen with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

James Comey, director of the FBI, warned at an Aspen Security Forum the current breed of ISIS is “not your parents’ al-Qaida,” and Americans need to be on alert: The terror group’s recruiting in all 50 states.

“[This] is not your parents’ al-Qaida,” he said, at the Wednesday evening event reported by the Aspen Times. “It’s a very different model. … What worries me most is that ISIL’s investment in social media, which has been blossoming in the last six to eight weeks in particulare, will cause a significant increase in the number of incidents that we will see. That’s what I worry about all day long.”

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Comey said al Qaida followers used to have to search the social media sites to get news of the terror group’s goings-on. But ISIS has changed that modus operandi, he said.

“ISIL is changing that model entirely because ISIL is buzzing on your hip,” Comey said, referencing smart phones, the Aspen Times reported. “If you want to talk to a terrorist, they’re right there on Twitter Direct Messaging for you to communicate with. … The FBI’s job is to locate the people in the 50 states that are receptive to the ISIL message and stop them from committing domestic terrorism.”

Comey also said “dozens” of Americans between the ages of 18 and 62 have traveled to Mideast regions to join the terror group.

“What ISIL brings to us is a crowd-sourcing of terrorism using social media in a way that al-Qaida never imagined,” he said, Fox 13 Salt Lake City reported.

He said they’re expert at reaching the “troubled souls” and enticing them to join the group, and have spread their messages of terror through every state in the nation.

“Their message,” he said, Fox 13 reported, “is travel to the Caliphate, their so-called Islamic wonder world. Join us here in Iraq or Syria, and if you can’t travel, kill somebody where you are. Kill somebody in uniform, preferably in the military or law enforcement, but just kill somebody.”