A Life Devoted to the Freedom of Others

Each week, Mr. Reed will relate the stories of people whose choices and actions make them heroes. See the table of contents for previous installments.

The captain of the British slave ship Zong ordered his crew to throw 133 chained black Africans overboard to their deaths. He reckoned that by falsely claiming the ship had run out of fresh water, he could collect more for the “cargo” from the ship’s insurer than he could fetch at a slave auction in Jamaica.

The captain and crew were found out, but no one in the Zong affair was prosecuted for murder. A London court ruled the matter a mere civil dispute between an insurance firm and a client. As for the Africans, the judge declared their drowning was “just as if horses were killed,” which, as horrendous as it sounds today, was a view not far removed from the conventional wisdom that prevailed worldwide in 1785.

Slavery, after all, was an ancient institution. Even with our freedoms today, the number of people who have walked the earth in bondage far outnumbers those who have enjoyed even a modest measure of liberty.

Indeed, perhaps the luckiest of the people taken captive and bound for a life at the end of a lash were those who succumbed aboard ship, where mortality rates sometimes ran as high as 50 percent. Surviving the Middle Passage across the Atlantic from Africa was only the start of a hellish experience: endless and often excruciating toil, with death at an early age.

Moved by the fate of the Zong’s victims and the indifference of the court, a vice chancellor at the University of Cambridge chose this question for the university’s annual Latin essay contest:

“Anne liceat invitos in servitutem dare?” — Is it lawful to make slaves of others against their will?

The contest was known throughout Britain, and the honor of winning it was highly prized…

Authorities defend schoolboy’s arrest over ‘clock’

(London Guardian) A 14-year-old Texas boy who was arrested after bringing a homemade clock to school has accepted an invitation to visit the White House as school and city officials insisted they made the right decision when they handcuffed, interrogated and arrested him this week.

Ahmed Mohamed, an engineering enthusiast, brought the clock to MacArthur high school in Irving, Texas, on Monday to show one of his teachers. Hours later, he was handcuffed and arrested by school resource officers as part of “standard procedure” after being summoned to a school office to explain the device.

After his story swept across the internet and drew messages of support from tech companies and the US president, Ahmed told reporters outside his home on Wednesday: “I built the clock to impress my teacher, but when I showed it to her she thought it was a threat to her. It was really sad that she took a wrong impression of it.”

Don’t Smash the State

In an essay published in 1981, and apparently not available online, Sheldon Richman argued that if the state is like an onion, the proper strategy for liberty was not to peel back intervention layer by layer, but instead to, in the words of the article’s title, “Smash the Onion.”

I remember reading and loving that piece as a radical young libertarian, as did many of my radical young libertarians friends at the time. Even today, I still am sympathetic to the impulse behind that argument, coming as it does from a place that sees the injustice of the state as something that should not be tolerated for one more second. It echoes Martin Luther King’s line that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

However, like most political slogans, the rhetorical appeal and simplicity of “smash the onion” can easily divert us from thinking about the reality of rolling back the state.

Rather than an onion, let’s think about the state as a ticking time bomb. Libertarians are the bomb squad called in to defuse it before it goes off. We could argue for simply yanking out all the wires, or even “smashing the bomb,” but either option is likely to cause the bomb to explode. Defusing a bomb often requires careful thinking about how the bomb was constructed, which parts are linked, and what all those wires do. In other words, safely defusing the bomb requires snipping those wires in the right order.

Let me first address two other issues. One difference between the world of 2015 and that of 1981 is that we have a much greater ability now to work around the onion of the state rather than debating whether peeling it or smashing it is a better strategy. As Jeffrey Tucker and Max Borders argued in “Fifty Ways to Leave Leviathan,” there…

‘Allahu Akbar!’: Migrants rampage, attack police

Hungarian police spray rioting Muslims with water cannons and tear gas Wednesday.

Hungarian police spray rioting Muslims with water cannons and tear gas Wednesday.

Despite the best efforts of CNN, the BBC and other media giants to paint the European migrant crisis as a spontaneous humanitarian crisis fueled by Syria’s civil war, evidence continues to mount to the contrary.

On Wednesday full-fledged riots broke out at Hungary’s border with Serbia, where Hungary had just this week finished work on a razor-wire fence to keep the migrants from pouring into its sovereign territory.

About 1,500 migrants broke through the fence and were rioting, chanting “Allahu Akbar!” while throwing rocks and bottles and even food at police.

Police responded by using tear gas and water cannons to push back the surging crowd.

At least 20 police officers were injured in the rioting, which followed Hungary’s declaration of a state of emergency on Tuesday.

“That is a response to a surge by the migrants here, they are throwing stones, bottles, rocks, anything they can use as a projectile at police positions,” CNN’s Nic Robertson said. “I’ve had to move back out of the way. There are quite a lot of riot police. Tempers are running very, very high.”

Watch video of rioting migrants breaking through Hungary’s border fence.

Robertson then editorialized, saying: “This isn’t a great surprise. Tempers have been fraying now for many hours. And this is a consequence, I suppose it’s another indication, of Europe’s shambolic response to the European migration crisis.”

Many of the young men rioting had placed scarves over their faces.

Reuters reported that Serbia has been informed by Hungary that the border crossing will be closed for the next 30 days and patrolled by Hungarian Humvees with mounted guns which are moving toward the Serbian border.

According to United Nations data, 75 percent of the migrants who have swarmed into Europe this summer have been men, and only 51 percent have been from Europe. Reports about of caches of Syrian passports being found by police, and the demand for these passports grows from non-Syrians seeking to cash in on Europe’s welfare largesse continues to grow.

The rioting and chaos at the Hungarian border is raising eyebrows on both sides of the issue.

This is not the way true war refugees act, say those who have seen the horrors of war up close.

“The media is making this out to be a spontaneous refugee crisis when this is actually a very organized event,” said Dr. Mark Christian, an Egyptian-born former Muslim who served in the Egyptian military and is an expert on the Muslim Brotherhood, which his great uncle helped found.

Dr. Mark Christian grew up in a prominent Muslim family in Egypt and converted to Christianity as an adult.

Dr. Mark Christian grew up in a prominent Muslim family in Egypt and converted to Christianity as an adult.

Christian, who now lives in Nebraska and heads up the Global Faith Institute, said civil war in Syria has been raging for five years. So people should be asking why the surge of refugees from that war suddenly spiked this summer?

“Things are building up for things to start moving quickly in the Middle East. The purpose of these migrants is, they are making the West feel the pain,” he said.

The goal of the migrant invasion is to put pressure on Europe and the U.S. to enter the Syrian Civil War and take out Bashar al-Assad and replace him with a Sunni Muslim government, which is the mission of President Obama and his Muslim Brotherhood supporters, Christian said.

“This is continuing the so-called Arab Spring,” he said. “Keep making them to feel the pain, with ISIS recruiting, ISIS beheading, now ISIS sending jihadists (disguised as refugees). The West will come under more pressure.”

Christian said that under U.S. leadership, starting with President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, every secular Muslim dictator in the Middle East has been removed in favor of a religious Muslim regime. Saddam was dethroned in Iraq and replaced with Shiite mullahs, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak was replaced with a Muslim Brotherhood government, which ended up being overthrown by a military coup, Libya’s Moamar Qadaffi was killed and replaced with radical Sunni elements fighting for power, while chaos has been unleashed also in Yemen.

The one sticking point has been Syria, where Russia and Iran have backed Assad and Russia is now moving in heavy combat equipment to join the Russian military advisers already on the ground.

Two years ago when Obama and the U.K. government of David Cameron tried to intervene in the Syrian civil war, both the Congress and the U.K. Parliament balked.

“So they have been given the green light to start the flooding of refugees, start making Europe and America feel the pain more, because this is reaching the point where taking Assad out will be imminent. This is not a spontaneous thing. There are hardly no women coming into Europe, no Christians, who are truly being persecuted. It’s mostly all Muslim men between the ages of 18 and 40. The more this continues the people of Europe and America will be begging for their governments to go into Syria and put and end to this.”

President Obama, meanwhile, has agreed to take 10,000 more Syrian refugees and now his administration let leak the fact that it is considering 85,000 refugees from all countries over fiscal 2016, which begins Oct. 1. And that could be upped to 100,000 in 2017.

Progressivism Is Illiberal

A New York magazine article headline declares, “De Blasio’s Proposal to Destroy Pedestrian Times Square Is the Opposite of Progressive.”

That’s Bill de Blasio, the current mayor of New York City, who was elected in 2013 after running unabashedly as the progressive, socially democratic candidate. I find it interesting that people are surprised by the mayor’s illiberal stands on many (though not all) of the major issues he has faced in his short time in office.

One of the latest is his proposal to return cars to Times Square Plaza, in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, by razing the outdoor space created by the administration of his Republican predecessor, Michael Bloomberg. You see, Mayor Bill says he doesn’t like the goings-on there, which lately include women soliciting topless on the street and people dressed as Elmo hustling tourists. His solution? We can’t control all the hucksterism, so let’s shut the whole thing down!

Justin Davidson, the author of that New York magazine article, says it well:

If de Blasio really believes that the best way to deal with street performers in Times Square is to tear up the pedestrian plaza, may I suggest he try reducing homelessness by eradicating doorways and subway grates?

My point goes beyond Times Square Plaza, of course, although that controversy is instructive, as are others (such as his recent attempt to rein in Uber).

The approach the mayor takes in this and similar matters is characteristic of any political ideology that views unrestrained political power as a legitimate tool of social change. That includes neoconservatism and other modern political ideologies, including progressivism.


Pow! Zing! Batman defends Black Lives Matter

DC Comics' latest issue of Batman will focus on police brutality and its effects on urban minorities. (Image: DC Comics)

DC Comics’ latest issue of Batman focuses on police brutality and its effects on urban minorities. (Image: DC Comics)

Gotham’s dark knight is going into Black Lives Matter mode. DC Comics’ latest issue of Batman tackles police brutality and features clear allusions to the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and and Eric Garner in New York City.

Lead writer Scott Snyder’s flashback story focuses on Gotham police veteran Ned Howler’s decision to shoot a teenager named Peter Duggio before he has a chance to follow commands. The boy is an innocent victim who came out of his father’s business after an altercation with a local gang.

The story begins, however, with the image of a young black boy shot in the stomach and left “for the crows.”

“Of course you want Batman to beat this officer up, and be like, ‘How could you?’ But the point of the issue is that wouldn’t solve the problem. Batman throwing the officer off a roof, or throwing the officer in jail, it wouldn’t get to the heart of the matter at all. And that’s the thing I think is ultimately infuriating,” Snyder told the Guardian on Tuesday.

The paper reported the issue depicts Batman on rooftops, “staring out at a city that no longer makes sense to him, as fictionalized versions of newspaper articles on police brutality, institutionalized racism, poverty and gentrification swirl disorientingly around him.”

In “Scam: How the Black Leadership Exploits Black America,” Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson – a true black leader whom many affectionately call “the other Jesse” – shows how the civil rights establishment has made a lucrative career out of keeping racial strife alive in America.

Comic critic Emma Houxbois of Rainbow Hub blog cheered DC’s writers for making “race, and the impact on black children in specific, central” to Batman #44. She said the book holds “white readers accountable for their complicity in the real-world situations that the comic analogizes,” the Guardian reported.

The current arc of DC Comics’ Batman was crafted with the help of Chicago-based writer Brian Azzarello, who told the newspaper racial themes will not disappear from the title after one issue.

Azzarello plans to revisit such ideas in an upcoming collaboration with one of the industry’s most famous writers, Frank Miller.

“Batman is learning he can’t solve problems in the ways he thought he could,” Snyder said, the Guardian reported. “It’s much more about understanding what people face in their everyday lives: knowing their fears, knowing their anger, and trying to show them, in a way, that they can and we together can fix, or hopefully make baby steps in fixing these problems that seem intractable, entrenched and impossible to overcome.”

"Of course you want Batman to beat this officer up, and be like, 'How could you?" writer writer Scott Snyder told the Guardian of Batman #44. (Image: DC Comics)

“Of course you want Batman to beat this officer up, and be like, ‘How could you?” Batman writer Scott Snyder told the Guardian of Batman #44. (Image: DC Comics)

Students for Sale

Imagine you’re with me in a room full of educators, mostly public school teachers and administrators. We are there to learn how to incorporate principles of entrepreneurship and innovation into a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)-based learning environment. Ben, the professional development facilitator, is showing us how to use a business model canvas, a simple diagram used by start-ups to map out their business model.

 “Let’s take a simple example of an innovative firm, like Uber, and break this down a little bit…”

“Can we do something a little more relatable,” one of the attendees chimes in, “like a nonprofit organization or a school?”

We shift gears and map out a typical public school program, defining customers and value propositions. We describe delivery channels and key partners.

Things get more complicated when we try to define cost structures and identify revenue streams.

“You know,” Ben interjects, “we may be looking at this all wrong. Based on this current business model, maybe students and parents are not the actual customers of your services.”


He continues, but the sudden weight of the air in the room seems to pull his words to the floor before they reach my peers sitting nearby. The uncomfortable truth he spoke is so repulsive to everyone, as educators, that the very laws of nature seem to resist. There are even a couple of audible gasps as some of the teachers realize that “customer” is really some kind of entrepreneur’s code word for “people whose opinions you should value.”

Here we were, professional educators, having relegated ourselves to a career of self-sacrifice and meager pay for the greater good, and this capitalist had the gall to imply that our mantra of “doing it for the children” was hollow!

I had to suppress any hint of a grin triggered by their reaction so as not to out myself as a capitalist, somehow complicit in dishing out all this cognitive…

Obamacare enrollees ‘must double’ to stay solvent

(WASHINGTON TIMES) — President Obama will need to more than double the number of Americans enrolled in Obamacare exchange plans to reach 21 million next year, the target set in budget projections, in what is shaping up as the next major test for the health care law.

As of June, the Department of Health and Human Services counted 9.9 million customers who have bought plans through the federal HealthCare.gov portal and a handful of state-run exchanges.

That puts the administration ahead of it’s own estimates for 2015, but is less than half what the Congressional Budget Office projected for 2016, showing just how much work officials have ahead of them as the next round of enrollment begins in less than two months.

If Men Were Angels, We Wouldn’t Need the Blockchain

“Don’t you think replacing humans is a bad idea?” an audience member asked Andrew Wagner after his talk on the future of blockchain technologies.

Wagner’s reply: “God, no. People suck.

Do we hear a crude echo of James Madison in Federalist No. 51?

If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” — James Madison 

Wagner was giving a talk on replacing human bureaucracies with what he calls decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs). His focus was not on government bureaucracies specifically, but at least one of his arguments in favor of automation is quite Madisonian.

The Worst Rise to the Top

The full title of Madison’s essay, first published in 1788, is “The Structure of the Government Must Furnish the Proper Checks and Balances between the Different Departments.” As its title suggests, Madison argued for the importance of decentralizing coercive authority. The same human condition that calls for the existence of government — our nonangelic nature — also makes government’s existence a great danger to liberty.

As Robert Higgs writes in his own consideration of Federalist No. 51, “The most vicious people in society will tend to gain control of the state.”

Madison’s argument, Higgs contends, “does more than emphasize that human nature is something less than angelic.”

It also serves as a springboard that propels Madison directly into a consideration of “framing a govern…

Savage: ‘There’s a retrovirus in the White House’

Michael Savage, the No. 2 top talker in America with a Ph.D. in epidemiology, has come up with a diagnosis for what’s wrong with America.

“There’s a retrovirus in the White House,” he said on his show Friday.

It wasn’t the ’60s that destroyed America, he said, after watching a collection of home movies he collected from that era.

“We keep hearing the ’60s were bad,” he said. “They say the hippie movement destroyed America. But I want to tell you the ’60s weren’t all bad.”

The movies brought him some clarity.

“I saw myself as a very straight young social worker, teacher,” he said. “Then suddenly the movie jumps to 1968 and I have a beard, I have long hair, I look like Charles Manson. The last scene of the movie is a scene of me as a free spirit on the roof of a hospital in Hawaii, a research hospital I was working in as a grad student, moving freely on this roof with the ocean behind me. … I saw myself up on the roof of that hospital and I had to make a note that the ’60s were not so bad.”

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Savage told his listeners: “It wasn’t the hippies who ruined America. It was the Communists who ruined the hippies who ruined America. You see, a free spirit is more easily manipulated or penetrated than a rigid spirit. The ’60s allowed millions of us to become freer spirits. The Communists entered our spirits just as retroviruses infect humans, causing the common cold and AIDs for example. And today we have a retrovirus in the White House named Barack Obama. He has infected the body politic with his hateful, anti-American view and invaded many other cells or people with his destructive ideas.”

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A retrovirus uses an enzyme to become part of the cells it invades and facilitates many copies of the host cells, he explained.

“Does this sound like what Obama has done to this country?” he asked. “That’s exactly what he has done. The entire Democratic Party has been invaded and infected by him. Not all of them were like this originally. Not all of them were like this even seven years ago. Some of them had a scintilla of patriotism and a scintilla of sanity. Today the entire Democrat Party has been invaded by the retrovirus of Barack Obama that has infected them with his worldview that is so crazy they don’t even know what they are doing, because they are just like him now.”

And it goes beyond the Democratic Party, he said. The Republican Party has been infected too. The media are nearly all infected.

This didn’t take place in the ’60s, Savage explained. It’s happening now.

“The ’60s were not all bad,” Savage reiterated after a nostalgic view of his home movies. The problem, he said, was that some ’60s people became “frozen in time to this minute … they never evolved … they don’t know they destroyed their own country … they are stuck in the past, stuck in the past, unable to see what they are doing to this country.”

“But make no mistake about it, a president is a very powerful man,” said Savage. “And what this man is doing is beyond comprehension – like granting the most terroristic nation on the planet the right to develop nuclear weapons. It would be like, after Baltimore was burned down, instead of putting the perpetrators in jail, it would be like giving them all RPGs and tanks thinking they won’t do any more harm.”

Bringing it all home, Savage said the reason the ’60s were not all bad is because there’s nothing wrong with being a free spirit: “I would say I’m still a free spirit and I don’t want the government telling me what to do, and I don’t want you telling me what to do, and I don’t want ‘Black Lives’ telling me what to do, and I don’t want anyone telling me what to do. How’s that?”