Election 2016

Hard Times Ahead for Advocates of Peace and Free Markets

For liberty lovers it will be a long road to November 8, 2016.


John Pemble/Flickr

These are hard times for us advocates of peace and free markets. As the 2016 presidential campaign heats up, where can we turn—assuming we must turn somewhere? Neither Republicans nor Democrats have much to offer voters who both favor free markets and agree with James Madison (not someone I'm usually fond of quoting) that "of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other."

One need only watch the Republican "debates" (they're more like dog shows) to see this. Who among the 14 contenders represents the strain, however faded it is, in American politics that combines Adam Smith, the 18th-century Scottish champion of the "system of natural liberty," and William Graham Sumner, the turn-of-the-20th-century classical-liberal sociologist who opposed America's conversion into a global imperial power with the Spanish-American War?

Both men forged some of the most important pro-liberty principles of the American tradition. Smith, in The Wealth of Nations, opposed government privileges for business, such as monopolistic trade restrictions, and imperialist foreign policy, while Sumner condemned the progressives' embrace of old-world militarism. (See his devastating and still-relevant critique, "The Conquest of the United States by Spain.") Both understood that political power was the source of most social ills, and their prescription was the same: roll back that power as much as possible in order to unleash individual energy and, in the words of another thinker in this tradition (Albert Jay Nock), "social power." (Historically, classical liberals understood support for global free markets—essentially a world without borders—and opposition to war as two vital parts of a single integrated program.)

Last month's three-hour CNN-staged Republican spectacle conspicuously lacked this perspective in favor of peace and free markets. We heard essentially nothing about freedom and free markets but much about military power, foreign intervention, and war. When Donald Trump disparaged free international trade, promising to negotiate tough beggar-our-neighbor "deals," no one refuted his protectionism and touted the justice and tangible benefits of free-flowing goods and capital. And when he disparaged immigration, again no one refuted his nativism and touted the justice and tangible benefits of free people pursuing better lives no matter where that quest takes them. Nor did anyone note that under a real free-enterprise system, employers wouldn't be forced to run job candidates' names through a government database.

A low point in the debate came when Jeb Bush bragged that as governor of Florida he stopped Trump from building a casino in the state. No one on stage criticized Bush for using government power to thwart free enterprise, just as no one complained that Trump used the government's eminent-domain power to steal people's homes.

Similarly, Ben Carson defended raising the minimum wage. If you were waiting for someone on stage to mention that a government-mandated minimum wage (along with a host of other alleged benevolent measures) violates market principles and prices unskilled workers out of jobs, you heard only crickets instead.

On foreign policy, not one Republican stood up for principled peaceful nonintervention, although Sen. Rand Paul cautioned that intervention can backfire. (That's a mighty pale version of what the "Old Right" writers and politicians offered in their case against war and empire in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.) Several Republicans called for confrontation with Russia (Trump has been a notable exception), branded China an "enemy," and portrayed President Obama, who's dropping bombs and otherwise intensifying conflict all over the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia, as a peacenik. (That's the joke of the young century.) Republicans haven't yet learned (though Rand Paul's father, Ron, tried to teach them) that U.S. intervention incubated and spread the Islamic jihadism they are so eager to send others to fight and even to face down Russia over.

They all seem especially eager for a war of aggression against Iran even though it has not been pursuing a nuclear bomb (American and Israeli intelligence agree) and has accepted unprecedented anytime inspections of—and major reductions in—its civilian nuclear industry. In return, economic sanctions will be lifted and assets unfrozen, though Republicans falsely imply that Americans will foot the bill. Republicans, including Rand Paul, tell the most outrageous lies about Iran and the nuclear deal, a strategy that can only serve to prepare Americans for a catastrophic war. Perhaps most outrageous is Trump's claim, unchallenged in the establishment media, that the agreement would obligate the U.S. government to defend Iran against an Israeli attack—not that the U.S. government should side with Israel. (Republicans ignore that Iran's animosity to the United States is rooted in the CIA's 1953 overthrow of a democratic Iranian government, the restoration to power of a brutal monarch, and the continuing U.S. proxy, covert, cyber, and economic warfare against the Iranians.)

Rand Paul might seem to be an exception in this, but is he really? He speaks generally about limiting government power, and to his credit he has protested Obama's drone warfare against American citizens and mass surveillance. But in many ways Paul muddies the message and gives aid and comfort to the interventionists. While he cautions against foreign entanglements, he has joined the worst hawks in demonizing Iran and trashing the nuclear agreement. And while he speaks some wisdom about the oppressive the drug war, especially its toll on poor minorities, he would force people into so-called rehabilitation. In the debates held so far, Paul has passed up myriad opportunities to promote free immigration and free enterprise.

I wish it were different on the Democrats' side, but it is not. Where, for instance, is Bernie Sanders's critique of Hillary Clinton's support for imperial intervention in the Middle East and elsewhere?

For peace and freedom lovers, it'll be a long road to November 8, 2016. 

This piece was originall written under the auspices of the Independent Institute, where Richman is a Research Fellow.  

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  1. I was wondering how Richman would pivot from free enterprise to blaming Israel.

    1. Was there ever any doubt? We all knew it would happen before even clicking on the article.

  2. OT: Don’t know if this has been covered yet:


    Two outside experts have concluded a Cleveland police officer’s fatal shooting of a 12-year-old boy who was carrying a toy gun was a reasonable response to a perceived threat, according to reports released by an Ohio prosecutor’s office on Saturday.

    The independent conclusions submitted to the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office come ahead of an expected decision by a grand jury on whether criminal charges are warranted in the November 2014 shooting of Tamir Rice, which was captured on surveillance video.

    1. Two outside experts

      …on whose payroll?


      1. Forner D.A and FBI agent,guess who paid?..They don’t explain how driving with in feet of the kid and shooting him in 2 seconds is justified. Just,’he was sared’..Imagine a home owner pulling this crap on a wrong door no no knock raid.

      2. If you’re paid via tax dollars, your testimony/research is necessarily impartial.

        1. Yes, for he who pays the piper…

    2. “Independent” should be in sneer quotes.

    3. Experts on child shootings? Experts on cashing police union checks?

    4. So the cop shooting the kid was “justified,” right?

    5. What a bunch of baloney hogwash.


      I guess Americans can expect more of this insane ‘split second’ decisions/reactions in the future.

    6. Business as usual…fuck

  3. You only have 5 minutes to speak in the debate; you have to pick your battles.

    If you don’t think the PRC is our enemy, you’re a fool. They’re talking like an enemy, behaving like an enemy, and strategically it makes sense for them to act as an enemy unless and until we change the incentive structure.

    Islamic jihadism has many factors assisting its spread. I don’t deny that clumsy Western intervention is one of those, but it’s not the whole story or even a significant part of it at this point. Jihadism has seen its growth spike during the very period where the West is pulling back from MENA.

    As expected, Richman is incorrect in the details about the Iran “deal”.

    1. I know he’s coming at his from his own…particular…perspective, but I can’t tell if he’s being deceptive or if he genuinely doesn’t understand the reservations of critics of the Iran deal. He talks about the “anytime inspections” of civilian nuclear sites. Civilian sites are, of course, not the issue. It’s the having to give advance notice of inspections on military sites that critics justifiably see as toothless and inane.

      And while I readily concede that the US overturned a democratically-elected Iranian leader to restore the Shah, who was a tinpot dictator cut from the same mold as most in the ME, that doesn’t mean I am willing to turn a blind eye or deaf ear to Iran’s near-constant threats to the US and sponsorship of terrorism. An eye for an eye might be a perfectly fine moral standard on playgrounds, but to the extent that the state has a legitimate role at all the role entails a constant effort to protect its citizens and their interests as the only moral guidepost.

      1. You should try inspecting ANY nuclear facility on U.S. soil. I guarantee the bouncers will leave you toothless and inane.

        1. The point is not parity. The point is, is it at all reasonable to trust the Iranians? I don’t think it is.

        2. I would also get bounced from US non-nuclear facilities where OSCE inspectors would not. What is your point?

        3. The US already has nuclear weapons, so there would be no point inspecting a nuclear power plant as we have no reason to use them to produce weapons.

          Our weapons are inspected by the Russkies 26 times a year under existing treaties.

      2. ” I readily concede that the US overturned a democratically-elected Iranian leader to restore the Shah”

        You shouldn’t because the US did not. The CIA’s involvement was minimal, the people on the streets threw him out. Further, Mossadegh was a despot and his ‘democracy’ was a farce.

    2. You should prob STFU….

  4. How long until the Only Real Libertarian shows up? The headline and the Rand Paul pic should be like catnip to that dude.

    1. I think you have to say his name three times in a row or something.

  5. I’m a huge fan of Adam Smith,read the Wealth of Nations years ago,in my 20’s..In my mind,one of the most imortant books written.Seems the idiots running favor the Art of War and or Marx,.

    1. The Art of War is useful, if and when you find yourself in a war. Similarly, a textbook on how to amputate a limb is useful if and when a limb must be amputated to save a life.

      Marx has somewhat less utility.

      1. People like Christie sees it as a guide to government,on defence and the drug war to name a few .Trump ,for biusiness and trade policy .In his mind there’s a winner and loser in every agreement. That’s how he does his business deals.Someone has property he wants and he takes it ,winning,see. He makes money,you lose.

        1. Have you actually read The Art of War or are you just lashing out at the title? The central theme of the work is that battle should be avoided whenever possible.

      2. We have been at war with factions of radical Islam for four decades. Maybe more. Oh, we (or our leaders) have pretended otherwise for most of that time. The pretense was follish.

        1. Yeah,there’s idiots that have done damage.The Afgan war should have been in,and out in less that a year and the Iraq war should have never happened.,same with Libya.Syria is not our problem. These countries,including all of Europe ,need to solve their own problems These are groups that can not harm this country in any major way. Yes ,they are dangerous,but,it’s noit a national threat like WW 2 or the cold war.

          1. If we kept the faggot Marxist press out, and stopped hamstringing our troops it would be. My guess is Putin will get far better results in Syria than we ever could based on following those basic rules.

        2. Devout Islamists have been at war with infidels since around the 8th century and will continue to be so.

          It is the nature of the beast..

  6. If the next president is a republican the democrats will once again become anti-war because their guy isn’t the one bombing.

    As long as Barry Obomber is giving them free shit, the democrats could give two shits about his warmongering

  7. “Right-wing,” when you bother to think about origin and usage, means “religious” + “governmental.” That is how Stalin’s communism (worships of political bureaucracy) is different from Hitler’s national socialism (altruism of Positive Christianity). Looters see only one square in the Nolan chart–the totalitarian square. Inconsistent looters, Republicans and Democrats, imagine freedom is divisible. Ron Paul and his son Rand–mentally manacled by the same tentacle that enthralled Germany–side with the GOProhibitionists on the one all-important issue of forcing women to reproduce, at gunpoint and against their will if necessary, for Chinese foot-binding of the mind. Libertarians reject religious (and other) coercion. Rand is the best republican out there, by LP standards, therefore his buddies line up to stiletto him.

    1. altruism of Positive Christianity

      There it is.

      Out of curiosity, what’s your opinion of Kant?

      1. I had to read some Kant because the stuff Rand was saying about him couldn’t possibly be true. The pamphlet is on the “Metaphysics of Morals.” I have seen Ayn Rand make all sorts of mistakes about subjects about which she knew little, but Kant is not one of them. I recommend the pamphlet as for any who want to delve into what made Germany a murdering dictatorship.

  8. America’s government is an insurance company with an army. The sooner everybody in the Reason commentariat realizes that and comes to terms with the fact it’s not going to change any time soon, the happier you’ll be.

    1. Who the hell wants to be happy?

      I want to be free.

      1. Well, unfortunately, most people want to be happy… So that’s your problem…

        1. The constitution and reality be damned? You can’t vote away freedom for happiness. Not in this country. Not without creating an imbalance in which violence becomes a justifiable means of securing freedom into yourself.

          1. Dude, it happened already a long time ago. People have been voting to be happy since the 1908 panic

      2. You’re not going to get that either, most likely.

    2. If only that were true. You’re not taking into account the vast damage caused by regulation and the WoD. The damage to freedom caused by program x is not necessarily proportional to its spending.

  9. …and portrayed President Obama, who’s dropping bombs and otherwise intensifying conflict all over the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia, as a peacenik. (That’s the joke of the young century.)


    Sheldon gets off a good one.

    1. They can name their new missile whatever they wish. It still can’t reach America and is therefore not a threat to us.

      1. And the Model A Ford led to the development of the Shelby Cobra so what’s your point ?

        1. The Model A Ford also led to the development of a Ford Aerostar so what’s your point?

      2. Our way of life depends on things that happen far from our shores. If we withdraw from the role as world superpower, someone else will take it up, and they will not be nearly as forgiving as we have been in that role.

        George Washington gave some good, pragmatic advice in 1797. But the world has changed a bit in the intervening 218 years, with both wonders and terrors he could not have foreseen in his wildest imaginings. The oceans to our east and west and weak neighbors to north and south are not sufficient to protect us anymore.

      3. They’re so cute when they pretend to think. Iran has already lifted limited loads into orbit. Guess where you can get to once you’re in orbit? That’s right: anywhere! Very good!

        Now all they have to do is miniaturize the payload and we can all be friends!

      4. Yeah, today. That won’t last forever. Also, do you think it’s not our problem if those Islamic turds nuke Israel? Or one of the Western European cities?

  10. “Where is Bernie Sanders critique of Hillary Clinton’s support for imperial intervention”

    He’s expressed numerous times that he is going to run a positive campaign and not run negative ads against his opposition. Must one engage in ridiculous faux-machismo (Carly Fiorina is the best example) like they do in Republican debates to put forward an agenda?

    Sheldon, since you mentioned Bernie Sanders in an article about foreign policy, here is his Issues page on his website. It’s not quite there for me as I’d like a more radical critique, but it’s by far the best position paper I’ve seen amongst the candidates. I’d file it under “Good Enough.”


    1. Ride that fence, Bernie. Useful idiots like commie-kid will read what they want into it, and you’re golden!

    2. Baloney. He’s not going to go negative on Hillary because he doesn’t want her $2 billion war chest being used to eviscerate his political career. He’s definitely not running a positive campaign with respect to anyone who isn’t a socialist.

    3. Also, democrats are worthless pussies. A modicum of machismo is a good thing in a leader.

  11. I don’t care who gets elected, or who doesn’t, nor what the Fed does/does not do, or whether we are in for a recession, a depression, a deflation, hyper inflation or whatever.

    Why? Because whatever happens, my entirely self-managed, once per year adjusted long term savings will be safe and protected and will , 9 times out of 10, grow at an average of 8% per year over and above the prevailing inflation rate, year in, year out, as it has since 1986 when I started using it.

    For a link to the plans results 1972-2011, email: onebornfreeatyahoodotcom ,
    with “Savings Plan Results” in the subject line

    Financial Safety Services

    1. I’ll give you a nickel if you quit spamming your bulkshit here. I would rather see a post from AmSoc or Tony than have to look at your spam. And that’s saying something.

  12. Like all supporters of the ‘deal’ with Iran, Sheldon is a vicious enemy of peace.

  13. No one on stage criticized Bush for using government power to thwart free enterprise, just as no one complained that Trump used the government’s eminent-domain power to steal people’s homes.

    Because a head of state using the power at his disposal and a businessman seeking to take advantage of laws put in place by TopMen are exactly the same.

    1. That’s not the argument being made.

      The argument is that no one questioned the etatist, dictatorial move made to prevent a casino from being built, just as no one complained about Trump using etatist ED to strip people of their land.

      In both instances, someone stole the property rights of the other.

  14. Peace and Free Markets ?



    Also millions spent on upscale office furniture.

  15. So… if I believe in the typical pro-freedom views, such as economic liberty, live your life in whatever decrepit disgusting manner you see fit and all around “you do you and I’ll do me” philosophy, but believe that it is ok to for us to manipulate other countries, participate in geopolitical strategy and fight other countries and peoples, if it serves our interest, is logical and if it checks off as moral (realize that last one is a little tricky). Then can I still call myself a libertarian…or do I have to switch to some other less appealing label?

    1. No you don’t.

  16. My fantasy (one of the clean ones anyway): Rand Paul decides that the GOP is beyond redemption, drops the “-ish”, and becomes the Libertarian candidate for president. No, he wouldn’t win, and he’d probably have to lose his Senate seat as well, but it would be the best opportunity ever to get even a relatively “pure” libertarian viewpoint into mainstream political conversation.

    1. What’s the point in that?

  17. Whatever his faults, Rand Paul and his dad at least came out in favor of individual rights for half of humanity–the male half. This leaves the rest of the Grand Old Prohibitionist party in the dirt by comparison.

  18. Republicans aren’t need to make Iran’s leaders look like a bunch of crazy nutcases hell bent on bringing about the apocalypse. They do that all on their own.

  19. Support and vote for Rand Paul!

    He is the only chance you will get in your lifetime to get libertarianish classical liberal principles anywhere near the White House.

    Rand Paul should not have to stuggle to win over libertarians; he has to win over conservatives and the rest of the GOP to become a serious contender.

    Libertarians are becoming as annoying and destructive as conservatives in their demands for ideological purity.

    1. He shouldn’t have to struggle but he keeps shooting himself in the foot, the fact that he did anything other than be a full bore both guns blazing libertarian is why he is tanking in polls and cannot be redeemed, it represents to me that he doesnt actually believe in Libertarianism but is willing to usurp the moniker for his own purposes. He has done incredible amounts of damage to the actual LP with his Socon statist pandering. His campaign is dead and he can only blame himself for it.
      At least Gary Johnson isn’t busy selling out libertarianism to pander to people who will NEVER vote for him anyways.
      You would think a doctor would be smart enough to figure that out, which means he actually does support ridiculous socon views which also means hes NOT a libertarian.

      1. And Gary Johnson is achieving what?

        1. well hes suing the FEC, and on top of that has launched an anti-trust lawsuit against the DNC and the GOP.
          Rand is destroying the label by not running on principles

          1. Rand is not destroying any label. Gary Johnson is a joke.

  20. I love it when Sheldon riles up the neocontards ’round here.

    1. I love it when the peacenazis come out to demonstrate that they don’t know what a neocon is.

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