Blogroll Category: Current Affairs

I read blogs, as well as write one. The 'blogroll' on this site reproduces some posts from some of the people I enjoy reading. There are currently 499 posts from the category 'Current Affairs.'

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What Margit von Mises Loved Most About Ludwig

Mises Institute - Fri, 14/02/2020 - 17:45

In honor of Valentines Day, here is a touching tribute by Margit von Mises to her husband. To Margit, Ludwig's dearest quality was not his great wisdom, but his passion for humanity. 

Given during an event honoring the republishing of his book Liberalism, Margit's touching words not only display the love the two had for each other, but serve as a great reminder of just how important her husband's ideas are. Rather than simply being academic theories meant for scholarly debate, they are vital insights into empowering mankind to generate prosperity and eradicate the hardship of poverty. His words are a guide to making the world a better place for all.

Categories: Current Affairs

Government "Fixes" for the Trade Balance Are Far Worse Than Any Trade Deficit

Mises Institute - Fri, 14/02/2020 - 12:00

In December 2019, the US trade account balance stood at a deficit of $48.9 billion, against a deficit of $43.7 billion in November and $60.8 billion in December 2018.

Most commentators consider the trade account balance the single most important piece of information about the health of the economy. According to the widely accepted view, a surplus on the trade account is considered a positive development while a deficit is perceived negatively. What is the reason for this?


Popular thinking holds that the key to economic growth is demand for goods and services. Increases and decreases in demand are behind the rises and declines in the economy’s production of goods. Hence, in order to keep the economy going, economic policies must pay close attention to the overall demand.

Now, part of the demand for domestic products emanates from overseas. The accommodation of this type of demand is labeled exports. Likewise, local residents exercise their demand for goods and services produced overseas in the form of imports.

It is held that while an increase in exports strengthens the demand for domestic output, an increase in imports weakens the demand. Exports, according to this way of thinking, are a factor that contributes to economic growth while imports detract from the growth of the economy. Thus whenever imports exceed exports, a trade deficit emerges, and this is bad news for economic activity as depicted by the gross domestic product—GDP.

The deficit is viewed as a symptom of bad economic health. It is then assumed that what is required is a boost in exports and a curtailing of imports in order to reduce the deficit.

This, it is held, will lead to improved economic health. The popular view maintains that it is the role of the government and the central bank to introduce a suitable mix of policies that will guide the economy on the path toward a “favorable” trade account balance. However, does it all make sense?

Trade Account Balance in a Market Economy

In a market economy, each individual sells goods and services for money and uses money to buy desired goods and services. The goods and services sold by an individual could be termed their exports, while the goods and services bought could be termed imports. The record of such monetary exchanges for any period could be labeled the trade account balance.

In a free market economy, individuals’ decisions regarding the selling and buying of goods and services (i.e., their exports and imports) are made voluntarily, otherwise the acts would not be undertaken. The emergence of an exchange between individuals implies that they expect to benefit.

Whenever an individual plans to import more than he exports, the shortfall will be balanced either by running down existing savings or by borrowing. The creditor who supplies the required funds does so because he expects to profit from that.

The current practice of lumping individuals’ trade account balances into a national trade account balance is of little relevance to businesses. What possible interest can a business have in the national trade account balance? Will it assist him, in the conduct of his business? Since there is no such thing as the "USA, Ltd." that can be bought or sold in the market, the national trade account balance will be of no use to businesses.

Although the national trade account balance is of little economic significance and is a sterile concept, individual or company trade account balances are real things that carry economic significance. For instance, the trade account statement of a particular company could be of use to various investors in that company. Again, this is not the case with the national trade account balance.

The Government Is a Greater Danger Than Any Trade Balance

Although the national trade account balance is a harmless definition, the government’s reaction to it can produce harmful effects. Government policies that are aimed at attaining a more “favorable” trade account balance by means of monetary and fiscal policies disrupt the harmony of the marketplace. This disruption leads to a shift of scarce resources away from the production of the most desired (by consumers) goods and services, towards the production of less desirable goods and services.

Furthermore, it is not the US that exports wheat, but a particular farmer or a group of farmers. They are engaged in the export of wheat, because they expect to profit from it.

Similarly, it is not the US that imports Japanese electrical appliances, but an individual from the US or a group of Americans. They import these appliances, because they believe that a profit can be made.

If the national trade account balance is an important indicator of economic health, as various commentators imply, one is tempted to suggest that it would be a sensible idea to monitor the trade account balances of cities or regions. After all, if we could detect economic malaise in a particular city or a region, the treatment of the national malaise could be made much easier.

Imagine, then, if the economists in New York were to discover that their city has a massive trade account deficit with Chicago. Does this mean that the New York authorities should step in to enforce the reduction of the deficit by banning imports from Chicago?

No individual or group of individuals can suffer as a result of an “unfavorable” trade account balance. But suffering can emerge from a drop in the incomes of individuals because of government tampering with the economy.

The fallacy of the national trade account balance also extends to the national foreign debt.

If an American lends money to an Australian, the entire transaction is their own private affair and is not of concern to anyone else. Both the American and the Australian are expecting to benefit from this transaction.

Lumping individuals’ foreign debt into the total national foreign debt is thus another questionable practice. What is this total supposed to mean? Who owns this debt? What about all those individuals who do not have foreign debt? Should they also be responsible for the national foreign debt?

The only situation in which individuals should be concerned with foreign debt is when the government incurs it. The government is not wealth generating and as such derives its livelihood from the private sector.

Consequently, any foreign government debt incurred means that the private sector will have to foot the bill sometime in the future.

Categories: Current Affairs

Well, if the government's going to hand out money like a drunken sailor...

Adam Smith Institute - Fri, 14/02/2020 - 07:01

It would appear that Norton Motorcycles wasn’t all that good a thing to be spending money upon:

The chair of parliament’s public accounts committee is calling for an investigation into the government’s funding of Norton Motorcycles and has accused officials of “blindly pouring” millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money into the motorbike firm before it went bust.

The background is said to be somewhat seamy:

However, the story is far more complex than that. It is a pile-up that includes hundreds of hapless pension holders, together with unsuspecting Norton customers, staff and even government ministers, who repeatedly endorsed Norton as millions of pounds in taxpayer support flowed into the firm.

All will take a lot of persuading that this is merely a story of a plucky British company that is a victim of circumstance. Their anger looks likely to be directed principally towards one man: Norton’s boss, Stuart Garner.

The excuse from those handing out your and my money is:

A BEIS spokesperson said: “All Government funding awarded to the company was based on the usual processes of assessment and due diligence. At the time these awards were made, our due diligence did not indicate that the business was failing.”

Perhaps a little more diligence might be suggested.

This is not to berate, particularly, the more recent members of government. Much the same has happened whichever flavour has been sitting around the cabinet table. The reason being a point that Adam Smith made.

The people willing to pay high interest rates are precisely the people a prudent banker doesn’t want to led to. They’re promoters, builders of castle in the sky - a practice that does rather tend to come crashing down. Now that government is a likely funder of enterprises the very people we don’t want to fund are those asking for that government money.

Partly because of Smith’s very point, partly because of course you’d only go to government if normal market processes won’t fund on the basis of that lack of decent foundations.

That is, the argument against government funding is exactly that used to justify it. They can’t get money elsewhere - quite, so why the heck let them have any?

Categories: Current Affairs

Church of England General Synod sets 2030 Net Zero carbon target

Anglican Ink - Fri, 14/02/2020 - 03:56

The Church of England’s General Synod has set new targets for all parts of the church to work to become carbon ‘net zero’ by 2030.

At its February 2020 meeting, members voted in favour of a revised date encouraging all parts of the Church of England to take action and ramp-up efforts to reduce emissions. 

A motion approved today called for urgent steps to examine requirements to reach the new target, and draw up an action plan.

An amendment by Canon Prof Martin Gainsborough (Bristol) introduced a more ambitious target date of 2030, fifteen years ahead of the original proposal.

The motion follows the launch of the Church of England’s first ever Green Lent (#LiveLent) campaign for 2020, featuring 40 days of prayers and actions to encourage care for God’s Creation.

The Church of England has also announced an energy footprinting tool for parishes to calculate their carbon footprint. 

Following the debate, the Bishop of Salisbury, Nick Holtam, the Church of England’s lead bishop on Environmental Affairs said:

“Synod has set an ambitious target for the whole Church of England to respond to the urgency of the Climate Crisis.

“Toreach Synod’s target of 2030 will not be easy, and requires each of us to hear this as an urgent call to action.

“But this is a clear statement of intent across the Church and to wider society about our determination to safeguard God’s creation.

“This is a social justice issue, which affects the world’s poorest soonest and most severely, and if the Church is to hold others to account, we have to get our own house in order.

“There is no serious doubt that climate change is happening, and that people are causing it, so it is very encouraging that Synod is grappling with one of the most urgent issues of our time.”

“We will now need to work out a plan to ensure we do everything possible to meet this target.”

The final motion approved was as follows:

That this Synod, recognising that the global climate emergency is a crisis for God’s creation, and a fundamental injustice, and following the call of the Anglican Communion in ACC Resolutions A17.05 and A17.06;

(a) call upon all parts of the Church of England, including parishes, BMOs [Bishop Mission Orders], education institutions, dioceses, cathedrals, and the NCIs [National Church Institutions], to work to achieve year-on-year reductions in emissions and urgently examine what would be required to reach net zero emissions by 2030 in order that a plan of action can be drawn up to achieve that target;

(b) request reports on progress from the Environment Working Group and the NCI’s every three years beginning in 2022 and;

(c) call on each Diocesan Synod, and cathedral Chapter, to address progress toward net zero emissions every three years.

The post Church of England General Synod sets 2030 Net Zero carbon target appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2020.

GAFCON appoints Daniel Willis as operations manager

Anglican Ink - Fri, 14/02/2020 - 03:47

Greetings from Jos, Nigeria

I am pleased to announce the appointment of Canon Daniel Willis from Australia as the new Operations Manager for Gafcon.

Canon Willis will be known to many of you as the one who was responsible for organising Jerusalem 2018 under the direction of the then General Secretary. He comes with considerable experience in business, in leadership and in pastoral ministry both locally and internationally.

I note with regret that Mr James Stileman had to step down as Operations Manager for health reasons. We thank God for his wonderful service. We also thank God for Canon Charles Raven who has been acting in this position in the interim.

Canon Willis will take up his new role on March 1st.

Archbishop Benjamin Kwashi
General Secretary, Gafcon.

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Christians singled out for death by terrorists in Burkina Faso

Anglican Ink - Fri, 14/02/2020 - 03:32

Eighteen people, including a Christian nurse, were murdered by militant gunmen in Lamdamol village, Burkina Faso, in an attack that began late on the night of 1 February.

The unidentified heavily armed militants arrived in the village, in northern Seno province bordering the Sahel, on motorbikes and selectively picked out civilians before killing them.

Amongst the dead was Christian Robert Milogo, a senior nurse who had travelled to help those suffering in the terror afflicted zone, despite the known risks from Islamist militant activity. Many people have already fled to safer towns and villages in the Central North.

A local church leader reported that the victims were selectively killed by the militants. “This is not the first attack where civilians were killed for a reason or another including their [Christian] faith,” he told Barnabas.

The attack came a week after a jihadi ultimatum was sent out demanding the community leave the region, bringing widespread panic to the village and surrounding area.

A week earlier jihadists murdered “in the name of Allah” at least ten Christians in an attack on Silgadji, in neighbouring Bourzanga province.

The post Christians singled out for death by terrorists in Burkina Faso appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2020.

Congolese archdeacon martyred by Islamist militants

Anglican Ink - Fri, 14/02/2020 - 03:22

Islamist militants murdered a 60-year-old pastor in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on 29 January after he refused their demands to convert to Islam.

The Ven. Ngulongo Year Batsemire, the Archdeacon of Eringeti, was walking to his fields with his wife when they were surrounded by members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamist militant group that has been active in the north-east region of DRC for more than two decades and repeatedly targets Christians.


The militants demanded Archdeacon Ngulongo tell them where they could find other pastors. They then attempted to force him to convert to Islam. When the father-of-ten refused to renounce Jesus Christ, the jihadists martyred him. His wife’s life was spared. She recalls that the militants had uttered a local phrase known to be used when they are looking to kill Christians but spare Muslims.

Earlier the same day, ADF militants murdered at least 30 people in a series of raids on four villages in the Beni region. The area has seen a surge of violence since October 2019, when the army launched a large-scale offensive against the rebels.

A Barnabas Fund contact said the rise in ADF violence has caused Christians to flee. He said some churches may not be able to hold Sunday services because pastors have left the area. Another contact said church leaders were crying out for prayer and “request peace for the country and province”.

The post Congolese archdeacon martyred by Islamist militants appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2020.

Bishop of Edmonton “called away” from episcopal ministry

Anglican Ink - Fri, 14/02/2020 - 02:57

Bishop Jane Alexander, bishop of the diocese of Edmonton, says she will be stepping down from her position July 31, with “no idea” what she will be doing next.

“I have no need to say, ‘What’s the next big thing?’ The big thing is always just serving Jesus wherever he puts you,” says Alexander. “So, I know that’s what I’ll be called to do, but what that looks like? I have no idea.”

Alexander announced her resignation in a letter January 26.

In an interview with the Journal, Alexander said that she had been feeling a change coming for a while. “Sometimes I think we think of discernment as something that happens once and then we go, ‘There, you’re done.’ But that’s never been my experience of it. I think we get called into places and called out of places, and I was aware…easily a year ago, that something different was changing…. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m actually being called out of diocesan episcopal ministry.”

The prospect is sad and a little scary, she says. “I love this ministry very, very much. I love the clergy and people of the diocese of Edmonton. It’s been just an absolute blessing.” At the same time, she says, she is confident that God has a plan for the diocese.

“I guess I could do another nearly 10 years of episcopal ministry here, but I think God is calling me out, which means that God has a mind to call somebody else in…. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a change in direction, but to say things in a different way—or even just to say the same things and be heard in a different way.”

She says she hopes the diocese will carry on in the good work that it has been doing. “We’ve come a long way in terms of our work [with] poverty, and also being a church that looks outward and stands in the gap, I would say. That tries to be in the place where people are the most vulnerable; open to different forms of church so that people can have a community that maybe doesn’t look like it used to look; and a focus on a ministry of relationship and meeting people as Jesus met them.”

Alexander says she plans to step down at the end of July. While the date of the following episcopal election remain to be set, she estimates it will likely take place around September.

Alexander will not be attending the Lambeth Conference of bishops taking place this summer in Canterbury.

The bishop also shared her hope for the Canadian church at large. “My prayer…is that we really focus on helping people get to know Jesus.” Noting that she has been watching with interest movements such as the Way of Love, spearheaded by Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, and the Church of England’s Thy Kingdom Come, she says, “I long for whatever the Canadian piece will be that unites the church in becoming better friends of Jesus.”

For now, Alexander is stepping into the unknown. “Like everybody, I wish I could flip the page in my book of life and see what’s written on the next page, but I can’t. All I can do is be faithful and follow.”

The post Bishop of Edmonton “called away” from episcopal ministry appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2020.

Call for freedom for kidnapped Malaysian pastor

Anglican Ink - Fri, 14/02/2020 - 02:54

Release International is pressing Malaysia to set free a Christian pastor who was abducted in a military-style operation three years ago (on Feb 13) and hasn’t been seen since.

CCTV cameras captured the moment Pastor Raymond Koh was snatched off the streets in Selangor by a well-organised team. Evidence points towards a disciplined and highly trained snatch squad.

Video footage shows three black SUVs surrounding and boxing in Pastor Koh’s car, forcing it to a halt. Two other cars and two motorcycles were also involved in the kidnapping.

Several men then ran towards Pastor Koh’s vehicle before the entire convoy was driven away.

‘Warned off’

A passer-by, whose vehicle entered the scene, was warned off by a man in a balaclava and forced backwards by a motorcyclist. Some 15 men are said to have been involved in the planned abduction.

Pastor Koh’s wife Susannah pieced together what happened. She described the kidnapping to Release International’s sister organisation Voice of the Martyrs (USA):

‘There was an eye-witness, right smack in the middle of that scene. He thought it was a movie production. My children went door-to-door and found CCTV footage of the entire incident. It was a very military-style organisation, well-organised, and done in about 40 seconds. Last year, one of the officers confessed that the operation, the abduction, was done by the police.’


In 2019, Malaysia’s Human Rights Commission accused the Malaysian Special Branch of carrying out two abductions – that of Pastor Koh and Amri Che Mat, a Shia Muslim social activist. Both were suspected of trying to convert Sunni Muslims. Both were boxed in by vehicles in similar snatch operations, and both have disappeared.

Another pastor, Joshua Hilmy and his wife Ruth, also went missing in 2016.

Pastor Koh ran Hope Community, an organisation set up in the capital Kuala Lumpur to help the poorest members of society.

In 2011, Hope Community came under scrutiny by the authorities. They accused Pr Koh of trying to convert Muslims during a party at a local church.

Proselytising Muslims – attempting to convert them – is forbidden by law in Malaysia. The state also prohibits its Muslim citizens from converting to another faith. Under Malaysian law, those who change their religion could be charged with apostasy.


The allegations against Pastor Koh were later dropped, but soon afterwards he was sent bullets in the post as a clear warning to end his Christian ministry.

Release International, which supports persecuted Christians around the world, is working with others to press the Malaysian government to investigate the disappearance and set Pastor Koh free. Release is petitioning the Malaysian Prime Minister and the Inspector General of Police.

‘We’re demanding Pastor Raymond’s immediate release and safe return to his family,’ says Release CEO Paul Robinson. ‘And we’re calling for justice. Those responsible for his disappearance must be held accountable.’


The Release petition says: ‘One of your country’s loyal citizens has been missing for three years. Pastor Raymond Koh was kidnapped off the streets on February 13, 2017, and has not been seen since. His wife and children have been left to wonder what happened to him and whether he is still alive.’

The petition continues: ‘We, Pastor Raymond’s fellow Christians from around the world, call on your government to release any and all information related to the forced disappearance… including any involvement of Special Branch.’

After criticism from the country’s Human Rights Commission, the government set up an investigation into the abductions. But critics point out the taskforce is composed of current and serving police officers.

Christians make up about nine per cent of the population of Malaysia, which is officially a secular state. Even so, Muslims are forbidden from changing their religion. And those who do face persecution and discrimination.

‘Three years to this day, Pastor Koh was abducted,’ says Release CEO Paul Robinson. ‘Yet there has been no word whether Pastor Koh is dead or alive. Malaysia must secure his release and account for his disappearance, which by any standard is a crime.’


You can sign the petition here: 

Through its international network of missions Release International is active in more than 30 countries around the world, supporting pastors, Christian prisoners and their families; supplying Christian literature and Bibles; and working for justice.

The post Call for freedom for kidnapped Malaysian pastor appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2020.

SSWSH to hire national missioner

Anglican Ink - Fri, 14/02/2020 - 02:49

National Missioner to the Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda

(One full-time or two half-time posts, lay or ordained, flexible location)

This new post, generously funded for two years by a grant from the Archbishops’ Council, is a unique opportunity for a passionate person, lay or ordained, to equip the 424 Parishes of the Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda in recovering and encouraging a Catholic vision for evangelism.

Overseen by the Bishop of Burnley and supported by a national steering group, you will work closely with the Council of Bishops of The Society and the Council of Forward in Faith to promote a confident mission agenda and support local churches in prioritising growth. In particular you will:

  • Oversee a bold launch of the Society Mission Strategy, ‘Forming Missionary Disciples’ and prepare resources to support parishes in responding to it.
  • Develop a vision for a movement of missionary disciples by pioneering a Rule of Life for lay Christians that will support them in living out their faith in their daily lives.
  • Call together and facilitate groups of priests to enable them to grow in confidence and seek fresh joy in developing the life of the local church.
  • Build collaborative networks with the Church House Evangelism and Discipleship Team, the four part-time diocese-based catholic missioners and other groups, organisations and resource providers.
  • Explore a proposal to identify key, strategic parishes in different regions of the country that may become ‘centres of excellence’ in catholic evangelism.

It is an occupational requirement that the postholder(s) will be an Anglican in the catholic tradition in sympathy with the aims of the Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda and, if ordained, will be a priest or deacon of The Society. They will have the ability to enthuse and inspire both clergy and laity across the country and have experience of church growth.

This post can be filled on a full-time basis either by a priest or distinctive deacon (with accommodation and a parish base available) or a layperson (salary to be negotiated). Alternatively, the role can be shared by two people, lay or ordained, each working on a half-time basis. The missioner(s) will be employed by an appropriate Diocesan Board of Finance.

The Job Description and Person Specification are available here.

For more information and to express an interest, please contact Bishop Philip North, the Bishop of Burnley ( for an informal conversation.

If you know anyone who may be suited to this role, please contact the Bishop of Burnley.

Closing date: 27th March 2020

Interview date: 22nd April 2020

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TEC and Mexican Anglican Church to sign concordat of agreement

Anglican Ink - Fri, 14/02/2020 - 02:46

On Sunday, February 16, during a Eucharist on the border of the two countries, the Presiding Bishops of The Episcopal Church and La Iglesia Anglicana de Mexico will sign a new bilateral agreement celebrating and recommitting to a relationship dating back to 1875.
For the two Churches, their belief that all people are children of God is shown through their commitment to the most vulnerable people with the intention of making them feel the love of God no matter who they are, where they are from, or where they are going.
The preamble to the agreement being signed by The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church and The Most Rev. Francisco Moreno, presiding bishop of La Iglesia Anglicana de Mexico, (pictured) recognizes that, despite the political difficulties that our two countries are experiencing at this time, the two churches are called to “share a ministry of prayer and collaboration through the gifts and talents we have to help us in mutual growth where we reflect the kingdom with our actions of justice, peace and love through service, education and the expansion of ministry.”
This agreement marks a key transition in the relationship between the two churches. An earlier covenant, which expired at the end of 2019, outlined the partnership between The Episcopal Church and La Iglesia Anglicana de Mexico as the Mexican Church transitioned from a diocese of The Episcopal Church to a Province of the Anglican Communion. The Rev. Canon C.K. Robertson, canon to the Presiding Bishop for Ministry Beyond The Episcopal Church notes, “With this new agreement we celebrate our ongoing relationship and collaboration with our sister and brother Anglicans in the church in Mexico.”

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Welby apologizes for Church of England racism

Anglican Ink - Fri, 14/02/2020 - 02:43

The General Synod voted today to apologise for racism experienced by black and minority ethnic people in the Church of England since the arrival of the Windrush generation.
Members unanimously backed a motion to ‘lament’ and apologise for conscious and unconscious racism encountered by ‘countless’ black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) Anglicans arriving in Britain from 1948 and in subsequent years, when seeking to find a home in the Church of England.

The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke in response to the motion, which was moved by the Revd Andrew Moughtin-Mumby, Rector of St Peter’s, Walworth, in Southwark Diocese.

Read the Archbishop’s remarks as delivered: 

I have a speech prepared but it’s less eloquent that Andrew’s, and with apologies to my colleagues who have worked so hard on it, I’m going to ditch it. 

I am almost beyond words. Personally, I am sorry and ashamed. I’m ashamed of our history and I’m ashamed of our failure. I’m ashamed of our lack of witness to Christ. I’m ashamed of my lack of urgent voice to the Church, to use Andrew’s phrase. It’s shaming as well as shocking. It is shocking, but it’s profoundly shaming. 

Most of us in here, almost all of us, the vast majority of us – well over 85 percent; and remember 15 percent is roughly the BAME in this country, so if we were representative it would be 15 percent – but well over 85 percent, over 90 percent, are white. 

I have white advantage. Educational advantage. Straight advantage. Male advantage. None of these… all the things that enable us to go through life without the kind of experiences that Andrew spoke of in his wonderful paper, and Doreen knows so well. 

I’m not ashamed of those advantages; I’m ashamed of not knowing I had them. And I think that’s where we probably need to start. 

I’ll just take one phrase from the speech which was that we had a hostile environment – what an extraordinary phrase, a terrible phrase. But we have transform it into a hospitable, welcoming one. 

I can see that hostile environment coming back when other groups appear who we don’t quite like, or we don’t know how to deal with, or we don’t appeal to the voters sufficiently, and the Church doesn’t speak up for justice. 

I’ve often wondered how the German Church in the thirties managed to ignore what happened to the Jews. I think they just didn’t really notice. They just took it that this was normal, and perhaps what we’ve done in the way we’ve behaved since Windrush with so many of our fellow British citizens, who we treated as something less… as something less important. 

And there is no doubt when we look at our own Church that we are still deeply institutionally racist. Let’s just be clear about that. I said it to the College of Bishops a couple of years ago and it’s true. 

I get loads of lists to approve. I get shortlists and longlists and lists of panels for interviews. We’ve just about got past the point in the last two or three years where they’re not all male. But they very, very seldom have minority ethnic people on them – either in applications for lay or clergy posts, senior clergy posts. 

I’ve been trying to play nice. I send them back with a more or less polite note saying I’m not absolutely sure this is what we want. But we cannot go on playing nice – really, can we, I don’t think? 

I will bring this back to Synod in due course but I think we need some basic rules – like, an appointment panel doesn’t work if it has no minority ethnic representation, or other discriminated against minorities. It just doesn’t work. 

It doesn’t work on the CNC [Crown Nominations Commission]. It doesn’t work at any level at all in our Church. 

It doesn’t work when long lists are simply one colour. It does not work. 

Injustice. We did not do justice in the past. We do not do justice now. And unless we are radical and decisive in this area in the future, we will still be having this conversation in 20 years’ time and still doing injustice – the few of us that remain, deservedly. 

We’ve damaged the Church. We’ve damaged the image of God. Most of all, we’ve damaged those we victimised, unconsciously very often. 

And in this incoherent speech I want to emphasise my agreement with everything that Andrew said and end where I began: I am personally sorry to those who are here who have been affected, and those around the country, those where I could have done better. To CMEAC [the Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns] and others turning up the volume. And I am ashamed and I will, I hope with all of you, seek to do better. 

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Archbishop of Canterbury’s presidential address to General Synod

Anglican Ink - Fri, 14/02/2020 - 02:40

Transcript of Archbishop’s presidential address as delivered at General Synod in London [10 Feb 2020]: 

Twenty-twenty, both for the Church of England and the global Anglican Communion, is a significant year. In 2020, in the Church of England, we will publish in the next few months, before the July Synod, Living in Love and Faith, and we will move forward to a Church wide engagement and participation, from every part of the Church, of all views, inclusively – also setting up a working group to pursue this work to its conclusion. 

In 2020, we will play our part in COP26 in Glasgow. In 2020 we will say farewell to the Archbishop of York and welcome his successor. In 2020, as the Church of England, we will set our direction for the next Quinquennium, both in the elections for General Synod and in establishing new vision and goals, based I hope around the Five Marks of Mission. In 2020, at the end of July and into early August, we look ahead to the Lambeth Conference, where we will be welcoming Bishops from all over the world to consider prayerfully the direction and mission of the Anglican Communion.

To date out of 985 bishops about 660, just under, have registered for the conference. Three provinces have said they’re not coming and the other 37 are sending people. 

The theme of the Conference is ‘God’s Church for God’s World’, with a sub-title of ‘Listening, Walking and Witnessing Together’. The theme reflects a simple theological reality, that God has established the Church for worship and witness, to be Jesus in the world, to declare the wonderful works of Him who drew us out of darkness into his marvellous light. The text, as that last sentence hints, of the Lambeth Conference will be 1 Peter. Its themes of love, suffering, resilience, holiness, witness and how to live in a hostile environment so that Christ is truly Lord, are key themes today for most of the Anglican Communion. 

In Chapter 5, Peter draws on the ancient image of the Good Shepherd and speaks to the leaders of the churches, saying he is a fellow shepherd to them. A key moment in what he writes is the warning that they are to be alert and watchful, for their enemy the devil prowls like a roaring lion, seeing who may be devoured. 

In this Synod we often talk about elephants in the room, but Peter talks about lions. I may revert to elephants later. 

Three weeks ago I was in Kenya. I was listening to Archbishop Jackson Olit Sapit, a Maasai by origin, who grew up in a small village and by some missionaries received his education after his father died at the age of three. 

Archbishop Jackon told us a story of when he was a young man, 13 or 14 years old, and a herder. And on his first duty guarding the flocks and herds at night, his friends had told him that when a lion roared, it was preparing to charge, and that he had spent the night terrified. The joke by his friends is, of course, that lions are far more dangerous when they’re silent, because this means they are stalking their prey and preparing to pounce. They roar when wandering around looking for the prey they will then stalk. His friends told him that in the morning. 

Shepherds, in other words, says Peter, need to have their wits about them, because to protect their sheep they need to know what might threaten them – the lions that pose a danger to the flock. The Lion of 1 Peter 5 is a warning to the churches – all of them together – not merely to individuals as we so often interpret it.

We can so easily turn or perceive other people or ideas into lions and consider them a threat, even an enemy. We can make a lion out of shadows, or we can be assailed the lion which has snuck up on us quietly. We as a church, as this Synod, need to be aware and yet not so cautious that we are paralysed with fear and communicate that fear to one another around. 

The lion of our time has many faces, some of them modern, many of them as old as the church itself. Notice that in 1 Peter 5 it is described as ‘your enemy, the devil’.  Not your enemy, those who disagree with you. Not your enemy, those who troll you on Twitter. Not your enemy, those who say nasty things in Synod – which would never happen. Not your enemy because they are of a different church or form of churchmanship. It’s your enemy, the devil. It echoes Paul in Ephesians saying, we do not fight against flesh and blood – our enemy is the principles and powers in the heavenly places, says Paul. 

The lion, as I say, has many faces, but they are not the faces that we see around us. They are not human enemies. Some of them have been around forever. Culture, cruelty, lack of love are pre-eminent, and we can aid the biting of the lion through social media in a way we’ve never known before. 

The Lambeth Conference will be an opportunity for the bishops, as shepherds, to reflect on the world we Christians find ourselves in as ‘resident aliens’, the term Peter uses in 1 Peter 1, aliens and strangers, and how we have to learn to live as aliens and strangers, that faces up to the realty of that status boldly. Perhaps the events of the last three and a half years have taught us something about being aliens and strangers. Something where we see those we know and love becoming aliens and strangers, or feeling they are. 

We have to learn, at the Lambeth Conference, about what it is to live alongside our brothers and sisters, not just as hosts in a sort of patronising “how nice that you’ve come to see us” way. Nor just as ‘British Anglicans’ as though that was the foundation of everything. But as fellow foreigners, resident aliens in the world, citizens of heaven and yet residing on this Earth. 

We will, at the Lambeth Conference, and we should as the Church here, as shepherds gathered together from around the world, recognise and name the face of the lion in each place. 

Within the Church that face may be fear of sharing the Gospel, of witnessing, or of worshipping. It may be climate change, gender justice, poverty, modern slavery, peace and reconciliation.  How we encounter those who are LGBTIQ+. Underlying all those are issues of identity, and they underline many others, and what it means to be a human for whom Christ is Lord; what it is to be human in relation to other humans, but where, for us, Christ is Lord.

Then there are other are animals, shadowy ones in the dark, whose noise we hear, and we’re beginning to distinguish their shapes but we don’t yet identify them. We can’t just assume them to be the face of the lion. 

Scientific change, biotechnology, information technology, artificial intelligence, machine learning with biotechnology, the ability to shape the human being so that they come out the way we want them to – what a government can do with that in the future. What we can do to one another. Go back to those different questions of identity. Do we say that we will reshape human beings so there’s no one with a disability. What does that say about the humanity of those who have different abilities. 

Some of these forms of learning may yet be aids to the shepherd. They may be useful elephants if rightly used. But they may be the lion which transforms our world into greater injustice and inequality. These themes will run throughout the conference. The science – not to be frightened of, not to run away from, but to engage with, be informed about, to learn from. 

We will seek to renew our discipleship and commitment to witness and evangelism in a way proper to each context. A disciplined and alert discipleship must not be ashamed of the good news of Jesus, and it must see that it is foundational to the beautiful vision of the living stones of the Church in 1 Peter. Every stone – whatever its nature, its ethnicity, its abilities, its sexuality – is a living stone. 

And as we share in fellowship here, and at the Conference with our fellow Anglicans, with whom we may at times disagree profoundly… who in past years, in some cases, have been described, and I’m talking here about Anglicans in sub-Saharan Africa, as “one generation away from barbarism”. That was said about 15 years ago. As we disagree profoundly with one another, we must remember two things that counter the asininity and the sin of that kind of statement; the inward-looking-ness. 

First, that we love one another and are bound together by Christ’s sacrifice and our mutual recognition of the face and work of God in one another. Second, we cannot change the culture, or even the minds, of other people anywhere near as easily as we can change ourselves. Shepherds who spend all their time arguing how best to protect the sheep – or indeed, what a sheep is – may look up to find the flock has been eaten (not hearing or being aware of the lion that was stalking). 

If we are going to expect much of the shepherds, lay and ordained, we must express our love towards them. Love is seen in I Peter as assuring hope and resilience and is expressed in integrity and with forgiveness and mercy. 

I have to say I’m not sure that in our social media age that forgiveness is a word that features often in messages of a hundred or two-hundred and forty characters. 

The Ordinal is worth going back to. I speak as one who never really read it properly until I had to use it. The Ordinal sets out what the practicalities of love involve. The Ordinal sets out what love looks like, as a shepherd, to deacons, priests and bishops.

To be a church that expresses love institutionally, we have to consider the well-being of all. Today, with the pressures to spot the lion, to listen to the lion, to see the danger, as we well know, there is a great the burden on clergy and bishops, as well as laity. 

I want to think especially for a moment about our clergy, particularly in the context of the Clergy Wellbeing Covenant which we will be discussing later in these sessions.

The Very Revd Dr Francis Bridger, in his theological reflection on the Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of the Clergy, reminded us that the notion of profession is deeply rooted in religious values – to profess, to vow. 

‘By means of a theology of vocation,’ Bridger says, ‘it becomes possible to reinvest the idea of professionalism with a transcendent moral dimension’. It means that the professional is aligned, lay and ordained, with the vocational as a response to God’s love. When the clergy are supported, nourished and able to flourish, the whole church can flourish.

With my doubtless well-deserved reputation for managerialism I hesitate to mention the rather dull, bureaucratic sounding context of professional standards. I love that phrase, professional standards! I say it last thing at night to myself to keep myself content, like a mantra really. [laughter] 

Yet professional standards should be love in action. Professional standards, again whether they are for lay or clergy, call us to love and serve one another so as to liberate to each other the gifts that each has received. Jesus was showing professional standards when he washed his disciples’ feet.

For the Church to live as the people of God, we must also be shepherds to each other. 

Recognising that we have both a duty of care and a duty of responsibility and setting that within a framework that supports and upholds the clergy is part of responding to the modern world and living out our lives in service to Christ. Our present forms of pastoral care are neither pastoral nor caring. 

The recent Sheldon Hub report on the CDM made that amply clear. It does not help reconciliation, it is weaponised, it is stressful for complainant and the person complained about. It does not aid safeguarding.  In changing the way we do things like clergy discipline, clergy must feel as though they are treated fairly, complainants must feel that they are heard, and all need to be provided with the resources and support they need whilst also holding accountable those who fall short in their duties of care.

In establishing the Covenant for Clergy Wellbeing, we emphasise that a covenant is more than a contract with one another – it is a promise, based in grace and gratitude. It is about going beyond the minimum, in good faith, acting out of love rather than legalistic obligation. It’s a mirror of Christ’s pouring out of his own blood to build a new covenant with God’s people. We must be willing, as Jesus did, to do the unthinkable out of our love for one another. We still set boundaries. We are loved children of God, who signal the arrival of God’s people by the way we live and the standards we uphold for ourselves.  

The Covenant is one aspect of seeing the culture of the Church. The job of the clergy is, by its very nature, an impossible one. So also is the call of laity, and indeed of every single Christian of any age and time. It can only be lived in the grace of God. Our baptismal Covenant sets out for us our ordination as laity.

I know all too well that that Covenant is one that we cannot carry out on our own. It is easy to wake up weary, when the work of a broken world seems so great and God’s kingdom seems so far, and feel sometimes like this is just burden. When you are on the front lines, as many of you are, of hurt and loss, doubt and pain, confusion and sorrow, being pulled thanklessly in every direction – it is so easy to feel disheartened.

However, something about being a Christian is about changing that attitude. We say: ‘we are not going to let this be done to us. We are not going to let the darkness overwhelm us. We are going to take hold of the Gospel of Christ together and use it to make His light known to the whole world.’ Together. Not biting and snapping at one another. 

If we all, lay and ordained, look at ministry as a gift that God has given us to make his word known to everyone, perhaps on those dark mornings we can unwrap a little more of His limitless gift and in so doing discover new depths of God’s unconditional love for us. Perhaps then we can find the strength to be more united, more alert to the lion roaring, and less inwardly focused. 

As a church, Anglicans – all Anglicans but particularly the Church of England – always have been and always will be prone to shoot ourselves in the foot, quite often while the foot is firmly in the mouth. When that happens – and one might say, in fact we have said perhaps in more eloquent terms that it has happened recently, we can turn towards the Christ who promises: ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest’. 

When we keep Jesus Christ at the centre of our lives, we can find our brokenness and our uncertainty is tended to, that there is a balm, and that we are cared for – perhaps not when we would like or how we would like, but we trust that Christ will provide us with His perfect peace, in His own way and his perfect timing. We remember 1 Peter’s advice to the shepherds, to ‘cast all your anxiety’ on God, who will always be big enough to handle it. So much of the anxiety which leads to our arguments, divisions and party politics in the Church comes from anxiety and fear. They in their turn come from not casting our anxieties on Christ. 

And here is a secret that we all know and keep from ourselves and from each other – we do not have to be perfect all the time. We minister and witness through our broken humanity, despite ourselves, because then we point to the perfect wholeness of Christ. So much of reaching our potential, of flourishing, is knowing that we are supported, that we have others who understand and care, who will encourage us when we are low and remind us of God’s promise when we have forgotten. The whole context of 1 Peter is about the body of Christ, the temple in which each stone is fitting together and supports the other.

We have hope that through us God  will make huge changes in our society and in our world – hope in the Christian sense of a certain expectation – because we see in the gospel the small changes made to people’s lives every day. We have hope that we the church can grow because we see people transformed by the power of God who loves us. And so, we have confidence. Not necessarily in the Church of England, but in the word of the Gospel and the faithfulness of God.

I know all too well that it feels sometimes as though the task is daunting and the lion will be overwhelming. I know that many of us hold hopes and dreams for the church in our hearts that we hardly dare hope might be realised. And I also know very well that all of these hopes might not be the same for all of us, but I believe that we have at least one prayer in common: that God makes us instruments of His peace, comforts those of us who are hurting and encourages those of us who are searching in this year and beyond. 

Each of us has a role to play in this, the wonderful work of building God’s kingdom. We step together into God’s extraordinary project, which is not and never could be about our own work, but only about the glorious generosity and power of God. We can pray for each other, even – and perhaps especially – those with whom we disagree. We can love one another with the love that ‘covers a multitude of sins’. Of course, there will be days where there are burdens, we all need to go on being alert for the lion, but I want us all to think about the joys and blessings as well. If we cannot genuinely enjoy the reality of the gift we’ve been given, then, well, why are we here.

This year and the years to come are years to achieve change, to make progress in the mission of God – to be a light to the world. This is a God-given chance for us to work together with God as God breaks into our world and makes himself ever more known to us. So let us continue to recognise that in this Synod we see not just each other, but we see the hand of Christ proffered to us. Let us join hands with our fellow Christians and together in our brokenness and our faith, walk with God towards a world where justice and righteousness reign, and the love and peace of Jesus are found in everyone.


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Canadian archbishop urges Trudeau to oppose Trump’s Middle East Peace plan

Anglican Ink - Fri, 14/02/2020 - 01:24

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau:

Greetings to you from The Anglican Church of Canada.

I write today to urge Canada to maintain a principled policy position in accordance with international law, and to strongly, publicly oppose President Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan for Israel and Palestine announced January 28th, 2020. Your confirmation in 2017 that Canada’s embassy in Israel will remain in Tel Aviv, affirming the open, international status of Jerusalem as a city of two peoples and three faiths, and your 2019 vote at the UN General Assembly affirming the right of the Palestinian People to self-determination, clearly demonstrate Canada’s commitment to principled leadership.

We commend to you the spirit of the Statement of the Patriarchs and Heads of the Holy Land Churches on January 30, 2020, on the “Deal of the Century”, urging instead “a just and lasting peace in the Middle East based on the international legitimacy of relevant UN resolutions, and in a manner that guarantees security, peace, freedom and dignity to all of the peoples of the region.

We lament with global and Canadian ecumenical partners that the Trump administration’s plan is far from being a “win-win” for Israelis and Palestinians. Rather, we recognize, with many others including Canada, peace with justice will not come by discounting or ignoring Palestinian rights and aspirations. For solutions to be based upon equality, human rights and self-determination for all, the occupation of Palestinian lands must first end and Palestinians be meaningfully involved in planning processes from the beginning.

In 2013, The Anglican Church of Canada General Synod adopted a resolution calling on our church to support the goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East. The resolution recognizes the legitimate aspirations, rights and needs of both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace, with dignity within sovereign and secure borders. It condemns the use of violence of all kinds, especially against civilians, calls for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, and upon Israel, as the occupying power, to respect the Fourth Geneva Convention, which forbids the transfer and settlement of its own citizens in the occupied territories.

The Anglican Church of Canada commends your “commitment to a safe and secure homeland for the Jewish people, and to a lasting peace between all peoples in the Middle East”. We pray with the Holy Land Patriarchs and Heads of Churches that, for their part, all Palestinian political parties, factions and leaders end their internal conflicts and adopt a unified stand towards state building based on plurality and democratic values.

With this letter comes the assurance of our respect for your leadership and prayers for you and the Government of Canada. I look forward to supporting Canada’s efforts with other international leaders in denouncing the notion that President Trump’s “Peace Plan for the Middle East” offers a framework through which peace could be negotiated.

Yours in Christ,

+Linda Nicholls

The Most Reverend Linda C. Nicholls
Archbishop and Primate

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Allchurches Trust announces new impact evaluation tools for churches

Anglican Ink - Fri, 14/02/2020 - 01:20

A suite of new tools will help churches and Christian organisations take an impact-first approach to project planning and to evidence and evaluate change more effectively.

Allchurches Trust, in partnership with Church Urban Fund, has produced a simple interactive project planning tool and project reporting form, as well as an impact reporting toolkit, which includes more detailed guidance on monitoring and evaluation. These tools are free to use and can be found in the ‘featured resources’ section of Allchurches Trust’s new advice and resources hub on their website at

Allchurches Trust chairman, Tim Carroll, said: “Monitoring and evaluation that is proportionate, evidences change and shares learnings – both good and bad – can be hugely important for the long-term success of projects, and organisations as a whole, but it’s perhaps the biggest challenge facing charities today, including funders.

“We hear from so many churches and Christian charities that they struggle to know where to start with impact evaluation, especially when so many of their projects are people-focused and relational, and numbers can never tell the story on their own.

“That’s why, after a workshop we ran with Church Urban Fund for Christian funders last year, we took away the learnings and partnered to produce these simple, interactive tools as a starting point for project evaluation which can then be tailored to the needs of the individual church or charity.”

It is hoped that the use of the tools, particularly in the development stage of projects, will help organisations to strengthen their funding applications by encouraging them to focus and bring to life the change they want to make in their communities, and support them to set out how they will achieve and measuring the outcomes that will evidence that change.

Jessamin Birdsall, who heads up Research and Evaluation at Church Urban Fund and is a PhD candidate in Sociology and Social Policy at Princeton University, has also written an advice blog called ‘Why Evaluate?’ to support the new monitoring and evaluation tools.

She said: “We hope that these flexible tools can be a help to churches and charities who want to better capture the difference they are making in communities.”

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A Settlement for the Peoria Deanery

Anglican Ink - Fri, 14/02/2020 - 01:11

February 4, 2020

Dear People of God in the Diocese of Chicago:

With thanksgiving, I am writing to tell you that we have reached a settlement with the Diocese of Quincy in the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) in our efforts to recover some of the property, assets and records that were part of the former Episcopal Diocese of Quincy.

The congregations of St. James, Griggsville; St. James, Lewistown; the Episcopal Church of St. George, Macomb; and All Saints, Rock Island will directly benefit from the settlement. In addition, other funds recovered in the settlement will be held in the Bishop’s Funds for the benefit of the entire Peoria Deanery and will be administered by the bishop’s office with the assistance of the Congregations Commission.

The terms of the settlement are largely confidential, as is often the case when legal proceedings are concluded by agreement. However, my staff and I have communicated with the vestry or bishop’s committee at the congregations that are directly affected to share with them the settlement terms relevant to them and the specific ways in which its arrangements will foster their mission both now and in the future.

The perseverance and courage of the people of the Peoria Deanery during the past eleven years has been remarkable, and I am grateful that this settlement will benefit their participation in God’s mission for many years to come. In addition to the many lay and clergy leaders in that deanery who have helped us arrive at this day, our chancellor emeritus, Richard Hoskins, and Director of Operations Courtney Reid have worked for years to make this settlement possible.

With this settlement, the Diocese of Chicago has just two remaining legal matters with congregations in the ACNA Diocese of Quincy. Those concern the property and assets of both Grace Episcopal Church in Galesburg and Christ Church in Moline, whose Episcopal congregation is now part of All Saints, Rock Island. We hope that these ongoing proceedings will also conclude by bringing us to a place of reconciliation and mutual respect in Christ.


The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee
Bishop of Chicago

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Reflections on Legal Polycentrism

Mises Institute - Thu, 13/02/2020 - 20:00

In attempting to promote the libertarian viewpoint, particularly in its anarchic variety, one is faced with a variety of problems. Some problems are theoretical and are well treated in the comprehensive literature;1 other problems, however, are practical or rhetorical and, while the theoretical problems (and their solution) are intrinsically the more important, it is vital that the practical/rhetorical problems be overcome if the theoretical points are to get a fair hearing.2 As human beings, we perceive and understand in accordance with our needs, our desires and our interests.3 No matter how marvellous a theory may be, it is useless if its intended audience is unreceptive. The point of rhetoric, then, is to open the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf so that they may see and hear.


Someday I’d like to write a book entitled Things We All Know That Just Ain’t So! Included in this book will be the following: There was a time when everybody believed the world was flat—maybe, but not any half-educated person in the last two thousand years. The Barbarians brought about the collapse of the Roman Empire and the onset of the Dark Ages. No, they didn’t, at least not without significant help from the Romans. Galileo was an apostle of reason, brutally treated by a tyrannical and obscurantist Church. He wasn’t and it didn’t. These “facts,” however misguided, are refutable in principle. However, some of our epistemic structures go deeper and are more difficult to dislodge.

Our patterns of belief are constituted by myth. As I use the term “myth,” it is not a euphemistic way of saying that something is untrue but simply a way of naming the foundational narratives, the ultimate framing devices, in the context of which our humdrum beliefs and practices find their place. Such myths, whatever their ultimate truth, cannot be called into question from within—from that point of view, their falsity is literally unthinkable. The English philosopher R. G. Collingwood referred to such a set of such myths as “absolute presuppositions” (Collingwood 1940); similarly, Wittgenstein recognized a functional class of propositions as “standing fast” in relation to any given mode of thought (Wittgenstein 1969, passim). Because we see through (by means of) myths, we find it difficult to see through them, i.e., to recognize their nonnecessity, their lack of foundation, their contingency.

Political theory—and, I suggest, most political practice—is dominated by a myth to the effect that the state is necessary, for many things, perhaps, but primarily for the provision of peace and security; without the state (the state being that group of people which wields a territorial monopoly of alleged legitimate force financed by a compulsory levy of the inhabitants of that territory) there would be anarchy—anarchy being understood to be widespread disorder, violence, and chaos. In the words of Bruce Ackerman, without the state and its laws, we would live in a world “where everyone is free to grab anything he can without ever being obliged to justify his conduct before any institution charged with settling disputes” (Ackerman 1980, p. 252, n. 8).

Such is the power of being first in the field (“positioning” in advertising terms) that the state can literally get away with murder if it can foster the notion that it is legitimate. As Murray Rothbard puts it,

One of the crucial factors that permits governments to do the monstrous things they habitually do is the sense of legitimacy on the part of the stupefied public. The average citizen…has been imbued with the idea—carefully indoctrinated by centuries of governmental propaganda—that the government is his legitimate sovereign, and that it would be wicked or mad to refuse to obey its dictates. It is this sense of legitimacy that the State’s intellectuals have fostered over the ages, aided and abetted by all the trappings of legitimacy: flags, rituals, ceremonies, awards, constitutions, etc. (Rothbard 1973, p. 35)

The important rhetorical point of the historical examples of functioning anarchic societies and the contemporary evidence of functionally anarchic elements in Statist societies is, among other things, to emphasize the sheer contingency of what seems like a necessity—to show that it wasn’t always like this, that it isn’t like this everywhere or in every respect even now, and that it doesn’t have to be like this. For example, Bruce Benson, in the second chapter of The Enterprise of Law4 (1990), shows clearly that the system of criminal law which we now possess—state legislatures,5 public prosecution, prisons, juries, crimes against the State, public police forces—all of which seem as if they sprang, like Venus, fully armed from the head of Jove, are merely historically contingent developments. Moreover, the pressure for these developments came not from any perceived increase in efficiency but from motives that were far less noble. And Harold Berman demonstrated in his remarkable book Law and Revolution that polycentrism was the norm in medieval Europe.


In Austrian treatments of anarchism it is not unusual to point to Medieval Iceland (Friedman 1979) and Medieval Ireland, inter alia, as examples of societies that functioned successfully for substantial periods of time without coercive central government.

Joseph Peden published his groundbreaking article on early Irish Law in 1977. Much of what he had to stay still stands. Since his article was published, a diplomatic edition of the surviving legal material has been published (Binchy 1978) and an introductory but comprehensive guide was published by Fergus Kelly in 1988. This was followed by Stacey’s The Road to Judgment (1994) and McLeod’s Early Irish Contract Law (1992) so that we now have a much fuller and more detailed picture of how things were some 1500 years ago. None of this material contradicts any of Peden’s substantive points (Peden 1977).6

The Irish law texts originated in the seventh–eighth centuries, surviving in fourteenth–sixteenth century manuscripts.7 While not completely coherent, the texts manifest a basic unity.

The society in which these texts found a home was a largely self-sufficient mixed farming economy, with pasture for cattle, sheep and pigs, and cereal production. Lord and client related to one another economically. Society also supported a set of professionals—poets, judges, smiths, physicians and wrights.

The tuath was the basic territorial unit, ruled over by a king (ri). There were approximately 150 of these tuatha in the whole country. The population of Ireland at this period was about five hundred thousand with, approximately three thousand people per tuath.

The king, as the wealthiest and most powerful man in the neighborhood, was central to the affairs of the tuath. All free men owed him loyalty and paid a special tax. He could call upon the freemen to repel invaders or to attack a neighboring tuath. He also had the power to convene an oenach (a fair) for political, social, and commercial purposes. Another type of meeting was the aireacht (meeting of freemen) at which legal business was transacted. Freemen generally stayed within their own tuath; only the professionals normally travelled outside the tuath’s borders. The large degree of legal uniformity suggests that the tuath’s lawyers kept in close touch with their colleagues in other tuatha

The king8 was responsible for external relations, treaty making, treaties of this kind being confirmed at an oenach. Under such treaties, a victim of a crime in one tuath committed by a member of another was entitled to legal redress. Crimes that were redressable included homicide, rape, wounding, and robbery with violence, theft, housebreaking, arson, and satire.

It is important to realize that early Irish society was not egalitarian. One’s legal rights and obligations were a reflection of one’s social status, though upward and downward social mobility was an accepted fact of life. The measure of a person’s status was what was called his honor-price (log n-enech—literally, the price of his face). The greater one’s honor-price, the greater the cost of any injury done to one: the honor-price of a provincial king could be as much as 42 milch cows, whereas that of a young man still living at home could be as little as a yearling heifer. There was a basic distinction between outsiders and those with legal standing in the tuath. Generally, those without a place in a tuath were either ambuae (nonpersons), “grey dogs” (cu glas)—exiles from overseas—or castaways (murchoirthe).

The basic distinction in Irish society was between those who were nemed and those who were not, and those who were free (soer) and those who were unfree (doer). The basic unit of currency was the female slave (cumal) or various kinds of cows. A typical ocaire (small free farmer) was said to possess a dwelling house nineteen feet in diameter and an outhouse of fourteen feet. His land was worth seven cumals and supported seven cows, one bull, seven pigs, seven sheep and a horse. Additionally, he had a share in a plough-team (one-quarter) and a share in a kiln, mill, and barn.

The categorization of nemed/non-nemed, and soer/doer can be diagrammatically (see Figure 1).

A nemed had special privileges. There were limits to the distraint of his property and some legal obligations did not fall on him. Nemed failing in their duties or obligations were liable to be reduced in rank. Cowardly kings, sexually immoral bishops, fraudulent poets, and dishonest lords could be degraded to commoner rank. Similarly, a lord who could not maintain the requisite number of clients was similarly degraded. Upward mobility was possible, if not for a given individual, then for his children or their children. A customary expression in Irish literature is “A man is better than his birth.” Typically, a boaire would become wealthy enough to attract and retain clients. In so doing, he moved into a grey area between commoner and lord. If his sons could maintain or increase this level of wealth and retainership, they or their children would attain nemed status.

Categorization of Nemed/Non-Nemed and Soer/Doer

According to Peden, private ownership played a critical role in the social and legal institutions of early Irish society: “Thus ownership of property in all its forms was the basis of a man’s legal status and marked the extent of his participation in and protection within the legal system” (Peden 1977, p. 87).9 Peden remarks on social mobility as a striking characteristic of early Irish society. So, while economic self-sufficiency was the hallmark of free status, someone unfree could, with the accumulation of wealth, or the possession of a particular talent or skill, achieve that status.

Not only was early Irish society not egalitarian, it was also not one in which individualism was unrestrained. The kin-group (derbfine), all those descended from the same great-grandfather, exercised legal powers over its members. Each kin-group had its own land; an individual’s share in such common land could not be alienated contrary to the wishes of the rest of the group. It was possible to own land outside the kin-group and such land could be alienated freely. The kin-group was, in certain circumstances, responsible for the crimes and debts of its members, being obliged to pay the debts or fines of one who absconded after judgement. The body-fine (eraic) due when a member of a kingroup had been illegally killed was payable to the kin-group. The head of a kin-group was chosen, largely on the basis of his wealth, rank and demonstrated good sense.

While many early law codes in other societies were instigated by powerful kings “there is little evidence of royal involvement in the composition of the Old Irish law-texts” (Kelly 1988, p. 21). In fact, the law and its formulation seems to have been the preserve of a special class of practitioners, more or less dispersed through the whole country, and not under the control of any king. Kelly attributes this low- or noninvolvement of the kings in the lawmaking process to what he terms the “political fragmentation” of the country at the time of their composition/redaction, clearly seeing this as a negative point and assuming, without grounds for so doing, a prior state of nonfragmentation. Kings could, however, issue emergency legislation (after defeat in battle or in the presence of a plague). If the king was not involved in lawmaking, neither was he involved in law implementation. This was done via a tort-like process involving suretyship, pledging and distraint.

Irish society in the historic period up to the seventeenth century constitutes one of the best examples of a functioning anarchic society. Irish law was the product of a body of private and professional jurists (called brithim or brehons) and was flexible and capable of development in response to evolving social conditions (Peden 1977, p. 82). Law was a (largely) family business, enjoying high status. It is important to note that Irish law did not differentiate between what we now distinguish as tort and criminal law, in this respect resembling most systems of customary law that seem to come late, if at all, to this distinction. From the point of view of traditional law, crimes against the person tend to be regarded a special kind of offense against property.

The jurists gave judgement—enforcement was effected via a system of sureties. Sureties came in three forms: (1) a surety might guarantee payment by pledging his eneclann; or (2) a surety could pledge his person and freedom; or (3) the surety could guarantee the payment in the case of default. As Peden puts it, “Law and order, and the adjustment of conflicting interests, were achieved through the giving of sureties rather than State-monopolized coercion” (Peden 1977, p. 83).10

Irish society, organized on anarchical principles, lasted for almost twenty-five hundred years! During that time it showed a capacity, vital to any organic and developing system of social organization, to absorb alien elements and internalize them. The Brehon Law was adapted by the English/Norman invaders/settlers, despite repeated attempts to dissuade them (e.g., statutes of Kilkenny, etc.), so much so that, to the disgust of the English authorities, they became “more Irish than the Irish themselves.” The Irish legal system came to an end only when native Irish society collapsed after the Battle of Kinsale and the Flight of the Earls. It ended, not as the result of insupportable internal strains, but as a consequence of external assault. To sum up its salient characteristics:

  1. the possession of property, with its rights and duties, was central to one’s legal standing;
  2. there was no substantive distinction between criminal law and tort law;
  3. the legal system was private, customary, evolutionary, and agreed-upon;
  4. justice was primarily restorative, with restitution going to the victims rather than to a state; enforcement operated via a system of sureties and pledges, the ultimately recalcitrant being excluded from society and its protections.11

The Icelandic case provides an interesting counterpoint to the Irish experience. Unlike the Irish situation, we have an historical beginning to the Icelandic Commonwealth and a date for its end. In contrast, the Irish case has no discernible beginning. When the records start, it is already in operation and has been so for who knows how long. Whereas in the Icelandic case, one’s connection with a godi was extraterritorial, in the case of Ireland, one’s connection was fixed via the tuath in which one resided or in which one had property. Whereas the Icelandic Commonwealth lasted for about three hundred years, the Irish system lasted from probably 1000 BC until the beginning of the seventeenth century. In both cases, the precipitating cause of the change was political; in the case of Iceland, a reduction in competition caused by the emergence of five large families—in the case of Ireland, the impact of the Anglo-Norman invasion was to add impetus to an already present tendency on the part of the Irish kings to a more assertive and dominant role.


In the early 1990s, Tom Bell, then a student at University of Chicago Law School and now a law professor at Chapman, wrote a paper on legal polycentrism for some courses taught by Richard Posner. This paper was primarily an attempt to provide a theoretical justification for nonstatist legal systems, for which Bell adapted (presumably from Michael Polanyi) the term “polycentric law,” its subcategories being customary law and privately produced law. Around the same time, Bell published a paper on the same topic in the Human Studies Review and still later, a short paper on practical applications in a Cato Policy Report in 1998 (Bell 1991–92, 1992, and 1998).

Bell notes that, once one becomes familiar with the notion of polycentric law, one sees instances of it everywhere—in churches, clubs, businesses, and so on. Without the focusing lens of the concept, polycentric law is largely invisible. Although he provides a concise account of some historical examples of polycentric legal systems, Bell notes that a justification of polycentric law requires more than case studies of small and/or insular societies; it requires a justification for how polycentric law would work here and now. Following Benson, he isolates six features common to most systems of customary law, the first five of which would likely be mirrored in systems of privately produced law. Modified slightly, these are:

  1. individual rights and private property take centre stage;
  2. victims are the enforcers of the law;
  3. violence is avoided by the emergence of standard (and, I would add, mutually agreeable) adjudicative procedures;
  4. restitution/reparation (primarily economic) would follow from treating offenses as torts (invasions of personal rights) rather than crimes (offenses against the state);
  5. the enforcement mechanism is ostracism, blackballing, blacklisting, banishment, exclusion from society;
  6. legal change comes about by evolution rather than by (legislative) revolution.

One can immediately see that these features are all characteristic of early Irish law.

Critics of anarchistic theory have not been slow to point out that Medieval Ireland is dead and gone (likewise Medieval Iceland). “It is all very well to point to historical instances of anarchic order but what,” they ask, “has anarchism done for us recently?” A complete answer to this question would take us well beyond the confines of this paper but, following Bell’s lead, some green shoots of contemporary anarchic order can be detected in the emergence and flourishing of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) institutions, private communities, and the internet.

With its historical antecedents in the medieval Law Merchant and the Maghribi law of the Mediterranean, ADR today is a fast-growing alternative to State-Law. As Bell notes: “The largest private provider of ADR services in the United States, the American Arbitration Association, administered 62,423 cases in 1995,” twice as much as it had handled twenty years earlier. There are about one thousand other agencies competing with the AAA. Bell writes: “The state’s courts have less and less time to find the law for civil litigants because their dockets overflow with criminal prosecutions enforcing legislation. That the Drug War generates most of those prosecutions merely illustrates the manifold hazards of unjust legislation.” (Bell 1998, p. 10)

In 1970 there were about ten thousand private communities in the USA. This rose to 55,000 in 1980 and 130,000 in 1990. In 1992 the number reached 150,000, encompassing some 28 million people. I don’t have the latest figures but projections would indicate that the numbers should be significantly higher. Bell writes: “Residents of private communities experience polycentric law, not as a theoretical abstraction, but as a working reality. Those people have deliberately removed themselves from the inefficient political machinations of municipal governments, seeking instead to live under regulations of their own choice and making. Faced with the futility of trying to exercise any real influence over the politicians and bureaucrats, who would run their lives, residents of private communities have rediscovered the pleasures—and undoubtedly the pains—of reaching consensus with their neighbors.” (Bell 1998, p. 10)

The internet is, perhaps, the most spectacular example of emergent order in contemporary society. Although originating in a military environment, it quickly migrated into the academic world and then moved into the worlds of business and the general public. Through the use of email and the World Wide Web, anyone with a computer and the appropriate connection is now a part of a worldwide community with access to a staggeringly large and oftentimes bewildering amount of data.

No longer can the gatekeepers of society regulate, channel and censor what there is to know. Of course, no one can guarantee the quality of the information available online, but that simply restores to each individual the responsibility to judge the value of what is received. Within the WWW world, Wikipedia must stand as an outstanding example of what can be done from the bottom up. The material contained therein is variable in quality but it contains some outstanding entries and, of course, the alert users of the resource are at liberty to question and dispute controversial material.


Finally, even within Statist circles, the feeling that all is not well with the criminal justice system is growing. Victim-impact statements, flawed as they might be, are recognition that the one offended in the commission of most crimes is not the state, but Joe Soap.

Just recently, in Ireland, we have been experimenting with what is being called “Restorative Justice.” Such programs are in use in other countries, and the Irish government is keen to evaluate their effectiveness. My cynical impression is that this is motivated not so much by concern for victims of crime or the welfare of criminals as it is by a concern for the spiralling cost of imprisonment.

The director of the experimental pilot program, Máire Hoctor, notes in the Irish Times, 10 March 2007, “It has given offenders an opportunity to rebuild their life without a criminal record.” She adds: “It’s also very cost-effective. For example, our voluntary service here costs €40,000 to run for a year and deals with around 20 offenders. In contrast, it costs €80,000 a year to keep one person in jail.” Assuming a better or at least the same rate of recidivism (and the indications are that around 70 percent of offenders do not reoffend), then the Restorative Justice program is fiscally more effective by a factor of 4,000 percent!

There is much to commend in the notion of restorative justice. The basic principle of law, or what should be its basic principle, namely, the restoration of the status quo ante, is the desideratum. The victim, so often shunted to one side as a kind of disagreeable ghost at the wedding in your standard criminal justice system, takes centre stage, and the offender makes reparation directly to the victim, not to the state.

In keeping offenders out of jail, the state not only saves massively (money which it would be idle to hope would be returned to the long-suffering taxpayer), but also keeps the neophyte criminal away from being better tutored in crime, and limits the creation of criminal networks. Of course, this restorative justice system is intended to work alongside the bloated and ineffective criminal justice system; it is not intended as a substitute. However, we live in hope.


Much of the resistance to libertarian anarchic proposals stems from a genuine inability on the part of one’s audience to entertain such proposals as serious alternatives to the status quo. To be able to demonstrate convincingly to that audience that what one is proposing has already been done and continues to be done, albeit in different historical circumstances or in a variety of (not-so-obvious) ways, cannot but have a salutary effect on the receptivity of that audience to the theoretical arguments.

  • 1. A division may be drawn between libertarians and nonlibertarians, with nonlibertarians running the gamut from ultraconservative Individualists to ultrasocialist statists. The keenest dispute, however, is within the libertarian camp between those libertarians who espouse anarchism (such as Murray Rothbard and Hans-Hermann Hoppe) and those who do not (such as Ludwig von Mises and Tibor Machan). In The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science, Mises writes as follows:
    peaceful human cooperation…cannot exist without a social apparatus of coercion and compulsion, i.e., without a government. The evils of violence, robbery, and murder can be prevented only by an institution that itself, whenever needed, resorts to the very methods of acting for the prevention of which it is established. There emerges a distinction between the illegal employment of violence and the legitimate recourse to it. In cognizance of this fact some people have called government an evil, although admitting that it is a necessary evil. However, what is required to attain an end sought and considered as beneficial is not an evil in the moral connotation of this term, but a means, the price to be paid for it. Yet that fact remains that actions that are deemed highly objectionable and criminal when perpetrated by “unauthorized” individuals are approved when committed by the ‘authorities. (pp. 59–60)
  • 2. See the Mises Economics Blog on Polycentric Law, July 2005 to January 2007.
  • 3. Quidquid recipitur recipitur secundum modum recipientis—“whatever is received is received according to the mode of the receiver.”
  • 4. See also Benson (1991, pp. 41–65; 2007, pp. 624–38).
  • 5. Parliament was originally not a lawmaking body but a tax-granting body opposed to the executive. After the “Glorious Revolution” of 1689, the opposition gradually disappeared so that tax-levying was unopposed. (War was primarily a private business, a matter of hostile [actual, as distinct from metaphorical] takeovers, as it were!).
  • 6. See also Kelly 1988, McLeod 1992, and Stacey 1994.
  • 7. The material immediately following is a précis of Kelly.
  • 8. The role of the king was quasi-sacerdotal, no doubt reflecting an earlier stage of social development, which persisted in other societies and recurred with surprising frequency until relatively recently, e.g., the Chinese emperor, the Egyptian pharaoh, the Roman and Byzantine emperors, and the notion of the divine right of kings.
  • 9. See Dillon and Chadwick (1967, pp. 98–99).
  • 10. Peden notes that while the Irish had kings, it is important to realize that they were not lawmakers. Moreover, they could, in fact, be sued, just as any other freeman albeit with difficulty. Each freeman had what was known as his honorprice, his dire or enclann. This honor-price was essential to the working of the systems of sureties. In taking or in defending an action, a petitioner or a defendant took sureties to ensure the honoring of the judgement of the brehon court. See also Hughes (1966).
  • 11. See Whiston (2002); Runolfsson Solvason (no date); Murphy (2005); Friedman (1979); Long (2002); and Morrow (2007).
Categories: Current Affairs

Rothbard: The Constitution Was a <em>Coup d'État</em>

Mises Institute - Thu, 13/02/2020 - 17:00

[Conceived in Liberty: The New Republic, 1784–1791. By Murray N. Rothbard. Edited by Patrick Newman. Mises Institute, 2019. 332 pages.]

We owe Patrick Newman a great debt for his enterprise and editorial skill in bringing to publication the fifth volume, hitherto thought lost, of Murray Rothbard’s Conceived in Liberty. The details of his rescue of the lost manuscript are indeed dramatic, but rather than recount them here, I should like to concentrate on a theme central to the new book.

It is well known that Rothbard took the American Revolution to be mainly libertarian in its inspiration. The libertarian impulses of the Revolution were betrayed by a centralizing coup d’état. As Rothbard puts it:

Basically, urban merchants and artisans, as well as many slaveholding planters, united in support of a strong nation-state that would use the power of coercion to grant them privileges and subsidies. The subsidies would come at the expense of the average subsistence yeoman farmer who might be expected to oppose such a new nationalism. But against them, to support a new constitution, were the commercial farmers aided by the southern plantation-farmers who also wanted power and regulation for their own benefit. Given the urban support, the split among the farmers, and the support from wealthy educated elites, it is not surprising that the nationalist forces were able to execute their truly amazing political coup d’état which illegally liquidated the Articles of Confederation and replaced it with the Constitution. In short, they were able to destroy the original individualist and decentralized program of the American Revolution. (p. 128)

The theme I should like to concentrate on is this: what happens to the way we understand the Constitution if Rothbard is right that it was a centralizing document? The Anti-Federalists, with whom Rothbard agreed, denounced it for that reason. For example, in Virginia Patrick Henry, one of Rothbard’s heroes, said:

When the American spirit was in its youth, the language of America was different: liberty, sir, was then the primary object….But now, sir, the American spirit, assisted by the ropes and chains of consolidation, is about to convert this country into a powerful and mighty empire….Such a government is incompatible with the genius of republicanism. There will be no checks, no real balances, in this government. What can avail your specious, imaginary balances, your rope-dancing, chain-rattling, ridiculous ideal checks and contrivances? But, sir, we are not feared by foreigners; we do not make nations tremble. Would this constitute happiness, or secure liberty? (p. 262)

With all this as background, we can now consider the theme I’d like to stress. If the Anti-Federalists were right. We cannot say that the Constitution as originally written gave us a limited government that later regimes have ruthlessly and recklessly expanded. In taking this approach, Rothbard set himself firmly against the dominant trend in American conservative thought. He remarks:

The Constitution was unquestionably a high-nationalist document, creating what Madison once referred to as a “high mounted government.” Not only were the essential lines of the nationalistic Virginia Plan Report carried out in the Constitution, but the later changes made were preponderantly in a nationalist direction….While it is true that the general congressional veto over state laws and the vague broad grant of powers in the original Virginia Plan were whittled down to a list of enumerated powers, enough loopholes existed in the enumerated list: the national supremacy clause; the dominance of the federal judiciary; the virtually unlimited power to tax, raise armies and navies, make war, and regulate commerce; the necessary and proper clause; and the powerful general welfare loophole; all allowed the virtually absolute supremacy of the central government. While libertarian restraints were placed on state powers, no bill of rights existed to check the federal government. (p.211)

We can argue that later regimes extended national power beyond what the Constitution contemplated, but if Rothbard is right, the Constitution as written provides ample scope for tyranny.

One of the leading arguments of Constitutional conservatives is that since Congress is granted the power to declare war, military engagements by later presidents that bypass Congress are unconstitutional. (In several reviews, I have argued this way myself.) Rothbard does not agree. He says:

Congress’ proposed broad military powers occasioned much debate. The nationalists tried to narrow Congress’ power to make war into a more concentrated, and therefore a more controllable, form: Pinckney to the Senate only, Butler to the president himself. While these were defeated, Madison cunningly moved to alter congressional power: ‘make war’ became ‘declare war,’ which left a broad, dangerous power for the president, who was grandiosely designated in the draft as the ‘commander in chief’ of the U.S. army and navy, and of all the state militias. For now, the president might make war even if only Congress could formally declare it.” (p. 185)

Rothbard finds similar slippery language in the Tenth Amendment, imagined by some defenders of limited government to be a principal means to thwart efforts by the federal government to centralize power:

This amendment did in truth transform the Constitution from one of supreme national power to a partially mixed polity where the liberal anti-nationalists had a constitutional argument with at least a fighting chance of acceptance. However, Madison had cunningly left out the word “expressly” before the word “delegated,” so the nationalist judges were able to claim that because the word “expressly” was not there, the “delegated” can vaguely accrue through judges’ elastic interpretation of the Constitution….The Tenth Amendment has been intensely reduced, by conventional judiciary construction, to a meaningless tautology. (pp. 302–3)

(Note that Rothbard does not disagree with the nationalist judges’ interpretation.) Rothbard does see some hope of restraining the central government in the “forgotten” Ninth Amendment, but this was not to be invoked in a serious way by the Supreme Court until the 1960s.

Defenders of the Constitution as a bulwark of limited government often invoke the wisdom to be found in the Federalist Papers, but Rothbard views them as deceptive propaganda:

The essays contained in The Federalist were designed not for the ages—not as an explanation of nationalist views—but as a propaganda document to allay the fears and lull the suspicions of the Antifederal forces. Consequently, these field marshals of the Federalist campaign were concerned to make the Constitution look like a mixed concoction of checks-and balances and popular representation, when they really desired, and believed that they had, a political system of overriding national power. What is remarkable is the fact that historians and conservative political theorists have seized upon and canonized these campaign pieces as fountains of quasi-divine political wisdom, as hallowed texts to be revered, even as somehow a vital part of American constitutional law. (pp. 269–70)

James Madison’s argument that a large national republic would better cope with the dangers of factionalism than a small one is often invoked for its profundity, but Rothbard is not impressed:

Madison claimed that the greater diversity of interests over a large area will make it more difficult for a majority of the interests to combine and oppress a minority. It is difficult to see, however, why such a combination should be difficult….But the main fallacy in Madison’s argument is that it is part and parcel of the antidemocratic Federalist doctrine that the danger of despotic government comes, not from the government, but from among the ranks (i.e., the majority) of the public. The fallacy of this by now should be evident. Even if a majority approves an act of tyranny, it almost never initiates or elaborates or executes such action; rather they are almost always passive tools in the hands of the oligarchy of rulers and their allied favorites of the state apparatus. (pp. 270–71)

Rothbard concludes with this verdict on the Constitution:

Overall, it should be evident that the Constitution was a counterrevolutionary reaction to the libertarianism and decentralization embodied in the American Revolution. The Antifederalists, supporting states’ rights and critical of a strong national government, were decisively beaten by the Federalists, who wanted such a polity under the guise of democracy in order to enhance their own interests and institute a British-style mercantilism over the country. Most historians have taken the side of the Federalists because they support a strong national government that has the power to tax and regulate, call forth armies and invade other countries, and cripple the power of the states. The enactment of the Constitution in 1788 drastically changed the course of American history from its natural decentralized and libertarian direction to an omnipresent leviathan that fulfilled all of the Antifederalists’ fears. (p. 312)

There is evidence that Rothbard wrote the manuscript of this book before 1967 (see p. 312, editor’s note 7). But I do not think that he later changed his mind about the Constitution. Those who wish to challenge his brilliant analysis have a difficult task ahead of them.

Categories: Current Affairs

Our New Henry VIII

Adam Smith Institute - Thu, 13/02/2020 - 15:01

Sajid Javid is out and Rishi Sunak is in. In addition to that, it has also been announced that the teams of number 10 and number 11 are going to be more combined. This may be a surprise or it may in fact be a repeat of the early 16th century. Let me explain why. 

Looking back to 2010 the Conservatives were steeped in fiscal conservatism. Cutting the budget was central and austerity was firmly the order of the day. Just as after the long dynastic crises of the wars of the roses, after the financial crisis of 2007-8 those who emerged to take power were self-proclaimed penny pinching Cameron and Osbourne. Both saw ‘that a full treasury was an absolutely necessary condition of establishing the new rule’ (Elton - England Under the Tudors).

If you still doubt it, Osbourne even famously declared Henry VII his favourite monarch. Henry VII, like the Conservatives before him, concentrated on restrengthening the Crown, and its financial position especially, whether it was fining rather than executing certain rebels or restraining himself from costless expenditure (i.e. War). The spirit of the Winter king indeed survived into the May era. Hammond enjoyed the title spreadsheet Phil.

Yet on 21st April 1509, Boris Johnson Henry VIII became the new leader of the country. Both Johnson and HVIII are/were Eurosceptics; both had notable love lives; and both of course were susceptible to huge vanity projects. HS2 could soon become the white elephant of Henry’s expeditions in France (both of them). It would be interesting to see if the TPA could muster a tax strike like that seen in 1525. It would definitely be preferable to Johnson ordering the dissolution of St Mungo’s or similar to fund his exploits - or the handing out of corporate welfare just as monastic lands were dished out for financial reward and demanding noble loyalty. 

So was Javid a cautious Wolsey no longer to be tolerated by an ambitious new ruler? Possibly. It’s worth remembering that Javid backed HS2 just as Wolsey at least backed the attempt to obtain special dispensation from the Pope in annulling Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. However, I would much prefer to praise the integrity of Geoffrey Cox and his fellow lawyer Thomas More. Both showed loyalty but not at the expense of sacrificing their principles. 

So what can we expect from the new regime? While many were and possibly are still confident of Boris being the neoliberal darling, it is becoming clearer that Johnson is emulating Blair’s words in 1997 “we ran for office as New Labour, we will govern as New Labour”. Johnson put One Nation Tory principles at the forefront of his campaign and he seems to be doing little to persuade otherwise. By bringing the treasury further under his control and loosening the spending taps, Johnson might be sending us hurtling towards another fiscal crisis.

Categories: Current Affairs

Give Britons a Holiday

Adam Smith Institute - Thu, 13/02/2020 - 13:01

After three and a half years of Brexit chaos and all the anxiety and business uncertainty it is now time for the government to reward the British people for their patience by giving them a holiday. 

As we now become global Britain it is important that we give people the opportunity to live this out, to visit far flung places, to encounter and enjoy different cultures. For others, it may be enough just to relax in a sunny climate in the confidence that Brexit is finally done. We can help do this by removing one of the largest barriers to those who want to fly abroad: Air Passenger Duty (APD). 

Of course the immediate go to reaction is an immediate shutdown in the style of Ms Thunberg’s ‘How dare you!’ Travelling by plane is evil. We should stop people from flying, either by shaming them or by imposing a tax that disincentives flying rather than actually disincentivizing CO2 emissions.  

Yes APD is more about stopping people flying rather than reducing pollution. Currently, APD is charged per passenger in aircrafts that have take off weights of more than 5.7 tonnes or more than twenty seats or passengers - thus private jets are let off. Private jets are likely the vehicle of choice for the mega wealthy who aren't taxed while those in Easyjet are. There are also only two bands in terms of flight distance (and thus approximate CO2 production), below 2,000 miles and above 2,000 miles. This means that a flight to Londonderry to Newfoundland Canada is charged at the same rate as a quick flight from Dublin, Berlin or Paris 

APD also takes no account of how much CO2 different planes emit. Therefore, there is no incentive for airline companies to become more efficient. As a result, we do not see as rapid advancement in green aviation technology because the incentives are not there.

Furthermore, the vast majority of flight emissions are produced by a small number of people who fly very often meaning that the tax does little to disincentives their flying but prevents less frequent and less affluent flyers from being able to travel abroad. If you thought APD really was to help stop climate change, you would have to agree that it could almost certainly be doing a better job. 

We would be much better off with a policy that incentivizes innovation to be more fuel efficient and less carbon heavy. Thankfully the border-adjusted Carbon tax does just that. Taxing goods on the amount of carbon produced will motivate the aerospace industry to innovate while also being more equitable. 

In the meantime, let's scrap the treasury rent-seeking APD and make it cheaper for the British people to enjoy and explore Europe. This is a brilliant opportunity to not only show Britain is still strongly bound to Europe but also to give everyone a bit of respite after the brouhaha of the last three and a half years. 

Categories: Current Affairs


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