Category Archive: Rights

  1. Baristas with BAs: The result of central planning for schools

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    In Kentucky, says scholar Caleb Brown, it’s easy to find a barista who has a bachelor’s degree, but manufacturing companies can’t find the machinists they desperately need — whose pay would start at $60,000–$80,000 a year.

    That slice of modern economic life comes from Brown’s Cato podcast conversation with Jim Stergios of Massachusetts’s Pioneer Institute. Listening to it, I realized a problem with government schooling that I had never zeroed in on before. In criticizing government schooling, I have always focused on the failure of government schools to provide as high quality instruction as they would if they had to compete for students in a free market for education. But Brown and Stergios opened my eyes to another problem: government school systems fail to provide different kinds of instruction as appropriate to different kinds of students in different places and times.

    Mr. Stergios’s main concern is the insufficiency of technical and vocational education in America. He states that in Springfield, Massachusetts, for example, there are tens of thousands of jobs available, yet the unemployment rate there is high as compared to the rest of the state. “The mismatch between jobs available and people who are seeking work, in terms of their skills, is enormous.”

    Why? Why doesn’t our education system provide quality vocational and technical training that both businesses and underemployed people could benefit from?

    I blame it on central planning.

    Central Planning

    The failure of the American education system to provide instruction in skills needed in various businesses is just another case of central planning’s failure where free markets would succeed. In America today, schooling for the 88% of students who attend government schools is planned centrally by state departments of education or district boards of education, and central planners, whether of the whole Soviet economy or American “public” education, have neither the knowledge nor the incentives they need to plan well.

    Let’s start with the knowledge. How would state education officials find out what quantities of what kinds of vocational and technical training are appropriate in all the various different regions of a state such as Massachusetts? The podcast mentions “applied engineering” skills such as machining, along with skilled nursing, the knowledge of how to run a restaurant, and basic computer skills.

    We could also mention carpentry, plumbing, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), bookkeeping, inventory management, auto maintenance, and dozens of other trades and skills. How would state education officials decide what kinds of training to offer, where, in what quantities, and at what depth?

    They could conceivably poll the businesses in different locales, repeatedly, to try to collect this information and keep it up to date. It would be very difficult for the limited staff of the state department of education assigned to this task to gather and manage the mass of information about dozens of trades and skills, the need for which changes constantly with technology, the business cycle, demographic changes and other factors.

    Even with the best will in the world they could only do a poor job of this. They would face “the knowledge problem of central planning,” the inability of central planners to collect all the information they need to plan well.

    Free Market Education

    But think how it would work in a free market for education. Vocational/technical schools in an area, established by entrepreneurs who perceive, or think they perceive, a demand for such schools, would constantly try to discern the changing demand for different skills and know-how, and try to provide such skills and know-how to students they would recruit for their programs.

    Schools that satisfied a real need, and kept up with necessary changes, would flourish. Those that did not would fail.

    Perhaps a chain of such schools might emerge, adapting the offerings of each particular school in the chain to the needs of the area. Perhaps certain skilled craftsman would set up work-study relationships with high schools in the area, essentially paying students in on-the-job training for the students’ help with their work. Such relationships could also be formal apprenticeships.

    Even now, according to Jim Stergios, businesses come to established vocational and technical schools and offer to invest in the schools in return for the schools’ offering training in the skills they need. Think how much more of that there might be if students (and their parents) could choose what schools they would pay for what instruction.

    Why would high schools in the area agree to such work-study programs? To attract students.

    In a free market for education, no school would be guaranteed a chunk of the taxpayers’ money by the school district, as now. Instead, the parents would get to decide what schools their children attend, and therefore where their tuition money goes. Schools would have to win their customers by offering valuable instruction, and work-study instruction would surely be seen as valuable in areas where businesses need employees with those skills.

    As business conditions in a region changed, the vocational and technical schools and programs would have to change with it or lose money. Those innovators quickest to respond to a new need would be rewarded.

    Think what a world of difference there is between the knowledge that goes into central planning by a government bureaucracy and the knowledge that goes into decentralized planning in a free market. In the one, a few bureaucrats plan based on general, summary knowledge of circumstances in a region as a whole. In the other, many different people plan based on their own detailed knowledge of the particular circumstances of their own time and place.

    In the one, the government apparatus must approve any changes; in the other, the entrepreneurs just act. In the one, mistakes can go uncorrected and opportunities can go unperceived for a long, long time. In the other, mistakes are promptly punished with financial losses while getting it right is rewarded with profits.

    Good Intentions and Good Incentives

    Now what about incentives?

    Surely there are many government education officials who conscientiously wish to do what’s best for the students. But the fact remains that their incentive to do so is weakened by the fact that if they don’t do what is best for the students, they will get paid anyway.

    In government schooling, the tax money flows into the school system almost regardless of how well the school system satisfies actual social wants and needs. So why go to the effort of figuring out what curriculum changes might be valuable in different areas, testing them, rolling them out where parents and students value them (again, how would the bureaucrats really know that when the parents are not paying?), and shutting them down where they don’t really satisfy a public need? A public school system with funding guaranteed by the tax man just does not have to make that effort.

    In practice, according to Jim Stergios, this situation is actually much worse than what I have just described, in which the system makes no effort to discover and implement needed changes. According to Stergios, the system actively resists improvements in vocational and technical education they know — or have good reason to believe — would be valuable. Why? Because if they allowed the changes, the conventional schools would lose funding to the vocational schools, and the conventional schools are powerful enough to resist that.

    Stergios says of Massachusetts that

    Our district school system, the traditional public school system, believes that they own the children and they do not want to share the resources. [They consider it] their money, and so giving further options outside of their current network of schools, the district, is not something they are open to.…

    It’s hard to expand the number of choices in the Vo/Tech area simply because of that sense that the districts own the money. (emphasis added)

    Again, think how different things would be in a free market for education, where the parents own their own tuition money and decide where their children go to school. Then schools would have a strong incentive to find out and offer the kinds of instruction that would attract parents, students, and tuition dollars. And if more vocational and technical instruction would be valuable to society, as I believe it would, it would be offered, because educational entrepreneurs would have a strong personal incentive to offer it.

    Knowledge problems and incentive problems beset central planning of education as of every other sort of good or service. Markets — human freedom to exchange — solve those problems. We should free the market for education.

  2. Donald Trump: The avatar of democracy

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    Many political commentators have accused Donald Trump of “undermining democracy.”

    This accusation appears to stem from Trump’s penchant for uttering obvious falsehoods. Over the past month, Trump has asserted that 3 to 5 million illegal votes were cast in the presidential election, that more people attended his inauguration than Barack Obama’s, that the murder rate in the United States is at its highest level in 47 years, that only 109 people were affected by his travel ban, that the media is not reporting on terrorist attacks, that a failed military raid in Yemen was a success, and that he lost the presidential vote in New Hampshire because thousands of illegal voters were bused in from Massachusetts.

    To the extent that I understand the argument that this behavior undermines democracy, it seems to run something like this. Trump’s assertions are almost entirely divorced from objective reality. By basing policy decisions on such patently false propositions, he is acting in a way that is inconsistent with the functioning of democratic government.

    Now I do not mean to be perverse, but this criticism seems completely wrongheaded to me. There may be many grounds on which to criticize President Trump’s actions, but undermining democracy is not among them. Far from undermining democracy, Trump appears to be perfecting it. I think that in his first month as president, Donald Trump has been the epitome of democracy.

    Allow me to explain.

    In our personal lives, most of us pay close attention to the facts of reality. We look both ways before we cross the street. When we drive, we stop at red lights and refrain from driving 90 miles an hour through residential streets. We consider how much money we make in deciding how much money to spend. We comparison shop, consider the prospects for return before making investments, perform regular maintenance on our cars and homes, and purchase automobile, life, health, and homeowner’s insurance. We don’t just walk up and take other people’s stuff.

    We do this because each of us would personally suffer the consequences of ignoring the facts of reality. Failure to look both ways means that we might be hit by a car. Reckless driving means that we might crash. Profligate spending means that we might go bankrupt. Failure to comparison shop, invest carefully, perform necessary maintenance, and purchase insurance means that we may suffer financial losses. Failure to observe property rights means that we may be punched in the nose.

    In contrast, in our political lives, most of us pay almost no attention to the facts of reality. When we engage in democratic decision making — when we vote — we indulge our imagination and vote for the way we want the world to be.

    We feel compassion for low skilled, low wage workers, so we vote to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. We are horrified by mass shootings at schools, so we vote to ban or restrict possession of guns. We are afraid of the effects of narcotics on youth, so we vote to prohibit their use, possession, and sale. We are concerned about the plight of the elderly and the poor, the quality of the public schools, and the readiness of the military, so we vote to increase social security benefits, wage a war on poverty, pass the No Child Left Behind Act, and increase the defense budget.

    Because voting one way rather than another imposes no consequences on us personally, there is little reason to consider the facts of reality when doing so. Thus, we vote to increase the minimum wage without considering the effects such an increase will have on those who run small businesses or whether it will increase unemployment.

    We vote for gun control measures without considering whether criminals or the mentally disturbed will actually be deterred by the need to obtain their guns illegally. We vote for a war on drugs without considering whether doing so will create a black market for drugs and the violent crime associated with the sale of banned substances, despite the nation’s experience with alcohol prohibition. And we vote to spend money on today’s elderly, poor, public schools, and military without considering the effects continual deficit spending will have on economic growth and the well-being of the next generation.

    Democratic decision-making is the realm of institutionalized wishful thinking. For any identified social problem, voters are free to imagine a simple solution for it untethered to the facts of reality. They may then vote for candidates who support their solution and feel good about themselves for doing so. If their preferred candidates win, they then consider the problem solved.

    If, after a while, the problem hasn’t disappeared, that is because of insufficient funding, or inadequate enforcement, or the influence of malign special interests, or the obstructionism of the narrow-minded or bigoted or hyper-partisan members of the opposing party. In a democracy, who wins elections is not determined by what is true. What is true is determined by who wins elections.

    Donald Trump is the apotheosis of democratic magical thinking. Trump has perceived the essence of democracy. He understands that for all practical political purposes, in a democracy, if enough people believe something, then it is true. And this insight has allowed him to sever the cord between political utterance and objective reality in a way his more benighted predecessors could not bring themselves to do.

    Donald Trump understands that in the realm of democratic governance, there are always “alternative facts,” as long as one can get enough people to accept them.

    During the campaign, Trump promised to make the country secure from terrorist attack by banning immigration from Muslim countries. He won the election. Therefore, it is true that the way to make the country secure from terrorist attack is to ban immigration from Muslim countries. A federal judge who denies this truth must be politically motivated.

    During the campaign, Trump promised to end illegal immigration from Mexico by building a wall across the country’s southern border and bring back manufacturing jobs by renegotiating trade agreements and imposing tariffs on goods made overseas. He won the election. Therefore, it is true that the wall will stop illegal immigration and economic protectionism will bring back manufacturing jobs. Those who deny such truths are purveyors of fake news or dishonest members of the media.

    I am opposed to Donald Trump’s policies because I find them to be both illiberal and ineffective. But I do not believe that Trump is undermining democracy. On the contrary, by recognizing that in a democracy the truth is whatever the majority believes it to be, Trump has merely taken democracy to its logical conclusion. Far from undermining democracy, Donald Trump is its avatar.

  3. Presidents for life and the problem of democracy

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    What does it mean to have a “real” democracy?

    In Venezuela, Hugo Chávez received the overwhelming majority of votes (sort of legitimately) and then changed the rules so he could stay on as president for life and appoint his successor.

    But, technically, Venezuela is a democracy.

    In Russia, even term limits did little to diminish Vladimir Putin’s power during the four years that he passed the presidency to Dmitry Medvedev. He exploited the ambiguity in the constitution to stay on as prime minister during that time and sought reelection in 2012 — over huge protests decrying the corrupt electoral process.

    But, technically, Russia is still a democracy.

    We often associate democracy with rights protections, the separation of powers, the rule of law, and the power of the people to elect their representatives (who handle the rest). It may be surprising to hear that only the last is technically part of democracy, while the other crucial elements of a free society are part of something more specific: a liberal democracy.

    Democracy itself is merely a power structure: the people have some form of participation, end of story.

    So despite the myriad of problems in regimes like Venezuela’s and Russia’s — poverty, unrest, food shortages, and a volatile economy, to name a few — they are democracies.

    Protests alone won’t solve the problem.

    Creating a democracy is actually fairly easy. You need a group of people in a society willing to forcefully assert their political rights, a few elites to run the place, and some voting booths.

    We see and have seen countless revolutions started with the hope of achieving democratic ends. Keeping it, however, is the real trick.

    The Arab Spring started out with grand ambitions, the people shouting “bring down the regime” in a unified voice of opposition to the sclerotic governments all over the Middle East and North Africa. As Robert Gates notes in his autobiography, however, “the history of revolutions is not a happy one. Most often repressive authoritarian governments are swept out, and power ends up in the hands not of moderate reformers but of better-organized and far more ruthless extremists.”

    And we saw that play out in all but a few countries. The military now runs Egypt. Libya, Iraq, and Syria all suffer through civil wars and unstable governments. And in many countries, the leaders used excessive force, hoping to punish those who threaten their rule — and providing a chilling example to any future dissenters.

    Democracy itself is an incredibly unstable system of government. It is subject to the whims and caprices of the people, who often ask for and sometimes demand changes that fundamentally undermine the system.

    Liberal institutions can protect us.

    This is why many countries seek to create or maintain liberal democracies. The liberal element contains all of the important protections we tend to associate with the power structure called democracy. That’s where we get the separation of powers, the economic rights, and most importantly the rule of law.

    How do these work? The separation of powers provides each of the different branches of government with a certain amount of independence. Undermining this independence is part of maintaining an illiberal democracy. In Egypt, the military has passed laws that diminish or destroy rights. According to Human Rights Watch, “These laws have, among other things, effectively banned protests, legalized emergency police powers, and expanded military court jurisdiction over civilians, leading to the imprisonment of thousands of people.” In Russia, politicians avoid accountability by relying on the corrupt judiciary to prosecute journalists who dare to question government policy.

    Then there is the rule of law. The most fundamental element of any free regime is the requirement that the government provide clear laws that apply to everyone — including those in government. While it does not stop all abuses, it does provide an avenue for redressing abuses. While it does not protect every individual equally, it establishes the firm commitment to this ideal.

    It is these elements that provide liberal countries with the assurance that their governments will always work for them and when they (inevitably) fall short, there are ways to call the politicians to account.

    But liberal institutions are not enough.

    Importantly, the rule of law relies on everyone knowing the law and everyone abiding by those laws. And this is one of the fragile elements of a liberal system.

    Constitutions merely provide the outline or framework for how the people who run the government should interact and what should happen if they encroach on other branches. It outlines how the people should hold the government accountable and what they can do if the government fails them. There is not an automatic enforcement mechanism for liberal democracy.

    For example, the Russian constitution guarantees a free press, and yet many journalists wind up in jail or worse when they question the government.

    A liberal democracy is not a machine that will run itself: it is run by people. The people in government have to act in the way delineated in the Constitution, and the citizens have to hold them accountable. Without the people to enforce the rules created by the Constitution, it is nothing more than words on a page.

    So if we want to create and preserve societies that are stable and free — if we want to protect ourselves from strongmen like those that afflict Russia or Egypt — we need everyday citizens to understand and defend the liberal ideal.

  4. Reddit AMA with Fabio Rojas, Professor of Sociology at Indiana University

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    Dr. Fabio Rojas is professor of sociology at Indiana University Bloomington. He is the author of From Black Power to Black Studies: How a Radical Social Movement Became an Academic Discipline (2007, The Johns Hopkins University Press). More recently, he is also the author of Theory for the Working Sociologist (2017, Columbia University Press). His research has focused on organizational behavior, political sociology, higher education, and health policy.

    Professor Rojas recently appeared on Learn Liberty Live, sharing his expertise on the history of the civil rights movement.

    Join us for a conversation with Professor Rojas on Reddit this Monday, February 20th, at 2:00pm EST, where you can ask him anything!


    UPDATE: The AMA is now live!


  5. Why even mass-murdering white supremacists, like Dylann Roof, should not receive the death penalty

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    If ever there were a strong candidate for the death penalty, it would seem to be Dylann Roof. On June 17, 2015, he committed an unspeakably heinous crime: the cold-blooded killing of nine peaceful worshippers — including the senior pastor and state senator, Clementa Pinckney — in an historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina. He did it to further an agenda of white supremacy.

    On December 15, 2016, he was found guilty of 33 federal crimes, including first-degree murder, hate crime, and obstruction of the exercise of religion. Of these 33 crimes, 18 carry the federal death penalty. On January 10, 2017, after just three hours of deliberation, the jury voted to send Roof to death row.

    But even if you support capital punishment for serious felony offenses generally, at least 3 compelling arguments can be made that an exception should be made in this case — that Roof should have received a life term.

    1. Don’t give Dylan Roof what he wants.

    The first argument is that he appears to have wanted to transform his boring life into one of significance as a martyr, and a sentence of death only rewards his self-absorbed, toxic agenda.

    This was not a person with a bright future. The child of a broken home, he attended no fewer than seven schools before dropping out to play video games, take drugs and get drunk. He had worked as a landscaper, but was unemployed at the time of the shooting and had no known romantic involvements and few friendships.

    Better to deprive him of further sensational attention by ensuring years of miserable boredom than to award him with martyrdom in the form of criminal-justice-assisted suicide. The death penalty in this case thus fails to serve the interests of pure justice. If we’re interested in punishing the offender to serve retributive goals, it makes little sense to give him what he wants.

    2. In general, don’t offer martyrdom as a reward for mass murder.

    The second argument against the death sentence in this case is that it may encourage other depressed people with suicidal inclinations to follow Roof’s example. The death sentence thus serves as a counter-deterrent to terrorism and hate crime, at least for some people. In a time of growing alienation among young people, Roof’s sentence could motivate more than a handful of others to engage in similar acts of violent extremism.

    3. Don’t create a dangerous precedent.

    The third argument against capital punishment for Roof is that the jurors in Roof’s case may not have felt comfortable returning to their communities with the impression that they had been lenient to a mass murderer. Thus, in this case, the death sentence may elevate a popular sanction over a principled one.

    Voting for the death sentence may even have offered some of the jurors a sense that they were virtuous for having shown opposition to racial supremacy. It is not obvious that ordinary citizens should be put in such positions.

    Because this is such a widely publicized case, this decision could result in over-use of the death penalty or other distortions of justice in subsequent cases. In other capital cases, jurors might even be less inclined to convict culpable offenders, knowing that they will feel pressure to give the death sentence at the sentencing stage.

    A solution would be to leave sentencing to judicial discretion, but that is not the world in which jurors in federal, and many state, courts live.

    How do we respond to the most serious crimes?

    There are other good reasons not to execute Dylan Roof — reasons that apply to all capital cases: it violates the norms of a just society; it gives the state more authority over life-and-death matters than it should have; it fails to deter; and it brutalizes everyone, sending the signal that it is acceptable to kill people in conditions other than self-defense.

    As a practical matter, the jury’s voting for the death penalty rather than a life sentence in the Roof case does not mean the inevitable execution of Dylann Roof. The jury’s vote is only a recommendation, not a binding commitment for execution by a certain date. The last federal execution was in 2003; today 63 federal inmates are on death row. It is entirely possible that none of the 63 will be executed.

    This doesn’t invalidate the arguments listed above. A degree of martyrdom is achieved by the death sentence, whether carried out or not. Better simply not to opt for the death penalty in the first place in such cases.

    Cases like Dylann Roof’s frustrate our ability to find a just resolution. Nothing the criminal justice system can do to Roof is proportionate to the harm he imposed on his victims, their families, and the community at large. No sanction can bring back the victims or fully compensate the survivors for their losses.

    The death penalty may make us feel good in the short term, allowing us to believe that it was the best that could be done, but this may be an illusion. It may be that the best we can do is grieve and try to move on, as we try to do when natural disasters and other tragedies strike.

  6. Top 5 myths about Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation

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    Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863, declaring the slaves of the rebellious southern states “forever free,” is probably the most important act of his presidency or even his life.

    But most people — including a few professional historians — get the Proclamation wrong. Watch out for these 5 big myths about what the Proclamation did, how Lincoln did it, and why.

    Myth #1: The Emancipation Proclamation freed no slaves.

    One popular myth holds that the Emancipation Proclamation actually freed no slaves because it only applied to Confederate-controlled territories. The origins of this myth trace to the time the Proclamation was issued. Lord Lyons, the British minister to the United States during the Civil War, famously quipped that Lincoln had managed to free the slaves in the exact places where he had no political power to do so.

    This myth falls apart on two counts. First, the Proclamation encompassed several Union-controlled locations in Virginia and along the east coast. Though estimates are imprecise, the slave populations of these regions likely exceeded 50,000 people, all of whom were legally declared free under the Proclamation the moment it took effect.

    Second, the lines of battle changed almost daily for the remainder of the Civil War. As the movement of armies brought more Confederate territory under Union control, the Proclamation’s effective reach extended with it. Lincoln was fully aware of this implication when he crafted the policy, and directed his officers to carry out the Proclamation as the army gained a foothold in the territories it covered.

    Myth #2: The Emancipation Proclamation freed all the slaves.

    The Emancipation Proclamation did not extend to slaves in the border states that remained in the Union after the outbreak of the Civil War (Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware). It also exempted a number of counties in “loyal” regions of the south that were under Union control by 1863. It specifically omitted what was soon to become the state of West Virginia on account of its loyalty to the Union, and it exempted the state of Tennessee, where Andrew Johnson was serving as the unionist military governor.

    These exemptions had a variety of political motives including concessions to slave owners in the loyal border states, but they were not purely politicking. They were included primarily for legal reasons.

    The Proclamation was a military order, issued under the president’s war powers governing the position of slaves in rebellious regions as authorized by two earlier acts of Congress. Lincoln did not have the authority to free the slaves in the non-rebellious border states or, in some instances, specifically exempted parts of states that had pledged their loyalty.

    Lincoln intentionally walked a fine line by declining to apply the Proclamation in these areas, knowing it could antagonize slave owners who were as of yet still loyal to the union. More importantly, Lincoln feared that the Proclamation would be challenged in court as a violation of the Constitution’s implicit recognition of property rights in slaves, or as an overreach of executive authority.

    He therefore constructed the Proclamation to apply narrowly to the states and parts of states that were in clear rebellion, hoping this would insulate it from a legal challenge. Though widely anticipated during the last two years of the war, the challenge never came, and the issue was settled in 1865 with the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment.

    Myth #3: “The Surprise Proclamation”

    Many popular depictions and even a small number of historians have advanced the notion that Lincoln closely guarded his true intentions with the Emancipation Proclamation until the moment it was signed. This speculated uncertainty adds a flash of drama to the events of its promulgation, and is sometimes coupled with an anecdote about a group of abolitionists who visited the White House in late December to plead the measure to an indecisive president.

    In reality, Lincoln widely broadcast his intentions to issue the Proclamation over the preceding months. He announced its purpose and the January 1st date on September 22, 1862, in what has since become known as the “preliminary” proclamation.

    A little over three months later, Lincoln publicly reiterated his intention to issue the measure as scheduled in his written annual message to Congress — the 19th century’s version of a “State of the Union” address. Lincoln wrote specifically, “Nor will the war nor proceedings under the proclamation of September 22, 1862, be stayed” because of a simultaneous plan he was advancing to bring about a peaceful compensated emancipation through more gradual means. He never deviated from this course, and on January 1st he carried out the final Proclamation exactly as planned.

    Myth #4: Lincoln viewed the Emancipation Proclamation as the turning point in the fight against slavery.

    Lincoln no doubt recognized the historical importance of the document he signed on New Year’s Day 1863, but to him it was likely seen as a single step in the multi-year process of fighting the war as well as his own emancipation policy, then well underway. It is important to remember that by the time Lincoln signed the Proclamation, he had actually been pursuing gradual emancipationist measures for over a year.

    Lincoln was always cautious in moving against slavery, even taking steps to countermand overly ambitious emancipation orders by his generals during the early stages of the war. But he had already implemented the “contrabands” policy, declaring slaves who reached Union lines to be “contrabands of war,” making them subject to confiscation by the army, and thus free. In April 1862 he had also signed a law emancipating the slaves of the District of Columbia, compensating their owners in return. When Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, he likely saw himself as simply moving forward on this same trajectory and doing so as the exigencies of the war dictated.

    Witnesses to the surrounding events were actually more inclined to attach significance to the earlier preliminary proclamation of September 22 — at least at the time each happened. The September 22nd document was issued in fulfillment of the “contraband” provisions contained in the two Confiscation Acts passed by Congress earlier that year, but its timing was strategically planned.

    Lincoln waited to announce the impending emancipation policy until after the army had secured a victory on the field, so as to bolster its acceptance and deflect claims that he turned to emancipation out of desperation. The battle of Antietam (on September 17, 1862) was a military draw by most counts, but it effectively stalled Robert E. Lee’s invasion of Maryland. It also gave Lincoln the strategic victory he needed to issue the preliminary proclamation, setting the date of the final proclamation into motion with it.

    The September proclamation was a bolder move than that of January 1, and Lincoln’s contemporaries perceived it as such. Artist Francis Bicknell Carpenter actually depicted this document, and not the final version, in his iconic painting of Lincoln reading the Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet.

    First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln, by Francis Bicknell Carpenter, 1864

    The final proclamation of January 1 came to supplant the September 22 date in historical commemoration, perhaps by the end of the war and certainly in the decades that followed. As originally conceived though, it was simply the date of execution for the plan that Lincoln announced to the world a hundred days prior.

    Myth #5: The Proclamation marks a turning point in Lincoln’s personal beliefs about slavery.

    The vast majority of professional historians have resisted the first 4 myths. But many are guilty of believing in and even advancing #5 — the myth of the Emancipation Proclamation as a conversion moment in Lincoln’s anti-slavery beliefs.

    There are two major variants of this myth, so it helps to start with Lincoln’s acknowledged anti-slavery positions prior to 1863. Lincoln was elected to office as an opponent of the expansion of slavery, though not an outright abolitionist. Specifically, Lincoln opposed the expansion of slavery into the western territories as well as the acquisition of new territory for this purpose.

    He also followed his political hero Henry Clay in advocating a two-pronged pathway to eventually eliminating slavery from the United States. Clay’s “Whig formula” proposed a program of gradual emancipation extended over many decades in which slaveowners would be compensated by the government for their losses. This would also be coupled with the colonization of the freed slaves abroad in a country such as Liberia or, by the time of the Civil War, a closer location in Central America or the Caribbean.

    There are two main variations of the myth. The first asserts that Lincoln “evolved” beyond this moderate and compromising brand of antislavery in 1863, becoming an “immediatist” abolitionist instead. The second asserts that Lincoln was actually something of a secret abolitionist all along, and only advanced the Whig formula as a ruse or “lullaby” until it was politically possible to obtain a more radical immediatist outcome. In each case, the Emancipation Proclamation is the departure point for Lincoln’s shift.

    Dozens of well-regarded historians have even attempted to read esoteric meanings into the Proclamation on account of its silence on compensated emancipation and colonization after both policies appeared in its September 22 precursor.

    These arguments ignore several events from the direct context of the Emancipation Proclamation and its wake. At the time he issued the Proclamation, Lincoln was also advancing a compensated emancipation bill in Congress behind the scenes with the help of Sen. John B. Henderson of Missouri, the eventual author of the Thirteenth Amendment. Different versions of Henderson’s bill passed each house of Congress by the end of February 1863, though proslavery forces were able to tie up the reconciliation procedure until the session expired.

    Lincoln did not give up on compensation though. He continued to promote the plan as late as February 1865, when he pitched it one last time to his cabinet after making the offer to the Confederates at the failed Hampton Roads peace conference a few days prior.

    The evidence is even more stark on colonization. Lincoln actually spent New Years’ Eve in secretive negotiations with a contractor who promised to establish a colony of freed slaves on a Caribbean island leased to him by the government of Haiti. The terms were finalized the morning of January 1st, and the contractor and his Senate backer, James R. Doolittle of Wisconsin, returned to the White House to obtain Lincoln’s signature only a few hours before the Emancipation Proclamation.

    Likely aware of these negotiations, Lincoln’s private secretary John Nicolay penned an anonymous newspaper editorial the next day extolling the joint programs of emancipation and colonization as the Lincoln administration’s strike against slavery. As Nicolay put it, the nation would soon see “a successful and prosperous colonization within the tropics of this continent of the black nation today liberated by the President’s wise and just decree.”

    In the months after the Proclamation, Lincoln approached the governments of Great Britain and the Netherlands to secure agreements for the colonization of more freed slaves in their respective Caribbean territories. He continued to pursue the policy — albeit unsuccessfully — into at least 1864 when Congress reallocated the colonization budget to the war effort, and he likely considered reviving it shortly before his assassination in 1865.

    What we see in both cases, however, is not the shift that many historians have assumed and even attempted to write into Lincoln’s record. Rather, he pursued the course he had laid out in the September 22nd proclamation and expanded upon in his December message to Congress: to carry out military emancipation in the places it could be done under his war powers, while simultaneously pursuing a more permanent end to slavery, albeit by “compromising” means including compensation and colonization, through the political channels.

    There is little evidence that he ever deviated from this course and much to attest that he pursued these ends into the post-Proclamation phase of his presidency. So Lincoln seems to have supported concurrently operating policies rather than abandoning his earlier moderation by Lincoln.

    So, what did the Emancipation Proclamation actually do?

    As we’ve already seen, the provisions of the Emancipation Proclamation were intended to apply to large swaths of land under Confederate control as well as a number of regions in Confederate states that were already within the Union lines though not yet classified as “loyal” by the measure’s text. In doing so, it extended and further codified the Union’s already-existing policy of declaring slaves who reached their lines as “contrabands” of war and freeing them accordingly.

    The measure contained two specific expansions upon existing policies. First, it formally authorized the enlistment of African-Americans to the Union war effort. Second, it codified and escalated the Union’s policy of enticement — that is to say, offering the explicit promise of freedom to slaves who escaped their plantations and reached Union territory.

    In this latter instance, the Proclamation exploited an inherent fault of the slave system. Slave-based economies require the devotion of vast sums of public resources to prevent escapes and return fugitives — usually in the form of militias, police, and slave patrols. The political economy of the Proclamation therefore sought to increase the Confederacy’s burdens of maintaining this unjust system and did so at a time when its resources were already stretched thin by the raging Civil War. In short, it attacked slavery at its most vulnerable point — the Confederate government’s ability to preserve the system against the slaves’ own efforts to escape it — by providing an alternative legal and political refuge for escaped as well as directly liberated persons.

    While the Proclamation itself was a product of political complexity, motivated by military objectives, its effects were liberating and its success set other more sweeping antislavery measures, including the Thirteenth Amendment, into motion.

  7. When Nazis were Nazis: Katharine Burdekin’s Swastika Night

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    Here at the start of the Trump Era, in the wake of the Women’s March on Washington, and just before the start of Hulu’s television adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, I see and hear the terms misogyny, fascism, patriarchy, and Nazism linked frequently.

    The first great fiction author who connected these concepts was well ahead of Margaret Atwood by almost fifty years. Like protestors and activists today, she was concerned about how these forces affected people — especially women — in her here and now. And in her day, Nazis were … well, Nazis.

    Her name was Katharine Burdekin (1896–1963). A speculative fiction author from the UK, Burdekin published many of her works under her own name or her nickname of Kay Burdekin. She chose to publish her most politically daring novels, however, under the name of Murray Constantine. Some speculate that she adopted this pseudonym to protect herself and her loved ones from political reprisals for her outspoken criticisms of fascism; at any rate, the pseudonym remained such a well-kept secret that Murray Constantine’s true identity wasn’t settled until the 1980s (thanks to the work of scholar Daphne Patai).

    From our perspective in 2017, Burdekin’s fiction appears far ahead of its time, from her treatment of transgenderism to her critique of what she called mere “reversals of privilege” (as opposed to the ending of privilege, which she favored) in politics.

    Life in the Nazi Future

    Burdekin’s most important novel is, arguably, Swastika Night. Published in 1937 — two years before the German invasion of Poland and eight years before Hitler’s suicide and the end of World War II — Swastika Night is one of the first works of fiction to address the question, “What if the Nazis won the war?”

    Swastika Night’s answer? The future is not pretty.

    Here are some of the features of the future Nazi-dominated Europe that Burdekin imagines:

    • Women are treated as subhuman animals, penned and used by men as breeding stock.
    • Jews are exterminated via genocide and Christians are persecuted.
    • Almost all books are destroyed, so no history or science could challenge the new orthodoxy.
    • “Knights” preach and pass down a civic religion based upon Hitler worship and a neo-medieval cult of masculinity.

    Burdekin’s feminist critique of fascism, as well as her analysis of the relationship between war, sexism, and power, are every bit as relevant today as when she wrote. So, too, are her warnings about how ignorance enables tyranny.

    If I haven’t tempted you to give Swastika Night a try, perhaps Darragh McManus from the Guardian will. McManus notes,

    Though a huge leap of imagination, Swastika Night posits a terrifyingly coherent and plausible alternative history. And considering when it was published, and how little of what we know of the Nazi regime today was then understood, the novel is eerily prophetic and perceptive about the nature of Nazism: its violence and mindlessness; its irrationality and superstition; its emotional immaturity and cod-mysticism; the mundane, stifling horror; the way it ultimately dehumanises and destroys everyone, even the powerful; most importantly, the inextricable link between misogyny, patriarchy and fascism. A ferocious but subtle and brilliantly controlled “j’accuse” against misogyny, Swastika Night is one of the few fictions to emphasise this key element of the Nazis: man, the world-conquering hero; woman, know thy place.

    Want more to explore? Check out the resources below.

    On Being Human: Swastika Night by Katharine Burdekin” at CCLaP: Chicago Center for Literature and Photography

    Katharine Burdekin” at The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

  8. Immanuel Kant: Philosopher of Freedom

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    If you want to understand the moral basis of a free society, there might be no better place to start than the thought of Immanuel Kant. He is the most significant and widely discussed moral philosopher in history. And he was self-consciously an Enlightenment liberal who believed in limited government and maximum freedom.

    Let’s take a look at the elements of his moral and political argument for freedom.

    I. The Good Will and the Moral Law

    In his first work of moral philosophy, The Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant tries to systematize our common moral intuitions in order to give us a method for deciding moral controversies — that is, issues where our consciences or intuitions might disagree with others’ or not speak clearly.

    He notes that the only unconditionally good thing in the world, according to common understanding, is a good will. Good fortune, health, and even happiness broadly understood are not unconditionally good, because when married to a bad will they become a source of condemnation for an impartial spectator. We don’t applaud the evil man who achieves his goals and rides off into the sunset savoring his victory. We condemn him and hope his plans are frustrated. No, more important than being happy is to be worthy of happiness, that is, to have a good will.

    On this point, the Objectivist founder Ayn Rand misinterpreted Kant. She believed he was what she called an “altruist,” who thought it was praiseworthy to sacrifice happiness. Kant believes, as most of us do, that happiness should not motivate us to the exclusion of duty. Obedience to the moral law — duty — is the most important thing, but happiness is also desirable.

    Kant notes that an important assumption necessary for moral responsibility is the idea that we human beings give the moral law to our own wills. We say to ourselves, “This is the right thing to do, and so I will do it.” We don’t know how it is possible for us to freely determine our own wills, but it must be possible for us if we are to consider ourselves as morally responsible beings.

    II. The Categorical Imperative

    The moral law takes the form of an unconditional or categorical imperative. It says, for instance, “Do not murder, even if you can achieve your goals by doing so.” It’s not a hypothetical imperative like “if you don’t want to burn your hand, don’t touch the hot stove,” or “if you don’t want to go to jail, don’t murder.” It commands our wills regardless of what our particular goals are.

    Kant thinks all particular moral commands can be summed up in a fundamental, categorical imperative. It takes three forms. I’ll mention two of them here.

    One form of the categorical imperative focuses on the notion that human beings are special because of our capacity for moral responsibility. Kant assumes that this capacity gives each individual human being a dignity, not a price. What that means is that we must not trade off the legitimate rights and interests of any human being for anything else. We must not treat other people or ourselves as means only to some other end, but always as ends in ourselves.

    The other, perhaps more frequently cited, form of the imperative is highly abstract: “Always act according to that maxim that you can will as a universal law of nature.” In other words, think about the principle or rule that justifies your action; then figure out whether it’s universalizable. If so, it is an acceptable principle or rule for you to follow; if not, it is not. “Steal when I can gain an advantage thereby” is not universalizable because it implies that others may steal from me, that is, take what I own against my will. But I cannot will against my own will.

    III. Rights and Freedoms

    Now, this understanding of the dignity of the individual human being implies that persons have rights, in other words, that we have an enforceable duty to respect the freedoms of all persons.

    So we can’t trample on the freedoms of one person to help one or many others (contra the “act utilitarians”). For instance, it would be wrong to kill one healthy person to distribute her organs to several sick people, even if doing so was necessary to save two or more lives. Each person has a dignity that must not be trampled, no matter what.

    [Pullquote text=”Each person has a dignity that must not be trampled, no matter what.”]

    (Another misunderstanding of Kant says that he thinks your intentions are the only thing that matter and you can ignore the consequences of your actions. To the contrary, to ignore consequences is to act with ill intent. Consequentialists differ from Kant in believing that only aggregate consequences of actions need be taken into account. Kant’s political theory is individualist, while consequentialist theories are inevitably collectivist.)

    In an essay titled “Theory and Practice” (short for a much longer title), Kant gives an overview of his political theory. Once a civil state has been established to secure our rights, he says,

    No one can compel me to be happy in accordance with his conception of the welfare of others, for each may seek his happiness in whatever way he sees fit, so long as he does not infringe upon the freedom of others to pursue a similar end which can be reconciled with the freedom of everyone else within a general workable law — i.e. he must accord to others the same right as he enjoys himself.

    Kant therefore endorses the law of equal freedom, that everyone should have maximum freedom to pursue happiness consistent with the like freedom of everyone else, or what some libertarians have called the “Non-Aggression Principle.” This principle applies under government, not just in the state of nature.

    The equal freedom of each subject in a civil state, Kant says, “is, however, perfectly consistent with the utmost inequality of the mass in the degree of its possessions, whether these take the form of physical or mental superiority over others, or of fortuitous external property and of particular rights (of which there may be many) with respect to others.” Kant is no Rawlsian; he is a classical liberal who realizes that liberty upsets patterns and should be preserved in spite of (or because of) that.

    In the same essay, Kant endorses Locke’s view of the social contract. A legitimate state with a right to rule can emerge only after unanimous consent to the initial contract. To do otherwise would be to violate the non-consenters’ rights. We now know that unanimous consent to the social contract has rarely occurred in human history, and so Kant’s strong theory of individual rights sets us up for a rejection of political authority.

    If we reject political authority, the largest state we can possibly justify is a minimal state, and, according to some, not even that.

    IV. Kantian Liberalism

    Kant’s moral philosophy justifies extremely strong individual rights against coercion. The only justification for coercion in his philosophy seems to be defense of self or others. His ideal government therefore seems to be extremely limited and to allow for the free play of citizens’ imaginations, enterprise, and experiments in living.

    Kant does take some strange positions on particular moral positions. He has an odd view of marriage as a kind of mutual servitude, he denies that there is a right to resist an unjust sovereign, and he thinks lying is always wrong, no matter what. I find that Kant is most persuasive at his most abstract, when he deals with fundamental philosophical issues.

    Whatever your opinion of his work, Immanuel Kant deserves to be widely read by classical liberals and libertarians. His contributions to liberalism are important and still underappreciated.

  9. Lunar prisoners fight for freedom in Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress

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    In the year 2076, the inhabitants of a prison colony on the moon rebel and demand their freedom, sparking a war for independence against all of Earth.

    This is the story of Robert Heinlein’s classic novel, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. My message to you today is simple: don’t miss this book. Not only is it a gripping story, it is also an intriguing examination of government, governance, and politics. There is a lot to be learned about liberty here.

    The book explores anarchism deeply throughout. Because the “Loonies” (the moon is known as “Luna”) are convicts or the descendants of convicts, and because they cannot escape Luna without boarding one of the government’s ships, the official government — the Lunar Authority, set up by the rulers on Earth — does not do much at all.

    But in such a hostile physical environment, order is essential, and the Loonies have worked out for themselves a functioning system of governance without government, of rules without legislation.

    The details are intriguing. Their courts, for example, are ad hoc. There is a very memorable trial for a tourist from Earth who violated a Lunar sexual custom.

    And the revolutionaries debate anarchism among themselves, as in the following exchange from early in the story:

    “I’m a rational anarchist.”

    “I don’t know that brand. Anarchist individualist, anarchist Communist, Christian anarchist, philosophical anarchist, syndicalist, libertarian — those I know. But what’s this? Randite?”

    “I can get along with a Randite. A rational anarchist believes that concepts such as ‘state’ and ‘society’ and ‘government’ have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals. He believes that it is impossible to shift blame, share blame, distribute blame … as blame, guilt, responsibility are matters taking place inside human beings singly and nowhere else. But being rational, he knows that not all individuals hold his evaluations, so he tries to live perfectly in an imperfect world … aware that his effort will be less than perfect yet undismayed by self-knowledge of self-failure.”

    “Hear, hear!” I said. “‘Less than perfect.’ What I’ve been aiming for all my life.”

    “You’ve achieved it,” said Wyoh. “Professor, your words sound good but there is something slippery about them. Too much power in the hands of individuals — surely you would not want … well, H-missiles, for example — to be controlled by one irresponsible person?”

    “My point is that one person is responsible. Always. If H-bombs exist, and they do, some man controls them. In terms of morals, there is no such thing as ‘state.’ Just men. Individuals. Each responsible for his own acts.”

    “Anybody need a refill?” I asked.

    Nothing uses up alcohol faster than political argument. I sent for another bottle.

    The book is sprinkled delightfully with allusions to history, political philosophy, and even the Bible, particularly in the words of the leader of the revolutionaries, old Professor Bernardo de la Paz (the “rational anarchist” in the exchange above). Here are a few I noticed (how many have I missed?). I leave it to the reader (with the help of Google) to attempt to identify the particular originals alluded to:

    “We shall fight them on the surface, we shall fight them in the tubes, we shall fight them in the corridors! If die we must, we shall die free!”

    Yes! Ja-da! Tell ’em, tell ’em!”

    “And if we die, let history write: This was Luna’s finest hour! Give us liberty … or give us death!

    Some of that sounded familiar. But his words came out fresh and new. I joined in the roars.

    [Winston Churchill (twice); Patrick Henry (once)]

    “Comrade members, like fire and fusion, government is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. You are now have freedom — if you can keep it. But do remember that you can lose this freedom more quickly to yourselves than to any other tyrant.

    [George Washington and Benjamin Franklin]

    He took me up on that high mountain and offered me the kingdoms of Earth. Or of Luna. Take job of “Protector Pro Tem” with [the] understanding [it] was mine permanently if I could deliver. Convince Loonies they could not win. Convince them that this new setup was to their advantage — emphasize benefits, free schools, free hospitals, free this and that — details later but an everywhere government just like on Terra.

    [Matthew]

    The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress was published in 1966, when the despots in and apologists for the Soviet Union were still claiming the productive superiority of Marxist “scientific” central planning, five year plans, conscript labor, indoctrination, and collectivization. Heinlein scorned it all.

    This passage comes during the negotiations between the Federated Nations of Earth and Luna’s ambassadors, before war breaks out:

    “Hearing” was one-sided; we listened while chairman talked. Talked an hour; I’ll summarize:

    Our preposterous claims were rejected. Lunar Authority’s sacred trust could not be abandoned. Disorders on Earth’s Moon could not be tolerated. Moreover, recent disorders showed that Authority had been too lenient. Omission was now to be corrected by an activist program, a five-year plan in which all phases of life in Authority’s trusteeship would be overhauled. A code of laws was being drafted; civil and criminal courts would be instituted for benefit of “client-employees” — which meant all persons in trust area, not just consignees with uncompleted sentences. Public schools would be established, plus indoctrinal adult schools for client-employees in need of same.…

    Was ready to burn his ears off. “Client-employees!” What a fancy way to say “slaves.”

    In my favorite passage, which provoked a lot of thinking in me when I first read it some 30 years ago, Professor de la Paz advises the Constitutional Convention drafting a plan for Luna’s government.

    “I note one proposal to make this Congress a two-house body. Excellent. The more impediments to legislation the better. But, instead of following tradition, I suggest one house of legislators, another whose single duty is to repeal laws.…

    But in writing your constitution let me invite attention to the wonderful virtues of the negative! Accentuate the negative! Let your document be studded with things the government is forever forbidden to do. No conscript armies … no interference however slight with freedom of press, or speech, or travel, or assembly, or of religion, or of instruction, or communication, or occupation … no involuntary taxation. Comrades, if you were to spend five years in a study of history while thinking of more and more things that your government should promise never to do and then let your constitution be nothing but those negatives, I would not fear the outcome.

    “What I fear most are affirmative actions of sober and well-intentioned men, granting government powers to do something that appears to need doing. Please remember always that the Lunar Authority was created for the noblest of purposes by just such sober and well-intentioned men, all popularly elected. And with that thought I leave you to your labors. Thank you.”

    There is a lot more great stuff in this speech and throughout The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. Don’t miss it.

  10. Advice from cops: Don’t talk to cops

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    Almost every time I speak at a college or law school campus, there are one or two audience members whose mother or father is a police officer or a prosecutor. I always ask them: What did your parents tell you about dealing with the police?

    Every one of them, without exception, has told me the same thing: My parents in law enforcement taught me years ago that I should never talk to the police, or agree to let them interview me about anything, or let them search my car or my apartment or my backpack without a warrant.

    You need to stop for a minute, and let that sink in.

    The Right to Remain Silent

    With the New Year upon us, it is more vital than ever to have a clear understanding of your rights in dealing with police officers — and the perils facing those who do not know and assert their rights in those encounters.

    Everybody knows about the famous “right to remain silent” protected by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees that no person may be compelled to be a witness against himself.

    Not nearly enough people understand, however, that the protections of that right are for innocent people just as much as for the guilty. Too many people mistakenly assume that anyone who asserts his right to remain silent must have “something to hide” or must be guilty of something.

    That is simply false.

    I have lectured to thousands of college and law school students around the country about the Fifth Amendment. I tell them that everyone — including those who think they have done nothing wrong — should assert that privilege every chance they get.

    Why the Innocent Should Remain Silent

    All around this country, every day and night, police officers are advising other people’s children to give up their right to remain silent by answering a few questions, or to consent to a search that the officer has no right to demand.

    But, it turns out, when these same officers go home at night, they advise their children to do just the opposite.

    That pretty much sums it all up, and tells you just about everything you need to know about dealing with the police.

    Far too many Americans mistakenly think: “If the police want to ask me a few questions, and I know in my heart I have done nothing wrong, surely it cannot hurt to cooperate with them and do whatever I can to allay their suspicions and clear things up.” That attitude is certainly understandable, but it can be a deadly mistake, and it can land you in prison for a crime you did not commit, perhaps for the rest of your life.

    All over this country, prison cells are filled with innocent people falsely convicted for crimes they did not commit, and many of them will spend the rest of their lives regretting the day they agreed to talk to the police.

    Four Reasons the Innocent Get Convicted

    But how does that happen? How could an innocent man get himself convicted by agreeing to answer a few questions from the police? There are more ways than you could imagine, and it is not possible to list them all here in an essay of this length. But here are 4 of the reasons why you could be making the biggest mistake of your life by giving up your right to remain silent.

    1. You don’t know the law.

    Even though you believe in your heart that you have done nothing wrong, you have no idea whether you might be admitting that you did something that is against the law. There are tens of thousands of criminal statutes on the books in America today. Most of them you have never heard of, and many of them involve conduct that nobody would imagine could ever be a crime.

    2. There could be a criminal coincidence.

    If you talk to the police, even if you do not admit that you committed any crime, you could easily give them information that might be used to help prosecute you for a crime you did not commit. You might admit that you were present in the wrong place at the wrong time, for example, and unwittingly put yourself at the scene of a crime. Or you might disclose to the police, as innocent people often do, that there is some other surprising and unlikely coincidence that can be used as circumstantial evidence to connect you to the details of some crime you know nothing about.

    3. Other people might lie or make a mistake.

    If you talk to the police and tell them that you were not present at the scene of a crime — even if that was the truth — there is a possibility that some lying or mistaken eyewitness may have already told them that you were there. Now it is your word against hers, and the police might prosecute you for the offense of lying to them. Yes, that’s right: it is a federal crime, punishable by up to five years in prison, to give the police any false information. Even if you know that you told them the truth, the police and the prosecutor and the jury are only human, and humans make mistakes. Don’t talk to the police, and you won’t give them the chance to make that mistake with your life and your liberty.

    4. The police can lie to you.

    But even though our legal system allows the police to prosecute you for lying to them, you have no similar protection against dishonesty by the police. Quite the contrary: our courts allow and encourage officers to lie to you if that will help encourage you to waive your right to remain silent.

    Police officers routinely lie to criminal suspects about every aspect of a criminal investigation. So don’t think for a minute that you can trust your instincts when they tell you that it is safe to talk to the police, because the police are not required to put any of their cards on the table, or to give you any information about what they are really looking into, and why they suspect you might be involved. And the courts will let them get away with it every time.

    A National Disgrace

    It is a national disgrace that our legal system so often convicts and imprisons innocent people for crimes they did not commit, often for the rest of their lives. And in many of these cases, the critical evidence — sometimes the only evidence — was truthful information that some innocent person voluntarily gave the police, because they foolishly thought they had nothing to lose by giving up the right to remain silent.

    Don’t make that mistake. Take the advice police officers give their own children. If an officer asks whether you are willing to answer a few questions, don’t be rude. But let the officer know that, with all due respect, you must decline to answer his questions. Ask him if you are free to leave, or whether you are under arrest. If you are not under arrest, wish him well and walk away. If he tells you that you are under arrest, tell him that you will not speak with him unless you have an attorney present.


    For more information about how to handle police encounters, and to minimize your chances of becoming the next in the long and tragic line of false convictions in this country, you need to read my new book, You Have the Right to Remain Innocent.

    You can also listen to me discuss the book at an online book forum hosted by the Cato Institute.

  11. Trump is wrong: Muslim immigration is reducing radical Islamism

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    During his inaugural address, Donald Trump vowed to “completely eradicate” radical Islamic terrorism. Today, in its first moves intended to do that, the administration acknowledged its plans for a complete ban on immigrants and refugees from several majority Muslim countries, including Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Yet the new policy will work contrary to its goal. U.S. Muslim immigration is reducing radical Islamism and anti-Americanism around the world.

    For President Trump to fulfill his promise, America will need to do more than kill terrorists and arrest their collaborators. It will need to change the minds of many Muslims around the world about America and its institutions. Immigration is the best—perhaps the only—way that it can do this, and right now, U.S. Muslim immigration is reforming the religion, creating a new cohort of liberal Muslims able to combat Islamist arguments.

    For example, Pew Research Center polls reveal that an average of just 4 percent of Muslims in other countries consider homosexuality “morally acceptable,” compared to 45 percent among U.S. Muslims—81 percent of whom are either first or second generation immigrants. Only 20 percent of foreign Muslims believe that other religions can lead to eternal life, compared to 56 percent in the United States. Fully 55 percent of U.S. Muslims believe that the Quran should not be even a source among many for legislation, compared to just 15 percent elsewhere.

    This process of assimilation is actually accelerating as Muslim immigration to the United States has peaked. More immigration is not impeding integration. From 2007 to 2014, the share of U.S. Muslims who agree not just that homosexuality should be legal, but that it is “morally acceptable” rose from 27 percent to 45 percent. Pew also documents an 8 percent decline—from 50 percent to 42 percent—in the share of U.S. Muslims who believe that the Quran should be interpreted “literally.”

    These facts show that Americans as individuals are good at changing people’s minds. One Syrian refugee and her husband were resettled in Las Vegas—not really known as a haven for religious Muslims. “We had to Google it,” she told the Las Vegas Sun. “We read about its image as a sin city.” But even in the midst of the most extremely socially liberal environment in America, they were quickly won over. “When we came here, we liked it,” she said.

    America’s socially tolerant Muslims also reflect the fact that many Muslims who want to come to the United States are prone to accept our way of life from the start. “I immigrated to the U.S. and left my family and home because of my freedom,” one Syrian who escaped to Nashville said. “I also wanted to ensure such freedom is protected, not only for my children, but also for everyone else. I strongly believe in the U.S. Constitution and will fight to protect it, period! Everyone in my community felt the same way.”

    These warm feelings about the United States and religious freedom are being transmitted to families and friends around the world. “I want to keep painting the image to all of my family and friends about the goodness of the American people,” Marwan Batman told the Indy Star. “I wish other refugees would be able to come and experience the same things we have experienced … to find the same happiness we have found here.”

    This pattern is replicated repeatedly across the United States, where almost 20,000 Syrian refugees have come. “I didn’t know anything about Memphis,” one Syrian refugee told his local paper early last year. “The people have been excellent.” He wants everyone to know. “When I talk to my family they ask, ‘How is the treatment of Americans,’ and I say ‘it’s wonderful,’” he explained.

    America has changed a major world religion before. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, as Catholic immigrants poured in, its popes repeatedly condemned religious freedom as an anti-Catholic idea. Americans raised the alarm about this “invasion” of illiberal immigrants who operated their own schools and lived in separate neighborhoods.

    Yet it was this wave of immigration that changed the Church. Just after America elected its first Catholic president who vowed to fiercely defend the separation of Church and State, the Church evolved its view, pointing to liberal democracies as proof that freedom of conscience worked. American theologian John Courtney Murray even drafted its statement on religious liberty and convinced the Second Vatican Council to accept it in 1965.

    Something similar is already underway in a much smaller way among the 3 million U.S. Muslims. But for this movement to change Islam worldwide, there will need to be many more U.S. Muslims. Right now, they make up just 1 percent of the U.S. population, while Catholics represented a quarter in 1965.

    Rejecting Muslims from this part of the world will not make us safer. To “eradicate” radical Islamic terrorism completely, Trump will need more than just bombs and “extreme vetting.” He will need to convince many millions of people that freedom of religion and tolerance is better than jihad. He will need many more allies than he has now. Preventing potential allies from coming to the United States is no way to win this fight.

    This piece was originally published at Cato at Liberty.