Category Archives: Natural Law

What proof is there that Covid-19 lockdowns prevent more cases than they cause?

2013-updated_scientific-method-steps_v6_noheaderAs the economic pain from shelter in place orders manifests itself, protests are erupting in many states against what I previously called the absurd proposition of Covid-19 lockdowns. Indeed, as the knock-on effects of these severe disruptions begin to emerge, tensions are going to go much higher.

Supporters of reopening the economy make many arguments, including that the threat of Covid-19 is overstated and that the government “cure” will be worse than the disease. Their opponents smear them as “anti-science,” ignorant rubes. But that begs the question: where is the science supporting the theory these lockdowns have prevented more infections than they caused? I don’t see it; nor do I expect I will.

To be clear, the pro-lockdown crowd, which includes politicians, public health officials, and much of the media, have not necessarily said there will be less cases overall because of the lockdowns. They have said the lockdowns will “flatten the curve,” meaning not as many people will get a severe illness from the virus at the same time. This, they argue, will prevent hospitals being overwhelmed with more cases than there are beds at the peak of the infection cycle.

This is certainly a plausible theory, but that is all it is. One can also construct a plausible theory that the lockdowns have caused more cases during their durations than if they hadn’t been ordered at all or if they only applied to high risk people (elderly, people with underlying conditions, etc.).

How? Well, the CDC says that prolonged exposure to the virus increases one’s chance of contracting it. Therefore, anyone ordered to stay in their homes with people already infected had a much higher chance of being infected than if they or the people they were confined with went to work every day as usual.

We now know the virus was present in at least two people who died as far back as early February, long before the first shelter in place order in any state. We also have strong evidence that far more asymptomatic people have already been infected with the disease than previously thought.

A study by Stanford University concluded there may be as many as 81,000 cases  in that county, with only 1,094 reported. A separate study of 397 residents of a Boston, MA homeless shelter showed a similar result. 146 of the 397 tested positive for the virus. 100% of them were asymptomatic.

The pro-lockdown crowd has interpreted these facts predictably – lockdowns must remain in place because people who don’t even know they have the virus may spread it.

But there is another, glaringly obvious conclusion to be drawn from these studies and the knowledge the virus has been here since at least early February. Lockdowns are forcing uninfected people to have prolonged exposure to infected people.

That’s not to say the lockdowns don’t prevent more infections than they cause. There must be some number of people who have avoided infection by staying in their homes and not going to restaurants, bars, work, etc. But there is just as surely some number of people who became infected because of the lockdowns. Evaluating the lockdown policy depends at least in part upon which of those numbers is larger, as well as the damage done by secondary negative effects of the lockdowns.

Here is the problem. No politician or public health official is interested in that second number. They’ve made their decisions and there is zero incentive for them to have any intellectual curiosity about their validity. On the contrary, they would face public lynching, literally or figuratively, if it turned out their policies not only wrecked the economy but achieved the opposite public health results they intended.

Yet, anyone who believes in science should be demanding rigorous proof that these lockdowns didn’t cause more infections than they prevented while they were in place. And anyone who believes in individual liberty must put the burden of proof on those who would infringe upon it, not on those who merely seek to exercise their inalienable rights.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

What We Should Remember on Memorial Day

Old-City-of-Mosul-Iraq-reduced-to-rubble-by-Iraq-U.S.bombing-and-shelling-of-ISIS-forces-in-spring-and-summer-2017-photo-by-ReutersMonday will be a sad day for far too many people who have lost sons, daughters, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters and friends to war. Unfortunately, the takeaway from this day – that they died for freedom or some other bromide – only helps ensure future parents, husbands, wives, siblings and friends will share their pain.

Here is the harsh reality we should be confronting every Memorial Day:

War is always a tragedy. It is humanity failing to keep the promise of civil society and abandoning reason to destroy vast amounts of life and property.

It turns responsible adult men back into children, with all accountability removed and license to do what male children love to do: smash and destroy things.

It releases young adult men (and now women) from all the pressures of real life, where one has to produce something someone else buys voluntarily to keep a roof over one’s head and food on the table, while room, board and other expenses are provided by taxpayers,  just like mommy and daddy provide them for children.

Yes, there is a risk of death, although far less risk than an oil rig worker or a logger takes, but that is something late teen or early twenties men are eager to embrace while they are in their wildest stage and before they have experienced enough of life to realize they’ve been had.

Let’s remember this weekend that everyone who ever died in a war died for nothing except the profits of a few connected financial interests and the expansion of government power.

War is government doing what it does best: destroying the natural inclination of people to trade with each other and replacing it with annihilation of peace and prosperity on a scale only a government could achieve. War is government freed from all restraint.

Extreme poverty has been cut in half over the past 29 years. That’s the market and free trade at work.

Cities reduced to rubble, families wandering homeless and graveyards full of people who died before their time – that’s government at work. What more proof does one need that government is the scourge of humanity?

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Response to Elie Mystal’s ‘Libertarian Hero Meets The Justice Of The Streets (Err.. Suburbs)’

Rand_Paul,_official_portrait,_112th_Congress_alternateI read Elie Mystal’s article on Rand Paul’s assault, which suggests such violent encounters are the inevitable result of libertarianism in practice. He makes two errors. First, he contends Rand Paul ignores the rules of his HOA based on his libertarian philosophy. Second, he contends basing a legal framework on the libertarian non-aggression principle (NAP) is unworkable.

Regarding the first error, libertarianism is based on the sanctity of voluntary contracts. An HOA is a perfect example of what libertarians would replace zoning regulations with – an enforceable contract voluntarily entered into by every individual, instead of a set of rules imposed on the whole by a supposed majority. Mystal conflates voluntary contracts with regulations near the end of his piece, writing, “Rand Paul’s broken ribs are a goddamn case study in why we need regulations.” This begs the question, “Why do we need regulations, rather than just enforcement of the HOA?”

Neither Mystal nor I know the terms of Rand Paul’s HOA contract, but if they prohibit either pumpkin patches or compost heaps, then Rand Paul appears to be in violation of that contract. Libertarians would side with the HOA, not Rand Paul. However, the HOA contract also provides penalties for violation of the terms, which I’m fairly certain don’t include bum-rushing him and breaking his ribs.

This all assumes there is any truth to reports Senator Paul used his property in ways his neighbors found offensive, whether compliant with the letter of his HOA agreement or not. Several of his neighbors have come forward since Mystal’s piece was written to refute those reports.

Even in the absence of a written agreement, libertarians recognize longstanding local conditions as binding on new property owners. Thus, I cannot come into a quiet community and build an airport on my land, subjecting my neighbors to the noise and other inconveniences of having an airport border their land. By the same token, I cannot buy the land next to an existing airport and then demand the airport stop making noise or doing the other things an airport must do to conduct its business. This principle extends to all sorts of questions, including air pollution, zoning, etc. Murray Rothbard wrote about this concept many times. Here is an example.

Second, Mystal’s article includes this passage:

“You can do what you want and I can do what I want and, so long as we’re not hurting anybody, the government can do nothing.” It’s… cute, as theories of social interactions go. It’s not a workable basis for law and governance.”

I would refer the writer to this passage from Thomas Jefferson’s First Inaugural address:

“With all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow-citizens — a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities. [emphasis added]

In fact, Jefferson reiterated the NAP as the basis for law and governance many times over the course of his life. Examples include this, this and this.

Rather than a “cute theory of social interaction,” the NAP was the guiding principle of American liberty for well over a century, until Woodrow Wilson specifically called it out as no longer adequate for what he considered too complex a society for the NAP to govern. Libertarians disagree with Wilson. Mystal may not. But it would be a much more valuable discussion if libertarianism would at least be represented correctly when criticized, rather than presented in the cartoonish fashion our sound bite media so often resorts to.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Newsweek: As Congress and Trump Grind to a Halt, the Government Rumbles On

gettyimages-642093036 Newsweek

Donald Trump in the East Room at the White House on February 16, 2017 in Washington, DC.MARIO TAMA/GETTY

President Trump spent the weekend embroiled in yet another Twitter skirmish, this time with retiring Republican Senator Bob Corker. Trump may even have suffered a rare defeat on his own turf, based on Corker’s hilarious rejoinder about someone missing their daycare shift at the White House. If Trump has a soul, even he laughed at that one.

But many blame this kind of drama as a major contributing reason to Trump “not getting anything done” so far during the first year of his presidency. Even those on the blood-in-their-eyes, Trump-hating left make this criticism. One would think they’d be glad he’s not getting anything done, but apparently, a government not doing anything is even worse for them than one doing things they don’t like.

If only “not getting anything done” were true. The Pentagon goes on waging war, uninterrupted by elections, supposed gridlock, or even “government shutdowns.” War has become the normal state, with “an act of Congress” required to stop it, rather than start it.

Domestically, all of Washington’s unconstitutional regulatory agencies have hummed along without pause. The FDA is still driving up prescription drug prices by keeping thousands of generics off the market. The TSA is still violating the 4th Amendment millions of times per day while virtually never discovering dangerous items brought on board, even during their own tests. And the Social Security Administration goes on cutting checks as if it didn’t have tens of trillions in unfunded liabilities.

Read the rest at Newsweek…

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Spanish PM Pulls a Lincoln on Catalan Secession

rajoyIn the wake of Catalonia’s referendum on independence, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy continued to argue, as he had in the weeks leading up to the vote, that any attempt by Catalans to become an independent state violates “the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards.”

Americans watching with interest could hardly have missed the similarity to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural speech, in which he declared, “It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination.”

The difference is Lincoln was doing just what he said he was doing, “asserting.” His novel theory had no basis in the words of the U.S. Constitution itself and contradicted both the Declaration of Independence and the ratification statements made by three states, including Virginia, who all reserved the right to secede from the union as a condition of ratification.

The Catalonia Conundrum

Prime Minister Rajoy’s statement, on the other hand, was not based in theory. He was quoting directly Article 2 of the Spanish Constitution, which contains the provision Lincoln had to invent. But Rajoy wasn’t quoting the whole Article, which reads,

The Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, the common and indivisible country of all Spaniards; it recognises and guarantees the right to autonomy of the nationalities and regions of which it is composed, and the solidarity amongst them all.

Jumbled together in that one paragraph are the same conflicting pressures which exploded into civil war in 19th century America and continue to smolder under the surface today. On one hand is the recognition that diverse cultures within the union have a natural right to govern themselves as they see fit, without having their political decisions overridden by politicians in a distant capitol who don’t share their values, have no local stake in the community and, in Catalonia’s case, don’t even speak the same language.

Read the rest at Foundation for Economic Education…

Newsweek: Can the US Survive the Pressures for Secession?

gettyimages-2030662Trump Derangement Syndrome rages on, the latest symptoms flaring equally based on causes both legitimate and ridiculous.

A key characteristic of the syndrome is its ability to evoke the same outrage over the president retweeting a harmless (and let’s admit it, funny) meme as threatening to destroy an entire nation. The breathless apoplexy over absolutely everything Trump-related, down to the shoes his wife wears while traveling, has desensitized Trump’s supporters to behavior even they should be concerned about.

It is true Trump has inspired new levels of hostility — even for politics — but Americans have been hating the president for this entire century, which is no longer in its infancy.

Bush may not have been “literally Hitler,” but he was Hitler nonetheless to the Democrats, just as Obama was “literally Mao” to conservatives.

But the proud American tradition of hurling invectives at the president isn’t nearly as ominous as the trend towards violence. Both the right and the left have mobilized armed groups, not just carrying signs but ready for violence. In fact, violent resistance is the far-left Antifa’s stated raison d’etre.

Read the rest at Newsweek…

How Long Can Americans Go on Hating the President and Each Other?

redandblueTrump Derangement Syndrome rages on, the latest symptoms flaring equally based on causes both legitimate and ridiculous. A key characteristic of the syndrome is its ability to evoke the same outrage over the president retweeting a harmless (and let’s admit it, funny) meme as threatening to destroy an entire nation. The breathless apoplexy over absolutely everything Trump-related, down to the shoes his wife wears while traveling, has desensitized Trump’s supporters to behavior even they should be concerned about.

It is true Trump has inspired new levels of hostility — even for politics — but Americans have been hating the president for this entire century, which is no longer in its infancy. Bush may not have been “literally Hitler,” but he was Hitler nonetheless to the Democrats, just as Obama was “literally Mao” to conservatives. But the proud American tradition of hurling invectives at the president isn’t nearly as ominous as the trend towards violence. Both the right and the left have mobilized armed groups, not just carrying signs but ready for violence. In fact, violent resistance is the far-left Antifa’s stated raison d’etre.

US Government Power Has Never Been Higher

It isn’t that the three men who have held the office since 2001 are monsters. Anyone who paid attention when Bush, Obama, or even Trump was caught in a quiet moment “off the record” would have to admit that they seem like reasonably likable people. That’s the rub. Government makes nice people do terrible things, things even they themselves would have considered barbarous before taking office.

Unfortunately, most Americans do not bat an eye at the worst offenses committed by the presidency, namely the killing of millions in undeclared wars of choice with nations who have never attacked the United States. But Americans on both the right and the left are increasingly feeling the effects of ceding power over domestic affairs to Washington and the executive branch in particular. The stakes of presidential elections are much higher now that Washington doesn’t just regulate interstate commerce, but regulates the minute details of how businesses are run, how crops are grown, what local public schools teach and even what signs they put on their restrooms.

Read the rest at Foundation for Economic Education…

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Both Lincoln and the Confederacy Were Awful

lincolnWe’re fighting the Civil War again. Whenever both major parties drop any pretense of addressing the real problems facing American taxpayers, their constituents revert to having at each other in “the culture wars.” And no culture war would be complete without relitigating what should now be settled history: the reasons for the Civil War.

Americans sympathetic to the Union generally believe the war was fought to end slavery or to “rescue the slaves” from political kidnapping by the slave states, that seceded from the Union to avoid impending abolition.

“No,” say those sympathetic to the Confederacy. The states seceded over states’ rights, particularly their right not to be victimized by high protectionist tariffs, paid mostly by southern states, but spent mostly on what we’d now call corporate welfare and infrastructure projects in the north.

The declarations of South Carolina, Mississippi and Texas don’t mention taxes or economic policy at all.

That the states seceded for a different reason than the war was fought seems to elude everyone.

Read the rest at Foundation for Economic Education…

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Brexit: Hated by All the Right People

1200px-Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svgAs global equities markets tumble and gold soars, the world outside the United Kingdom tries to make sense of just what our British cousins did last night. There are many narratives. UKIP Leader Nigel Farage is calling it “our independence day.” U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump says it’s a precursor to his own election in November. Many opponents are dismissing it as a racist backlash against immigrants and refugees.

Maybe it is a little bit of all those things. Maybe it is something else completely. Whatever else it may represent, one thing is undeniable for opponents of central economic planning, giant international bureaucracies and global crony capitalism: Brexit is hated by all the right people.

One doesn’t have to be an expert on European politics to instinctively understand that if the governments, the central banks and all their connected crony capitalists are howling there will be Armageddon if you do X, it is virtually always in your best interest to do X.

And howl is just what they have been doing, with a nonstop campaign to scare the daylights out of British voters should they consider withdrawing their consent to Brussels. As MEP Daniel Hannan pointed out, they haven’t been unwilling to just make things up in their desperation to intimidate the people into a Remain vote.

As an American, I can’t help thinking about George W. Bush’s scare-tactic speech to convince Americans to support TARP back in 2008. Public outrage had sufficiently worried Congress to vote against the bill the first time around. Bush’s speech, littered with many of the same pseudo-economic canards thrown at British voters today, convinced enough Americans to relent that Congress eventually felt safe ramming it through.

This time, it didn’t work.

For those dismissing the vote as the kind of “nativist” bigotry they say inspires the Trump movement in America, there is that inconvenient other little fact that the UK is the second largest net payer in the EU, next to Germany. Critics of the EU predicted, long before the rise of Nigel Farage, Donald Trump or Marine Le Pen, that the EU would fail when the net payers grew tired of subsidizing the net payees. British citizens just confirmed their prescience.

Ironically, the “nationalist” movements sweeping across the West are the precise opposite of nationalist movements in the 20th century. Then, nationalism was a centralizing force, antagonistic towards local government. Now, it’s a decentralizing force, taking economic and political power away from larger political units and returning it to relatively more local ones.

What it is not is necessarily a conservative, liberal or libertarian movement. Individual nations and even the local cultures within them have myriad visions for what they believe society should look like. The Trump movement longs for traditional conservatism, with its protectionist tariffs, government-funded infrastructure and restrictive borders. The secessionists movements in Vermont and Quebec, Canada sought to create socialist societies. And the “Texit” movement, well, they just want to be Texans.

Neither will Brexit be a panacea for all British ills. It is likely they will make mistakes in the short term, like most secessionist movements have in the past, including the Americans in 1783. But it will be Britons making their own mistakes and living with the consequences, something they have now demanded their right to do.

Whatever Brexit ends up looking like in the short and long terms, one can’t help remembering a night 27 years ago, when the people in a city in Germany decided they’d obey their masters no longer and knocked over a wall. Oh brave new world, that has such people in’t!

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Muhammad Ali Was No Draft Dodger; His Stance Against War Was Libertarian

220px-Muhammad_Ali_NYWTSAmerica awoke today to the sad news that boxing legend Muhammad Ali has passed away. And while the overwhelming majority of public remembrances will be praiseworthy, there are still those who have never forgiven Ali for his refusal to comply with the military draft in the 1960s. Even his archrival, Smokin’ Joe Frazier, resorted to calling Ali a “draft dodger.”

Ali took some controversial racial positions early in his career, some of which he regretted later in life, but the charge of draft dodger is completely unfounded. Ali never dodged the draft; he opposed it, accepting the legal consequences without any attempt to evade them. He didn’t flee to Canada or enroll in college to obtain a deferment. From the moment he learned of his induction, Ali stood firmly in the proud tradition of civil disobedience, saying “just take me to jail.”

And while Ali cited his religion as the chief basis for his objection to the war, most of his statements were firmly rooted in the libertarian principle of non-aggression:

“Why should me and other so-called ‘negroes’ go 10,000 miles away from home, here in America, to drop bombs and bullets on other innocent brown people who’s never bothered us and I will say directly: No, I will not go.”

This writer has long argued the declaration of war power granted to Congress is not the power to start a war, but to declare that one already exists, based on the founding libertarian principle of nonaggression.

Ali’s principled stand cost him quite a bit at the time. He was stripped of his boxing title and sentenced to five years in prison. While he eventually won an appeal and avoided the prison sentence, he was indebted for years and reviled by a large portion of the American public.

Throughout it all, he maintained his stance, reiterating the non-aggression principle over and over as he toured America speaking against the war. Certainly, racial inequality was interwoven into his position and some of what he said was regrettable, including “my enemy’s the white people, not the Vietcong, the Chinese or the Japanese.” But while those words were rash, it’s not like he didn’t have a point.

More importantly, history has vindicated his principled stand against a war nearly everyone now considers a mistake. After invading a tiny nation that had never attacked the United States and losing over 50,000 U.S. soldiers, the United States left Vietnam to the communists, who quickly took over the entire country.

According to proponents of the war at the time, this should have led to a “domino effect,” wherein the rest of Asia and subsequently the world succumbed to the communist menace. Instead, communism failed on its own and the Vietnamese began adopting a market economy a mere twelve years later, as eventually did virtually every other communist nation. Today, Vietnam is a trading partner with the U.S.

A lot of very smart people defended the Vietnam War at the time and for a long time afterwards. Some of the most hawkish wonks still do. Imagine the lives and fortunes that could have been saved if they had just listened to a loudmouthed young boxer with a purported IQ of 78, who wisely articulated the eternal law of nature in opposing an immoral and unnecessary war.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.