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Ryan McMaken

Articles by Ryan McMaken

Both Theory and Praxis: Rothbard’s Plan for Laissez-Faire Activism

11 days ago

It should be self-evident that a just and moral political regime can only exist in the long term if a sufficiently large number of people actually believe in it.
Original Article: “Both Theory and Praxis: Rothbard’s Plan for Laissez-Faire Activism“.

This Audio Mises Wire is generously sponsored by Christopher Condon. Narrated by Millian Quinteros.

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How Historians Changed the Meaning of “Liberalism”
Understandably enough, the current disfavor into which socialism has fallen has spurred what Raimondo Cubeddu (1997: 138) refers to as “the frenzy to proclaim oneself a liberal.” Many writers today have recourse to the stratagem of “inventing for oneself a ‘liberalism’ according to one’s

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Here’s What Donald Trump Should Do Before Inauguration Day

16 days ago

Even if he loses, Donald Trump still has time to change military policy, pardon allies, unseat the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, and throw a wrench in the deep state apparatus.

Original Article: “Here’s What Donald Trump Should Do Before Inauguration Day​“.
This Audio Mises Wire is generously sponsored by Christopher Condon. Narrated by Michael Stack.

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The COVID Crisis Supercharged the War on Cash
The corona crisis has already taken a very high toll and caused deep damage in our societies and our economies, the extent of which is yet to become apparent. We have seen its impact on productivity, on unemployment, on social cohesion and on political division. However, there is

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The Benefits of Secession Are Becoming Increasingly Obvious

26 days ago

“Countries threaten to split apart when their people seem hopelessly divided…. We’re less united today than we’ve been at any time since the Civil War.”

This Audio Mises Wire is generously sponsored by Christopher Condon. Narrated by Michael Stack.
Original Article: “The Benefits of Secession Are Becoming Increasingly Obvious“.

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The Disastrous Legacy of Woodrow Wilson
[unable to retrieve full-text content]Princeton University has made it official: Woodrow Wilson’s name no longer will have any place on campus. The former president, or at least his memory, now is part of cancel culture, which is sweeping the nation. The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs will

Read More »

Why Threats of Election Violence May Be Here to Stay

26 days ago

Both private sector businesses and police departments believe there is a good chance there will be postelection unrest. Both groups are taking steps to protect themselves in case of riots. Some left-wing protest groups state they plan to do “whatever it takes” to make sure the correct candidate—i.e., Joe Biden—wins. The National Guard has mobilized in several states in anticipation of riots.
It remains to be seen if this apocalyptic rhetoric proves to be well founded. If Trump wins, we may or may not see anything more than a few flare-ups of violence in a small number of cities. In a nation of more than 330 million people, that wouldn’t exactly indicate a state of general upheaval. On the other hand, if Biden wins, we may never know if the Left’s plans for chaos

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Populism Worked for the Pro-Freedom Party in the Past. Can It Work Again?

November 1, 2020

Although he was a scholar with degrees in mathematics and economics, Murray Rothbard was very much a fan of the American layman. Indeed, he was a populist both in temperament and in his political views. In a 1992 column outlining his populist strategy, Rothbard noted the importance of reaching out to the general public and especially to those groups that were most negatively impacted by state power:
This two-pronged strategy is (a) to build up a cadre of our own libertarians, minimal-government opinion-molders, based on correct ideas; and (b) to tap the masses directly, to short-circuit the dominant media and intellectual elites, to rouse the masses of people against the elites that are looting them, and confusing them, and oppressing them, both socially and

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How Decades of Media and Faculty Bias Have Pushed America to the Left

October 24, 2020

It’s been clear for decades that national news organizations such as CNN and the New York Times tend to be biased in favor of social democracy (i.e., “progressivism”) and what we would generally call a “left-wing” ideology. Journalists, for instance, identify as Democrats in far higher numbers than any other partisan group. And political donations by members of the media overwhelmingly go to Democratic candidates.
This is why even as far back as the 1940s, libertarian and conservative groups felt the need to found their own news sources, publishing houses, and other outlets for the distribution of information.
Similarly, in recent decades, higher education faculty have been shown to be overwhelmingly in favor of the Democratic Party, both in affiliation and in

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The 2020 Debate: A Breakdown

October 4, 2020

Ryan McMaken and Tho Bishop talk about Tuesday’s debate, why “the issues” don’t matter, and why the debate probably won’t change the minds of many voters.

And be sure to follow Radio Rothbard at

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A Review of Stephanie Kelton’s The Deficit Myth
The good news is that Stephanie Kelton has written a book on MMT that is very readable and will strike many readers as persuasive and clever. The bad news is that Stephanie Kelton has written a book on MMT that is very readable and will strike many readers as persuasive and clever.
Narrated by the author. 
Original Article: "A Review of Stephanie Kelton’s The Deficit Myth".

Will the Police Crack Down

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Rising Homicides This Year May Be Yet Another Side Effect of Covid Lockdowns

October 3, 2020

During Tuesday’s presidential debate, former vice president Biden attempted to paint Donald Trump as the bad-on-crime candidate when he claimed that crime had gone down during the Obama administration but increased during Trump’s term.
Whether or not this is a plausible claim depends on how one looks at the data. And given that law enforcement and criminal prosecutions for street crime are generally a state and local matter, it’s unclear why any president ought to be awarded blame or plaudits for short-term trends that occur during his administration.
Overall, however, it does look like homicides—which tend to be a good indicator of general crime trends—are indeed rising this year. While many factors are likely at play, we may be seeing yet another side effect of

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The Fed Is Planning Another Ultralong Period of Ultralow Rates

September 22, 2020

The Fed plans to keep interest rates near zero, while monetizing debt, financing zombie companies, and pouring new dollars into the market. But that may not be enough.
This Audio Mises Wire is generously sponsored by Christopher Condon. Narrated by Michael Stack.
Original Article: “The Fed Is Planning Another Ultralong Period of Ultralow Rates“.

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Walter Berns and the Cult of “Patriotic” Sacrifice
[unable to retrieve full-text content]In his great new book The Problem with Lincoln, Tom DiLorenzo brought back an old memory. As Tom points out, Walter Berns, who taught political science at Cornell and then worked for the American Enterprise Institute, was one of the main figures urging

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Federal Judge: Pennsylvania’s Stay-at-Home Order Is an Assault on Human Rights

September 19, 2020

A federal judge on Monday ruled that Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf’s covid-19 stay-at-home orders and forced business closures were unconstitutional.
US district judge William Stickman IV of the US District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania ruled that Wolf’s orders violated the Constitution in three ways. They violated the First Amendment right to freedom of assembly, and they violated both the due process and equal protections clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.
As a staunch decentralist, I don’t support the notion that federal courts have the authority to strike down state laws. Federal courts should rule only on federal laws, and federal laws ought to be few and far between. State laws are the business of the state’s supreme court. And if that

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The Evidence Keeps Piling up: Lockdowns Don’t Work

September 17, 2020

Extraordinary measures require extraordinary evidence. Have the advocates for lockdowns made their case? The data suggests they have not.

This Audio Mises Wire is generously sponsored by Christopher Condon. Narrated by Michael Stack.
Original Article: “The Evidence Keeps Piling up: Lockdowns Don’t Work“.

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The Disastrous Legacy of Woodrow Wilson
[unable to retrieve full-text content]Princeton University has made it official: Woodrow Wilson’s name no longer will have any place on campus. The former president, or at least his memory, now is part of cancel culture, which is sweeping the nation. The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs will replace the former

Read More »

It’s Far Too Late to Think Lockdowns Can Make Covid-19 Go Away

September 15, 2020

In the early days of the coronavirus crisis, the rationale given for lockdowns was that it was necessary to stay at home for “fifteen days to slow the spread.” The idea was that social distancing was necessary so that hospitals and other healthcare resources would not be overwhelmed.
However, by the summer of 2020, whether by design or not, it became common to hear media pundits, politicians, and even some scientists either imply or outright claim that social distancing could permanently flatten the curve or otherwise somehow cause a drastic reduction in overall covid-19 deaths.
For example, The Hill’s Reid Wilson claimed in July: “We know how to stop this virus, it requires social distancing, it requires wearing a mask, and constant hand sanitizers and staying

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Will the Police Crack Down on Lockdown Violators the Second Time Around?

July 5, 2020

It will be very interesting if the police—who did nothing to disperse protests that were obviously in violation of bans on mass gatherings—turn around and arrest business owners and other “violators” of a second round of stay-at-home orders.

This Audio Mises Wire is generously sponsored by Christopher Condon. Narrated by Millian Quinteros.
Original Article: “Will the Police Crack Down on Lockdown Violators the Second Time Around?​“

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A Review of Stephanie Kelton’s The Deficit Myth
The good news is that Stephanie Kelton has written a book on MMT that is very readable and will strike many readers as persuasive and clever. The bad news is that Stephanie Kelton has written a book on MMT

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Some Conservatives Want Americans to Abandon Classical Liberalism. Don’t Listen to Them.

June 22, 2020

Donald Trump’s economic populism, and his break with the established post-war conservative movement, has created an opening for new types of conservatism. Among these is the anti-market wing of the movement characterized by a renewed enthusiasm for trade controls, more spending on welfare programs, and more government regulation in the everyday lives of ordinary Americans.
The economic agenda has been voiced perhaps most enthusiastically by pundit Tucker Carlson and former Trump advisor Steve Bannon. Both have attacked what they apparently see as “excessive” freedom.  This freedom — especially when exercised in the marketplace — has led, they believe, to the decline of the middle class  for consumers and businesses which Bannon and Carlson blame for creating

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The Employment Situation Is Still a Disaster

June 13, 2020

Last Friday, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics released new unemployment data. The report surprised many because it showed a decrease in the unemployment rate, while many observers had expected an increase.
According to the official headline (seasonally adjusted) number, the unemployment rate was 13.3 percent in May. That was down from April’s rate of 14.7 percent. This data point was seized upon by commentators who insist that there will be a “V-shaped” recovery. “The economy is fundamentally in great shape,” this narrative goes, “and everything will bounce back as soon as mandated lockdowns are lifted.”
Those who support this narrative thus concluded that May’s drop in unemployment proved the “V-shaped” recovery was already underway.
But it may yet be much too

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Money Supply Growth in April Ballooned to a New High

May 18, 2020

Fueled by unprecedented quantitative easing, central bank asset purchases, and various stimulus packages, the money supply growth rate ballooned in April to an all-time high. The growth rate has never been higher, with the 1970s as the only period that comes close. It was expected that money supply growth would surge in recent months. This usually happens in the wake of the early months of a recession or financial crisis. The magnitude of the growth rate, however, was unexpected.
During April 2020, year-over-year (YOY) growth in the money supply was at 21.30 percent. That’s up from March’s rate of 11.3 percent, and up from April 2019’s rate of 1.94 percent. Historically, this is a very large surge in growth both month over month and year over year. It is also

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When Governments Switched Their Story from “Flatten the Curve” to “Lockdown until Vaccine”

May 10, 2020

In the early days of the COVID-19 panic—back in mid-March—articles began to appear pushing the idea of “flattening the curve” (the Washington Post ran an article called “Flatten the Curve” on March 14). This idea was premised on spreading out the total number of COVID-19 infections over time, so as to not overburden the healthcare infrastructure. A March 11 article for Statnews, summed it up:
“I think the whole notion of flattening the curve is to slow things down so that this doesn’t hit us like a brick wall,” said Michael Mina, associate medical director of clinical microbiology at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “It’s really all borne out of the risk of our health care infrastructure pulling apart at the seams if the virus spreads too quickly and too

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Police Are Complicit in Politicians’ Disregard for the Rule of Law

May 8, 2020

People of a certain age might remember the old John Birch Society slogan “Support your local police!” The idea here is that your local policeman is a liberty-loving buddy of yours who would only ever support just laws and constitutional mandates. Only those bad guys in the FBI or BATF would ever consider violating your rights.
Now, obviously that has always been a rather naïve fantasy, but the notion certainly has a long history of support among American conservatives. The idea that unionized, well-paid government employees sympathize with the common man instead of with the government that signs the cops’ checks apparently has long made sense (for some reason) to conservatives and many others.
But thanks to the ongoing “state of emergency” and the fact that state

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New York vs Texas: NY Has Nearly 50 Times More COVID-19 Deaths Per Capita

April 28, 2020

As of April 26, there were nearly 55,000 COVID-19 deaths reported in the United States. Of those, more than 22,000 (or about 40 percent) were in the state of New York alone. New Jersey was in second place, with nearly 5,900 COVID-19 deaths reported.
If we combine these two states, we find that a majority of COVID-19 deaths in the United States have come from them alone. Combined, these two states accounted for more than 51 percent (28,213) of all deaths, while all other states combined made up less than 48.5 percent (or 26,567) of deaths.

Share of COVID-19 Deaths in US – Click to enlarge
Measured in terms of deaths per 100,000, New York (114 per 100,000) and New Jersey (66 per 100,000) also had the highest rates. But New York had the worst rate by far.

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The Experts Have No Idea How Many COVID-19 Cases There Are

April 22, 2020

In the early days of the COVID-19 panic—about three weeks ago—it was common to hear both of these phrases often repeated:
“The fatality rate of this virus is very high!”
“There are far more cases of this out there than we know about!”
The strategy of insisting that both these statements are true at the same time has been used by politicians to implement “lockdowns” that have forced business to close and millions to lose their jobs. For instance, on March 12, Ohio Department of Health director Amy Acton insisted that “over 100,000” people are “carrying this virus in Ohio today.” The state began to implement “stay-at-home” lockdown orders that day.
At the time, the World Health Organization (WHO), the media, and others were reporting that 2 to 4 percent of people

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Thanks to Lockdowns, State and Local Tax Revenues Are Plummeting

April 15, 2020

Unlike the federal government, state and local governments in America can’t just create money out of thin air. So when tax revenues go down, that money is simply not available to the state legislatures and city councils anymore. These governments either have to borrow the money or raise taxes and hope the tax hike itself doesn’t cause total revenue to fall.
The tax revenues in these states, cities, and counties are heavily dependent on economy activity. That is, sales must take place for sales tax to be collected. Income must be earned for state income taxes to be collected.
Thanks to government-coerced economic shutdowns—on top of the severe recession currently brewing—tax revenues are plummeting. And many governments are already expecting the hit to be larger

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Why Mexico Is Reluctant to Shut Down Its Economy to Combat COVID-19

April 12, 2020

Mexico’s president Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been reluctant to impose mandatory “social distancing” orders on the Mexican population. According to USNews, López Obrador “has maintained a relaxed public attitude” toward COVID-19, and the Mexican government did not impose a ban on “non-essential” work until March 30, long after health officials in other countries insisted Mexico must do so.
According to Dr. Miguel Betancourt, president of the Mexican Society of Public Health, those measures are “too late” and “should have come weeks earlier.” But, even with legal measures in place, it’s hard to say how many Mexicans can afford to follow them. The Financial Times has described what is likely a common attitude in Mexico:
Salvador Almonte has been doing a

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In March, US Deaths From COVID-19 Totaled Less Than 2 Percent of All Deaths

April 8, 2020

About 2.9 million people die in the United States each year from all causes. Monthly this total ranges from around 220,000 in the summertime to more than 280,000 in winter.
In recent decades, flu season has often peaked sometime from January to March, and this is a major driver in total deaths. The average daily number of deaths from December through March is over eight thousand.
So far, total death data is too preliminary to know if there has been any significant increase in total deaths as a result of COVID-19, and this is an important metric, because it gives us some insight into whether or not COVID-19 is driving total death numbers well above what would otherwise be expected.
Indeed, according to some sources, it is not clear that total deaths have increased

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Financialization: Why the Financial Sector Now Rules the Global Economy

March 18, 2020

To read or watch the news in today’s world is to be confronted with a wide array of stories about financial organization and financial institutions. News about central banks, interest rates, and debt appear to be everywhere.
But it was not always the case that the financial sector and financial institutions were considered so important. Public policy in general was not always designed with a focus toward propping up banks, keeping interest rates low, and ensuring an ever greater flow of cheap and easy loans. Reporting on the minutiae of central banks—with the assumption that these changes directly impact nearly every facet of our lives—wasn’t always the norm.
But that is where we are now.
The change is real and it’s a thing called “financialization.” It has arisen

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Money Supply Growth Climbs to 37-Month High

March 17, 2020

The money supply growth rate rose again in February, climbing to a 37-month high. The last time the growth rate was higher was during February of 2017, when the growth rate was 7.9 percent.
During February 2020, year-over-year (YOY) growth in the money supply was at 7.49 percent. That’s up from January’s rate of 6.32 percent, and up from February 2019’s rate of 3.20 percent. The increase in money supply growth in February represents a sizable reversal of the trend we saw during most of 2019. In August, the growth rate hit a 120-month low, falling to the lowest growth rates we’d seen since 2007. If the trend continues, growth rates will need only a few months to reach the heights reached from 2009 to 2016.
The money supply metric used here—the “true” or

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The CDC’s Budget Is Larger Now Than Under Obama

March 14, 2020

This is how the budget process in Washington begins. Step one: the president submits his budget to Congress. Step two: Congress puts the president’s budget in a drawer somewhere and forgets about it. Step three: Congress passes a budget it likes instead.
This reality, however, has been conveniently ignored in recent weeks. Some pundits and politicians have claimed that Donald Trump “gutted the CDC.”
Trump has been busy “slashing the government agencies” that combat disease control, one headline reads.
Another claims, “the Trump administration has spent the last two years gutting critical positions and programs that…weakened the federal government’s ability to manage a health crisis.”
Well, it’s possible that there is a federal program out there somewhere that

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If China Is the Problem, Can’t We At Least Have Free Trade with Everyone Else?

March 11, 2020

It remains unclear how much the stock market implosion of recent days will affect the larger economy. As David Stockman has noted often, the Wall Street economy is not synonymous with the Main Street economy, contrary to what the advocates of rampant bank bailouts and financialization would have us believe.
Nevertheless, fear of a general crisis has driven Donald Trump to hint that tax cuts should be on the table.
That’s good news, and the first place Trump should start—since he has the authority to unilaterally do so in many cases—is reducing trade barriers.
It is certainly true that Trump’s trade war against China has reduced real wages for Americans, raised the cost of doing business for entrepreneurs, and generally hobbled the US economy. Trump’s protectionism

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The US Constitution Needs an Expiration Date

March 6, 2020

A unique feature of the Swiss Federal Constitution is the fact that the central government’s power to impose direct taxes on citizens expires every decade or so.
In fact, the current taxing authority expires at the end of 2020. Fortunately for the Swiss republic’s central government, voters approved an extension (the “New Financial Regime 2021“) for another fifteen years in a March 2018 election. This was not a big surprise, since voters have approved extensions of this sort several times since 1958, including the most recent reapproval in 2006.
Direct taxation from the Swiss central government is a relatively new thing. Prior to the First World War, the confederation (i.e., central) government was funded primarily through customs duties. Collecting and

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The Fed Slashes Rates as Powell Declares Economy “Strong”

March 3, 2020

The Federal Reserve this morning slashed the target federal funds rate by 0.5 percent today. According to CNBC:
The Federal Reserve moved to an enact an emergency interest rate cut after officials saw the coronavirus having a material impact on the economic outlook, Chairman Jerome Powell said Tuesday.
Powell held a news conference following the central bank’s decision to cut overnight interest rates by half a percentage point. He said the Fed “saw a risk to the economy and chose to act” in a cut announced at 10 am ET.
“The magnitude and persistence of the overall effect on the U.S.
economy remain highly uncertain and the situation remains a fluid one,” he said. “Against this background, the committee judged that the risks to the U.S. outlook have changed

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The US’s “Free Trade” Isn’t Very Free

February 29, 2020

The false notion that the US has eliminated virtually all of its barriers to foreign imports has been repeated more and more in recent years. The claim is made both by advocates for free trade and by critics of free trade. For instance, Patrick Buchanan has claimed only American elites “are beneficiaries to free trade” while implying the US either has free trade, or something close to it. Rather than insulate US companies from global competition, Buchanan insists, the US practices “globalism” and has all but erased the US border when it comes to foreign goods.
Meanwhile, in many articles on tariffs, readers may encounter a graph like this, which suggests trade barriers have almost vanished:
But things are not nearly as free as they seem. Indeed, the idea that

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