The Independent Institute


Jonathan Bean Archive

Jonathan Bean is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, Professor of History at Southern Illinois University, and editor of the Independent book, Race & Liberty in America: The Essential Reader.
Full Biography

Big Government, Racial Violence, and the Police

In August 1965, the streets of Los Angeles erupted in fire, as black rioters burned hundreds of stores and ill-equipped police withdrew from the violent scene. Initiated by a minor altercation with a police officer, Watts was followed by worse riots, often sparked by encounters with police, turning cities like Detroit into burnt-over districts....
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Say No to Reparations: Remembering Slavery, Forgetting the Classical-Liberal Values that Abolished It

Advocates of reparations for the descendants of African American slaves recently challenged socialist Bernie Sanders to embrace their cause, which he refused to do. A leading advocate of reparations, Atlantic contributor Ta-Nehisi Coates, criticizes Sanders for placing class-based politics before race. Lost in the unending debate over reparations is a key point: group reparations ignore the...
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Nonvoter Manifesto: Don’t Vote!

I am a nonvoter. I stand by my principled decision not to vote. Ever.

People think voting matters. It doesn’t, particularly now when so much power is amassed by unelected bureaucrats (the officials our Founders denounced in the Declaration of Independence for harassing the people). People know little or nothing about issues and theirs is rational ignorance–the governments (local/state/federal) have taken “responsiblity” for everything under the sun. There is no “knowing the issues” when they count in the hundreds or thousands.

What Is Consent? Edison’s Light Bulb

Back in 2006, Congress passed a “green” law to save energy by replacing the warm light of the incandescent bulb with alternative bulbs (not so friendly to the eyes or the pocketbook). Did Americans truly “consent” to the elimination of this light bulb? Almost no one knew their lawmakers passed this law. Moreover, the expensive, ugly-lit light bulbs regulators wanted Americans to buy were on sale for years. The problem was consumers – day after day, purchase after purchase – refused to consent to pay many times over for inferior light. Isn’t that a form of “consent” more responsive to the issue at hand than the passage of a law no one knew about?

Serpent in the Supreme Court: The Folly of “Strict Scrutiny,” from Japanese Internment to Affirmative Action

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments this week in The Fisher II case involving the use of race in admissions to the University of Texas at Austin. This case, like other college admission decisions dating to Bakke (1978), hinges on how the Supreme Court applies a “strict scrutiny” standard that originated with a decision upholding Japanese...
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Rosa Parks Day: The Triumph of Colorblindness and Capitalism

Sixty years ago, Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat for a white man and was arrested for disobeying Montgomery, Alabama’s segregation ordinance. The story is well-known, even today, as we celebrate “Rosa Parks Day” (December 1). Following her arrest, African Americans organized a boycott of the city’s privately-owned bus company. Martin Luther King, Jr. became spokesman for street protests and, ever since, the civil rights movement is remembered as a militant expression of civil disobedience and “taking it to the streets.” Within a year, the city ended desegregation, but not for the reasons you might think. The real heroes behind Rosa Parks were the NAACP lawyers who battered down the walls of institutional racism with the force of the constitution, color-blind law, and capitalist forces that worked against racism—hallmarks of the classic liberal tradition of civil rights.

Small Business Suffers: The Riots, Past and Present

Several years ago, I wrote an article for The Independent Review on the urban riots of the 1960s (and the Rodney King riot of 1992). Watching the events unfold in Ferguson, it seems those in charge of riot control learned nothing. Once again, the victims were small business owners—many of them African Americans (as...
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Classifying America: Government’s Power to Define Is the Power to Discriminate

In one of the most famous phrases uttered by a Supreme Court justice, Potter Stewart defended his ruling in an obscenity case (1964) by refusing to offer a clear definition. Instead, he stated: “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be [hard-core pornography]; and perhaps I could...
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50 Years of Mischief: The Triumph and Trashing of the Civil Rights Act

The Civil Rights Act was not a perfect law—no law is perfect–but it did embody two principles of the long civil rights movement: First, the individual (not the group) is the measure of justice. Secondly, nondiscrimination is mandatory for the government and worth pursuing in our private lives. If policymakers had enforced the Civil Rights Act in good faith, time might have eroded the tendency to view others as members of a group, rather than as individuals.

Supreme Court Rules: Social Security is NOT a Binding Contract

This post was prompted by all-too-common opinions expressed in Randall Holcombe’s recent “Federal Government Debt Undermines the Programs It Finances” blog. The respondents passionately insist that Social Security is a contract, whatever you do to the budget, do not touch Social Security. “I paid in and it is a contract. They owe me.” The...
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