Hornberger's Blog

Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Hornberger’s Blog, October 2005

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Monday, October 31, 2005

Some people are suggesting that Scooter Libby’s allegedly false testimony to a federal grand jury was no big deal and possibly shouldn’t even be charged, at least since the grand jury didn’t charge an underlying crime.

They’re missing two important points, however.

One is that truth under oath is essential to a properly governing criminal-justice system.

The other is that the perjury might well be the obstacle to ferreting out and proving the underlying crime.

For example, suppose a person murders another person in the presence of two of his relatives and that the only evidence of the crime is the testimony of the two eyewitnesses.

Suppose the two eyewitnesses, when called to testify under oath, intentionally lie to protect their relative, knowing that their perjury will result in protecting their friend from a murder conviction and also knowing that they themselves won’t be prosecuted for perjury if the prosecutor has no other evidence to prove the murder.

What type of criminal-justice system would that be? Answer: A bad one because it would inevitably result in many miscarriages of justice based on perjured testimony.

That is, in fact, what Patrick Fitzgerald was alluding to when he suggested that Libby’s allegedly false testimony was akin to a baseball player’s throwing sand into the face of an umpire to prevent the umpire from seeing that he was tagged before he touched the base.

That is obviously one reason that Fitzgerald is keeping his investigation open. He knows that if Libby can be persuaded to come clean with the whole truth, evidence of an underlying crime might become readily apparent.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Those who think that federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is going to passively settle for an indictment against Scooter Libby are engaging in fanciful and wishful thinking and obviously have little idea of how the mind of a U.S. attorney operates.

Most U.S. attorneys become very indignant when people lie in the course of a federal investigation, especially if there is a possibility that the perjury will be successful in covering up the underlying crime. Fitzgerald made that clear in his press conference yesterday when he compared such lying to a baseball player’s throwing sand into the eyes of an umpire.

Based on what I’ve read about Fitzgerald, he has the type of legal mind that is going to continue asking a very critical question: Why did Libby lie? That type of unanswered question bedevils a prosecutor like Fitzgerald, especially if the lie is protecting other criminal wrongdoers who are hiding behind the lie.

Did Libby allegedly lie to protect only himself from a criminal charge of intentionally disclosing Plame’s identity? Or did he do so also to protect others who might have conspired with him to intentionally disclose Plame’s identity in an attempt to retaliate against her husband or who might have conspired with Libby to obstruct justice during the investigation?

While Fitzgerald knows that he might never secure the answer as to why Libby lied, he knows that if there was a criminal conspiracy, Libby would be at the center of it — and that his testimony could break such a conspiracy wide open. Fitzgerald won’t rest until he gets all the truth, not just a piece of the truth, or until he runs out of legal options attempting to do so.

Friday, October 28, 2005

A federal criminal indictment is expected today against I. Lewis Libby Jr., chief of staff to the vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney. The anticipated charge is said to revolve around perjury arising from false statements allegedly made by Libby to the federal grand jury investigating the Valerie Plame matter.

If speculation regarding Libby’s indictment is true, then it’s hard to see how Vice President Cheney would not play a major role in the case, either for good or bad.

Here’s why.

According to today’s New York Times:

“Mr. Libby told the grand jury that he learned of Ms. Wilson from reporters, lawyers involved in the case said.”

Yet, consider this sentence in the same NYT article:

“Early in the investigation, Mr. Libby turned over notes of a meeting with Mr. Cheney in June 2003 that indicated the vice president had told him about Ms. Wilson, the lawyers said.”

If that critical fact is true — that is, if Libby learned about Valerie Plame from Cheney and not from reporters, it would seem that there is ample evidence to support a criminal indictment for perjury against Libby and possibly a conviction as well.

Now, consider the fact that the federal prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, interviewed Vice President Cheney during his investigation. It is almost certain that Fitzgerald, who is one of the most thorough and professional prosecutors in the country, asked Cheney about all the circumstances surrounding the leak of Plame’s name.

While he didn’t place Cheney under oath, Cheney would still be required to tell the truth under the same law under which the feds prosecuted Martha Stewart — the law that requires a person to tell the truth, even when not under oath, to a federal official conducting a formal criminal investigation.

If Cheney lied to Fitzgerald by denying that he gave Valerie Plame’s name to Libby, it would seem that Cheney would be in hot water too. If Cheney told the truth by admitting to Fitzgerald that he was the one who gave Plame’s name to Libby, then it would seem that he would be a principal witness against his chief of staff Libby at Libby’s trial.

Of course, in my opinion all this will be moot because the way I figure it is that President Bush is going to pardon everyone before anyone has to testify at trial, following his father’s footsteps in issuing pardons in the Iran Contra scandal just before former Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger was set to go to trial.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

As longtime supporters of FFF know, one of the major libertarian positions we take is favoring a free market in education rather than a coercive governmental system in which parents are forced to submit their children to twelve years of a socialized government-approved education by government-approved schoolteachers using government-approved textbooks following government-approved curricula. The biggest problem with public (government) schooling, as Sheldon Richman points out in our book Separating School & State, is that it tends to produce people with a conforming mindset — that is, a mindset that automatically conforms to whatever the federal officials are saying.

A good example involves Afghanistan and Iraq, which have caused so many people to engage in a constantly shifting mindset in order to conform to the constantly shifting mindset of the federal authorities.

For example, in the 1980s federal officials were saying, “We must support Saddam and help him kill Iranians and furnish him WMD.” And the conforming mindset was, “Yes, we must.”

Or when federal officials were saying, “We must support Osama bin Laden and help him oust a foreign occupier from Afghanistan, the conforming mindset was, “Yes, we must.”

Or when the brutal sanctions were being enforced against the Iraqis, which were contributing to the deaths of their children, especially from infections from the dirty Iraqi water, U.S. officials were saying, “The deaths are worth it because we must oppose Saddam.” And the conforming mindset automatically responded, “Yes, we must.”

When federal officials said, “We must attack Iraq because Saddam is about to drop nuclear bombs on our country, the conforming mindset was, “Yes, we must.”

When the U.S. government became a foreign occupier of Iraq, federal officials said, “We must kill Iraqis who are trying to oust a foreign occupier from their country.” And the conforming mindset became, “Yes, we must.”

Or consider the constantly changing missions in Iraq and how the conforming mindset has quickly adapted to them. On the death of the 2,000th American soldier in Iraq, President Bush said that more soldiers must die in order to “complete the mission.”

What’s the mission? The conforming mindset doesn’t ask. It just says, “Yes, we must.”

First, the mission was, “We must protect the U.S. from an imminent nuclear attack by Saddam’s forces,” and the conforming mindset’s response was “Yes, we must.”

Then, the mission morphed into, “We must enforce UN resolutions requiring Saddam to disarm,” and the conforming mindset’s response was “Yes, we must.”

Then it morphed into, “We must kill Saddam or bring him to justice,” and the conforming response was, “Yes, we must.”

Then, it morphed into, “We must kill the terrorists who are trying to oust us from their country,” and the conforming response was, “Yes, we must.”

Then it morphed into, “We must spread democracy,” and the conforming response was “Yes, we must.”

Then it morphed into, “We must ensure that the Ayatollah Sistani’s political party remains in power because that is freedom,” and the conforming response was “Yes, we must.”

One of the great things about being a libertarian is that we have a consistent devotion to moral principles, individual liberty, free markets, and a constitutional republic. Another great thing about being a libertarian is that we have also taught ourselves to be independent thinkers.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Vice President Cheney, who terrified Americans into supporting the president’s war on Iraq by falsely suggesting to them that Saddam was about to unload mushroom clouds over American cities, is back in the news.

First, the news media is reporting that the secretive vice president might have been the source of the leak that ultimately outed CIA agent Valerie Plame. And it seems increasingly clear that a federal grand jury is going to return indictments against one or more White House officials as a result of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation into the matter. It’s not yet clear, however, exactly who, if anyone, is going to be indicted or whether one or more targets of the investigation are cooperating with Fitzgerald.

Second, Vice President Cheney is calling on Congress to exempt the CIA from the Senate’s recently passed ban on torture. Hmm. Wouldn’t that be a fairly strong indication that the vice president favors torture? I wonder how he reconciles that with President Bush’s position that the torture, sex abuse, rape, and murder scandal in Cuba, Iraq, and Afghanistan was just the work of a few out-of-control bad apples rather than the result of a pro-torture program explicitly or implicitly approved by high federal officials.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Cons and neo-cons continue to slip and slide, hem and haw with respect to the possibility of criminal indictments against high White House officials for matters arising out of the Valerie Plame affair. Apparently, they don’t feel that leaking classified information in the form of a CIA agent’s identity or lying about it to a federal grand jury should be the subject of a federal criminal prosecution but instead should simply be left to the voters at the next election.

Make no mistake about it: If the person who had leaked the identity of a CIA agent had been an antiwar proponent, say Michael Moore, the cons and neo-cons would coming down harder than anything you could imagine. “Treason!” they’d be crying. “Prosecute him!” they’d be exclaiming. “Unlawful combatant!” they’d be yelling. “Send him to Gitmo!” they would be pleading. “No mercy!” they’d be demanding. “Execute him!” they’d be screaming. There would be no hemming and hawing, slipping and sliding if the leaker had been Michael Moore or some other opponent of the war on Iraq.

And if that same person had lied to a federal grand jury in an attempt to protect himself or his friends as part of an official investigation into the leak of the CIA agent’s identity, make no mistake about it: The cons and neo-cons would be calling for “law and order,” emphasizing the importance of obeying the law and the importance of telling the truth, especially when under oath before federal grand juries. There would be no hemming and hawing, slipping and sliding.

After all, if they moralistically called for putting Martha Stewart away for supposedly lying to a federal bureaucrat when she wasn’t even under oath, who can doubt that they’d be going ballistic about an antiwar “traitor” who released classified information by outing a CIA agent to the world and then lying about it to a federal grand jury?

To maintain at least semblance of moral and legal consistency, the least that the cons and neo-cons can do when slipping and sliding, hemming and hawing with respect to their friends in the White House is to also, at the same time, demand that President Bush pardon Martha Stewart and apologize for the disgraceful treatment to which the feds have subjected her.

After all, if leaking classified information the world in the form of outing a CIA agent and then lying about it to a federal grand jury when done by high federal officials are no big deal in the eyes of the law, why should it be any big deal in the eyes of the law when a private citizen lies to a federal bureaucrat when she’s not even under oath and when she hasn’t even committed the supposed crime for which she was being asked questions?

Monday, October 24, 2005

Give credit to conservatives — they sure can provide people with good examples of hypocrisy.

The latest example of hypocrisy occurred yesterday when, anticipating possible federal grand jury indictments against White House officials, “law and order” conservative Kay Bailey Hutchinson, who is a U.S. Senator from the president’s home state of Texas, told “Meet the Press”:

“I certainly hope that if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn’t indict on the crime so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation were not a waste of time and dollars.”

“Perjury technicality”?

Since when is lying under oath to a federal grand jury a technicality, Ms. Hutchinson, especially when it involves an attempt to obstruct an official investigation into whether high government officials committed a federal crime?

And while we’re on the subject of hypocrisy, let’s not forget all those lectures on truth and integrity that we received from the Bush administration during the federal prosecution of Martha Stewart.

Why did they indict and prosecute Martha Stewart? No, not because of perjury because she never lied under oath. They went after her because the U.S. Congress has made it a crime for a citizen to lie to a federal bureucrat even though the Congress has kept it perfectly permissible for a federal bureaucrat or a federal politician to lie to the citizenry, even with respect to a baseless WMD threat that led to a war that has killed and maimed tens of thousands of innocent people.

Also, in the Martha Stewart case the feds never charged her with any underlying crime, including the ridiculous “crime” of insider trading. Yet they still indicted her for the ridiculous federal crime of lying to a federal bureucrat, claiming that it was important that citizens never lie to federal bureucrats who are investigating crimes, even when they’re not under oath.

And after Martha Stewart was sent to a federal pen for several months and then required to wear a silly ankle bracelet after she was released, we now learn from Hutchinson that a genuinely serious crime such as perjury in an official federal grand jury investigation is just a “technicality.”

Hutchinson also told “Meet the Press”:

“I do think we have in this country the right to go to court and have due process and be innocent until proven guilty.”

Oh? Where have you been, Ms. Hutchinson? Even though you people in Congress have been silent and supine during the entire presidential and military assault on civil liberties that has taken place in this country since 9/11, surely you’ve heard of the Pentagon’s Padilla doctrine, right? That’s the doctrine which holds that “the right to go to court and have due process and be innocent until proven guilty” exists only if the president and the Pentagon let Americans (and foreigners) exercise it.

Sometimes the president and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are nice and permit Americans (and foreigners, such as Zacharias Moussaoui) to have such rights.

Other times, they’re not so nice and won’t let Americans have such rights. Just ask Jose Padilla, an American who has been held in a U.S. military brig for some 3 years, denied access to an attorney for most of that time, denied due process of law, presumed guilty, and subject to being punished, even executed, by U.S. military authorities.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The New York Times has an interesting front-page article today about Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the U.S. Attorney who has White House officials very nervous over his investigation of the Valerie Plame leak. The article indicates that Fitzgerald doesn’t play politics and is an attorney of the utmost integrity and devotion to the law. That probably will diminish the impact of personal attacks on him if indictments are returned against White House officials.

If indictments are returned, Fitzgerald will have his hands full. But I’ve got a suggestion, whether indictments are returned or not: Put Fitzgerald and his team in charge of investigating the torture, sex abuse, rape, and murder scandal in the U.S. military. Full subpoena power, full power to investigate higher-ups, full power to seek criminal indictments, and full power to prosecute to the full extent of the law.

Yes, I know, Pentagon officials would respond, “But we’ve already had many, many investigations that have exonerated everyone except those at the bottom.” But just as we wouldn’t permit Enron to investigate itself and to determine which Enron officials should be prosecuted, why should we permit the Army to get away with that?

Anyway, if the Pentagon is so convinced of the legitimacy of its many investigations, what would it have to fear from a Fitzgerald investigation? In fact, if the many Army investigations are in fact legitimate, Fitzgerald’s investigation would bring a stamp of credibility and integrity to them. If they’re not legitimate, then a Fitzgerald investigation and prosecution would help to restore a sense of integrity to our government by prosecuting the wrongdoers and those who conspired to cover up the wrongdoing.

Friday, October 21, 2005

As most everyone knows, certain White House officials, perhaps even the vice-president himself, have the jitters over the possibility of a federal indictment against them for unlawfully leaking classified information relating to the Valerie Plame matter or for perjury and obstruction of justice relating to a possible cover-up arising out of U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald’s investigation of the matter.

They need not worry themselves too much. A December 24, 1992, article in the New York Times reminds us why:

“But in a single stroke, Mr. Bush swept away one conviction, three guilty pleas and two pending cases, virtually decapitating what was left of [Independent counsel] Mr. Walsh’s effort, which began in 1986. Mr. Bush’s decision was announced by the White House in a printed statement after the President left for Camp David, where he will spend the Christmas holiday.

“Mr. Walsh bitterly condemned the President’s action, charging that ‘the Iran-contra cover-up, which has continued for more than six years, has now been completed.’

“Mr. Walsh directed his heaviest fire at Mr. Bush over the pardon of Mr. Weinberger, whose trial would have given the prosecutor a last chance to explore the role in the affair of senior Reagan officials, including Mr. Bush’s actions as Vice President.

“Mr. Walsh hinted that Mr. Bush’s pardon of Mr. Weinberger and the President’s own role in the affair could be related. For the first time, he charged that Mr. Weinberger’s notes about the secret decision to sell arms to Iran, a central piece of evidence in the case against the former Pentagon chief, included ‘evidence of a conspiracy among the highest ranking Reagan Administration officials to lie to Congress and the American public.’”

Who can doubt that President George H.W. Bush’s son, the current president, would follow in his father’s footsteps and decapitate Fitzgerald’s efforts by pardoning any and all of his friends and associates in the Plame matter, probably even before a trial in which damaging and embarrassing evidence could be introduced to the public?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

According to an article in last Sunday’s New York Times, officials at state-supported universities are lamenting the slow “privatization” of higher education because of decreasing “public support” of colleges and universities. “The share of all public universities’ revenues deriving from state and local taxes declined to 64 percent in 2004 from 74 percent in 1991.”

What the lamenters mean by the term “public support,” of course, is not voluntary support from donors but rather tax-and-welfare support from the government.

Why not simply abolish all taxpayer-funded welfare support for colleges and universities and instead leave it up to people to decide whether and how much to donate to higher education? Wouldn’t that then reflect genuine “public support” of higher education?

“But what if people didn’t give as much to us as government officials do?” cry the state-supported administrators. “People aren’t as kind with their own money as politicians and bureaucrats are with the money they tax from people.”

Doesn’t that lament itself reflect the fundamental moral problem underlying welfare-state support of education? Fearful that people might not donate as much as higher-education officials would like them to, they turn to the state to confiscate the difference. And while they recognize the fundamental wrongfulness of one person’s forcibly taking another person’s money, even for a worthy cause, they decline to recognize that nothing has changed, from a moral standpoint, by having the state do it instead.

Let’s assume that a particular university would like to have $100 million to finance its operations. But suppose that in an un-coerced, free-market system, people would voluntarily donate $75 million to that university. What the university administrators are effectively saying to their state legislators is: “Those dumb people out there don’t know what’s best for them and society. Use your tax power to take another $25 million of their money from them and give it to us. And just call it ‘public support’ of higher education.”

Why not leave people free to keep what they earn and decide what to do with their own money? What would be wrong with colleges and universities having to depend on the private sector for all their support? Wouldn’t that mean that colleges and universities would finally be free of government control and influence? Why should the state force people to support higher education? How can such force be reconciled with morality and liberty?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Today, Saddam Hussein, whose trial has just begun, has pled not guilty to the charge of executing 143 people in the Iraqi town of Dujail in 1982 after an assassination attempt against him.

So, is this what the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which has killed and maimed tens of thousands of innocent people, has been all about?

Well, not exactly. There’s no doubt that Saddam did a lot worse than that during the time he was in office.

The problem that U.S. officials, who are closely orchestrating the trial, face is that if they don’t keep a tight rein on the trial and the charges brought against Saddam, he might try to introduce evidence of the close partnership between Saddam and U.S. officials during the 1980s, when the U.S. delivered those infamous WMDs to him and actually helped him to use them against Iranians.

What other reason to explain what is “inexplicable” to Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum when she writes in today’s Post,: “Inexplicably, the U.S. military still controls the captured files of Hussein’s government, still restricts Iraqi access to them and will also restrict who has access to the courtroom itself.”

Apparently Applebaum doesn’t appreciate the enormous discomfort arising within U.S. officials over their close partnership with Saddam during the 1980s — or, more exactly, over the potential danger that the American people might finally discover the details of that partnership.

That has to be the reason that U.S. officials have limited the charges against Saddam to matters occurring in 1982, not daring to charge Saddam with his war against Iran during the 1980s.

In this way, if Saddam tries, for example, to introduce the famous photograph of him and Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands in 1983 or evidence showing U.S. officials’ helping Saddam to use those WMD against the Iranians, the judge will be able to rapidly suppress the evidence as “irrelevant” to the 1982 charges.

It will be interesting to see how the tribunal handles Saddam’s argument that he is still the legitimate president of Iraq. That legal issue — whether an illegal war of aggression against a sovereign and independent country can legitimately oust its dictator — was undoubtedly another major reason that U.S. officials decided to hold Saddam’s trial in Iraq, where they could tightly control the proceedings and rulings, rather than at the Hague (where Milosevic is on trial rather than in Yugoslavia), where U.S. officials would likely lose control of the proceedings to independent, competent, non-vengeance-seeking, jurists who were not puppets of the U.S. government.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

In case you missed it, last week the newly installed regime in Iraq announced criminal indictments of 27 officials for theft and misappropriation of $1 billion of public funds.

Guess who’s been indicted: Former U.S.-installed Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and other members of the U.S.-run interim regime in Iraq. Arrest warrants have been issued but some of the suspects have skipped the country.

Wow! Talk about regime-change blowback!

Do you think that U.S. officials, who have presented themselves as paragons of virtue and outrage over the financial scandals in the UN oil-for-food program, will manifest the same degree of virtue and outrage over this $1 billion scandal?

I wouldn’t count on it. Investigating UN corruption with vigor is one thing. But investigating the disappearance one billion dollars during a U.S.-installed regime in Iraq is quite another thing.

Anyway, as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld put it during the looting that took place during the U.S. invasion of Iraq, “Freedom’s untidy. Free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They’re also free to live their lives and do wonderful things, and that’s what’s going to happen here.”

Monday, October 17, 2005

Unfortunately for the Chinese people, U.S. officials are now lecturing Chinese government officials on “free enterprise” principles. That’s right, believe it or not, the same people who have brought us unbridled federal spending, socialism (including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, grants, public housing, subsidies, etc.), interventionism (including the FTC, DEA, FCC, Federal Reserve, etc.), and militarism and empire are telling the Chinese what they need to do to adopt “free enterprise.”

According to the New York Times, Treasury Secretary Tony Snow is even “arguing that China needs to get people to spend more and save less.” Undoubtedly, he’s also telling the Chinese that the Great Depression was a “failure of free enterprise” and that Franklin Roosevelt’s socialist and fascist economic programs “saved free enterprise.”

Of course, it’s the exact opposite: Societies are better off when people are saving more and spending less because capital accumulation is the key now lecturing to higher wage rates and rising standards of living. Moreover, federal manipulation of the monetary system caused the Great Depression and FDR’s New Deal was the exact opposite of free enterprise.

The Chinese would be wise to reject the arrogant, pompous, and misguided counsel about “free enterprise” from U.S. officials. For that matter, the American people would be wise to reject it as well.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

According to the New York Times, presidential and vice-presidential advisors Karl Rove and I. Lewis Libby are feeling the jitters over the fact that the special prosecutor in the Plame matter, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, is wrapping up his investigation.

Rove and Libby should be thanking their lucky stars that they’re being accorded the right of having their cases handled in the federal court system rather than in the way federal officials have handled their fellow American citizen Jose Padilla’s case. For three years, federal officials have denied Padilla due process of law, a speedy trial, and a jury trial, instead simply turning him over to the military for punishment.

Regardless of whether indictments are issued in the Plame matter, we should keep in mind that either Rove lied or White House press secretary Scott McClellan lied about the Plame case. Several months ago, McClellan told the nation (on behalf of President Bush) that after speaking to Rove, McClellan could assure the American people that Rove had played no role in the Plame leak. It is now clear that Rove did play a role in the Plame leak. That means that either Rove lied or that McClellan lied on behalf of President Bush.

But, of course. as we all know, while it’s a federal crime for a private citizen, such as Martha Stewart, to lie to a federal bureaucrat about a measly stock trade that didn’t damage anyone, apparently it’s not any big deal for a White House bureaucrat to lie to the nation about matters relating to war and peace and about an investigation into attempts to punish a man who had the integrity to disclose the White House’s WMD deception leading up the invasion of Iraq.

Friday, October 14, 2005

In today’s FFF Email Update, we are carrying one of the best articles by a conservative in a long time: “A Conservative Foreign Policy” by well-known conservative Paul M. Weyrich. Hopefully every conservative, especially big-government advocates at the conservative Heritage Foundation, will read this article and reflect upon and reevaluate his pro-empire, big-government position.

Weyrich’s pro-republic, pro-freedom analysis, of course, is classic libertarian philosophy with respect to foreign policy. His article now exposes a major fault line within conservative circles — between those conservatives who embrace big government based on their desire to have the U.S. government be the world’s sole remaining empire and to wage a “war on terrorism” that such empire has engendered and now those conservatives such as Weyrich who understand that big government that comes with empire and foreign intervention is actually the biggest threat to the freedom and well-being of the American people.

Conservatives need to be reminded of a central point made by Weyrich: “To preserve liberty here at home, we need a weak federal government, because a strong federal government is the greatest potential threat to our liberties.”

That’s the blind spot that afflicts most conservatives — that the big government they endorse to maintain the U.S. military empire and an interventionist foreign policy cannot be reconciled with their purported devotion to “free enterprise, individual freedom, and limited government.” They contradict each other. It’s either one or the other. Choose empire and big government and give up on the free society. Reject empire and big government and restore the free society.

If only the pro-empire, big-government conservatives, including those at the Heritage Foundation, were to join up with us libertarians in our embrace of a pro-republic, pro-freedom foreign policy, things could move very rapidly in a very positive direction for our nation.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

In the drug-news section of our FFF Email Update today, we link to an article about the 18,000 women who are now serving time in prison. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that it’s “a trend fueled by their growing involvement in drug crimes and by longer sentences in general.”

This is in addition, of course, to the blatantly racist aspects of the drug war, a war that has succeeded in removing many blacks from society by sending them into prisons for drug-war violations.

Yet, what has all this accomplished? Nothing, except to give government at all levels more power over the lives, liberties, and fortunes of the citizenry.

After all, notice that drug-war advocates never, ever say that the drug war can now be ended despite at least 30 years of deadly and destructive warfare, and the reason they don’t is twofold:

(1) They know that after 3 decades of warfare, the drug war is a failure from the standpoint of its purported goal (a drug-free nation); and

(2) They love the fact that the drug war empowers the government to be a stronger, more powerful paternalistic daddy who will send his adult-children, including women and blacks, to their room in prison when they misbehave by putting bad things into their mouths—well, except for those who happen to be rich and politically connected — not surprisingly, they receive preferential drug-war treatment.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A recent New York Times article about grocery shoppers reflects two important features of the market economy: the sovereignty of the consumer and the redistribution of wealth in a market economy.

The story pointed out that traditional grocery stores, such as Safeway and Kroger, are losing market share to non-traditional grocery stores such as Whole Foods Market and Wal-Mart.

When you stop to think about it, consumers are a fairly “heartless” group of people. At the first sign of higher quality and lower prices, they are able and willing to immediately shift their buying from one store to another. Nary a thought for the welfare of those who work at the lower-quality, higher-priced stores who might now lose their jobs. All that matters to consumers is that they’re now spending less and getting more.

The experience reminds us that in a market economy, the consumer, not the producer, is sovereign. While it sometimes appears to people that businesses are so rich and powerful that they must be subject to government regulation, the truth is that in an unhampered market economy a business that fails to cater to its customers is unlikely to prosper or survive. As Richard Gere put it in the movie “Pretty Woman,” consumers like businesses that “suck up” to them.

Compare the grocery store situation with, say, the Postal Service, which the law protects from competition in the delivery of first-class mail. Here, the producer, not the consumer, is sovereign. Which means, not surprisingly, shoddy service and ever-increasing prices.

Another lesson of the grocery-store article is that through the buying and selling habits of consumers and the shifting of market share, there is a massive redistribution of wealth that takes place every day. Businesses that don’t satisfy consumers lose market share and those that do gain market share. Even the biggest of businesses can go out of business and even the smallest of upstarts can become big businesses.

Since an unhampered market economy provides a self-regulatory system that tends toward higher quality and more efficient allocation of resources and that redistributes massive amounts of wealth in response to shifting consumer tastes, why do we need government to regulate businesses and confiscate and redistribute wealth? Good question!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Those who operate under the quaint statist notion that licensing laws protect the public from incompetent and unethical practitioners, rather than simply serve as a means to fill state coffers and protect privileged people from competition, will be heartened to know that North Dakota bureaucrats are considering licensing sellers on Ebay.

If the N.D. bureaucrats get their way, Ebay sellers would be required to attend the standard 10-day course for getting an auctioneer’s license, which costs between $795 to $1,625. The schools teach prospective licensees how to talk fast, like auctioneers are supposed to talk. Unfortunately, the bureaucrats have not yet made clear how exactly such training will benefit Ebay sellers.

No doubt that the bureaucrats are thinking that the licensing procedure will be much more likely to protect naïve and innocent Ebay buyers from unethical and unscrupulous sellers than the Ebay seller-buyer feedback system. No doubt the bureaucrats would point to government licensing of the legal profession, which they would undoubtedly maintain has long protected the public from incompetent, unscrupulous, and unethical attorneys.

Monday, October 10, 2005

More people are coming to realization that the invasion of Iraq, which has resulted in the deaths and maiming of tens of thousands of innocent people, has not brought peace, freedom, and stability to the Iraqi people.

See:

Iraqis’ Broken Dreams” by Jackson Diehl

A Central Pillar of Iraq Policy Crumbling” by Tyler Marshall and Louise Roug

In my blog last Friday, I suggested that those who still genuinely believe that Iraq is now free should take a vacation to Basra, where they would be very quickly killed if they openly criticized the newly installed regime or Islam. On Sunday, the New York Times published an article which described the newly “freed” city of Basra:

“The most feared institution in Iraq’s third-largest city is a shadowy force of 200 to 300 police officers known collectively as the Jameat, who dominate the local police, who are said to murder and torture at will and who answer to the leaders of Basra’s sectarian militias.”

Moreover, the Iraq invasion has bred more anger, hatred, and resentment against the United States, which has led to the threat of more terrorist counterstrikes, which has led to calls for bigger and a more powerful federal government to monitor, control, and threaten the liberties of the American people.

The conservative and liberal war on Iraq has failed. Why, it hasn’t even fulfilled conservative and liberal hopes and dreams of installing a regime that would do the bidding of U.S. officials, given that the new radical Islamic regime that is now installed into power has aligned itself with the radical Islamic regime in Iran, which U.S. officials say is evil.

Why did conservatives and liberals honestly believe that the U.S. invasion brought freedom to the Iraqi people? Because conservatives and liberals honestly believe that Americans are free. Therefore, they had no reason to doubt federal intentions to bring freedom to the Iraqi people.

Libertarians, on the other hand, have long recognized the truth and the reality of the paternalistic welfare state that Americans adopted decades ago — that it is not freedom. When Americans embraced the European principles of socialism and interventionism — as best exemplified by such things as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, income taxation, drug laws, public schooling, welfare, corporate subsidies, and hurricane debit cards — they abandoned the principles of economic liberty that once characterized our nation — the principles that libertarians have been fighting for decades to restore to our land.

Thus, it isn’t surprising that libertarians would be naturally suspicious of federal efforts to bring freedom to the Iraqi people when U.S. officials have so fiercely resisted libertarian efforts to restore freedom to America. Conservatives and liberals, on the other hand, both of whom believe that the paternalistic welfare state is freedom, would more easily fall for the notion that the U.S. invasion brought “freedom” to the Iraqi people.

Conservatives and liberals — with their joint devotion to socialism, interventionism, and military empire and with their deadly, destructive, and failed war on Iraq — best exemplify Goethe’s famous statement: “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” Unfortunately, the nation must pay the price for their ignorance, denial of reality, and folly.

Saturday, October 8, 2005

According to an article in today’s Los Angeles Times, Washington, D.C., officials are finally acknowledging the reality that “democracy” is not going to bring peace and stability (and presumably freedom) to the Iraqi people.

Unfortunately, those officials do not include President Bush and Vice President Cheney, both of whom continue to issue forth to the American people the same type of sunny update news that they mocked Baghdad Bob for issuing.

There is one glaring fallacy of the U.S. government’s “democratic freedom” in Iraq: the failure of U.S. officials to put the following three questions on the ballot in Iraq:

1. Do you believe that Iraq is better off as a result of the U.S. government’s invasion of your country?

2. Do you believe that the U.S. government invaded Iraq out of love for the Iraqi people or to install a U.S.-friendly regime into power?

3. Do you favor the immediate eviction of all U.S. forces from Iraq?

After all, for almost 3 years we’ve heard U.S. officials in both the executive and congressional branches exclaiming that their invasion and occupation, which have resulted in the deaths and maiming of tens of thousands of innocent people (that is, people who had nothing to do with 9/11 and whose only “crime” has been to resist an illegal invasion by a foreign power), has been in the best interests of the Iraqi people.

But that opinion arises from the mindset of U.S. officials. Why not use the balloting procedure that has already been set up to ask the Iraqi people how they feel about it? Why be fearful to have the Iraqis themselves express their mindsets? Or would that be too “dangerous?”

Two more questions that should be put to the Iraqi people are:

1. Do you believe that the United States was right to furnish weapons of mass destruction to Saddam Hussein?

2. Do you believe the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi children that resulted from 12 years of economic sanctions against Iraq were “worth it,” as U.S. officials have claimed?

Friday, October 7, 2005

In his speech yesterday, President Bush gave one more justification for invading Iraq — the threat from radical Islamic extremists.

Wow! That’s even scarier than communists, terrorists, and drug lords!

But how exactly does the new war on radical Islamic extremists morally or legally justify the president’s invasion of Iraq, a nation that never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so? Tens of thousands of innocent people have been killed and maimed there. What was their crime? Were those dead and maimed radical Islamic extremists, or were they just ordinary people who preferred life, even under a brutal dictatorship, to involuntary death at the hands of U.S. forces?

Do we just sweep those dead and maimed people under the carpet? What about the anger and resentment arising from the deaths and maiming? What about the terrorist blowback from aggrieved family members? Won’t that just give the feds another excuse to attack civil liberties here at home — new Patriot Acts, new Gitmos, new Jose Padillas, new calls for military interventions here at home?

The perverse reality in all this, which has got to ultimately hit the American people, is that the president’s invasion of Iraq has succeeding in achieving exactly what he now fears: the ouster of a secular dictatorship (Saddam Hussein) and the installation of an extreme radical, brutal Islamic regime, one that is even aligning itself with Iran, whose Islamic regime the president says is evil, radical, and extreme. If you don’t believe me, take your next vacation to Basra, Iraq, and when you arrive there have a beer at the local pub and start openly criticizing the government or even Islam. You will be soon be dead in “liberated” Iraq.

Wouldn’t it have been enlightening if President Bush had explained why U.S. officials called Osama bin Laden a loyal and dedicated “freedom fighter” rather than a radical Islamic extremist when U.S. officials were helping him oust the Soviet Union from Afghanistan? Also, wouldn’t it have been helpful if the president had used his speech to explain why U.S. officials considered Saddam Hussein to be okay type of dictator, even furnishing him with WMD, during the time that U.S. officials were helping him kill Iranians.

The president compared the new struggle against radical Islamic extremists to the Cold War. And you know what that means with respect to freedom for Americans, right? It means that conservatives are going to take the same position today that they took throughout the Cold War: that while they technically favored “free enterprise and limited government,” Americans had to “temporarily” maintain Big Government until the communist threat was over. You know — more PATRIOT Acts, more Jose Padillas, more military control at home, and new suspensions of civil liberties, habeas corpus, and due process for Americans.

President Bush is clearly setting forth the fault lines between conservatives and libertarians. If you want Big Government for the rest of your life or at least for the next few decades — if you’re willing to surrender your hopes and dreams for a free society in your lifetime — then follow the conservatives and their vision of empire, interventionism, militarism, wars of aggression, sanctions, embargoes, and foreign aid.

If, on the other hand, you still want a free society in your lifetime, then join up with us libertarians and our vision of free markets and free trade, non-intervention, no wars of aggression, and the restoration of a limited-government republic.

One vision — the conservative vision — will bring us more decades of Big Government. The other vision — the libertarian vision — will bring us freedom.

Thursday, October 6, 2005

I must confess that current criticisms of President Bush by conservatives continue to fascinate me, given that for the past few years conservatives have steadfastly maintained that criticizing the president during time of “war” is “unpatriotic.”

The conservatives have recently criticized the president for being a “Big Spender,” thereby echoing what libertarians have been saying for the past several years about the dangers that unbridled federal spending pose to the freedom and economic well-being of the American people. The difference, however, is that conservatives have limited their criticism to domestic Big Spending, apparently still not realizing that Big Spending is destructive whether it occurs on domestic programs or foreign ones.

Now, the conservatives are challenging President Bush’s selection of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. The president, who apparently wants to keep Miers’ qualifications for the Supreme Court secret, is effectively saying,“Trust me. She’ll be fine” Yet, conservatives are blasting that idea. They’re saying to the president: “Why should we blindly trust you on something this important?”

Imagine that — conservatives refusing to blindly trust their ruler! Is that fascinating or what?

Aren’t conservatives simply echoing what libertarians said about the president’s decision to wage war on Iraq without the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war? The president repeatedly said: “Trust me. Those WMD are there!” And conservatives said, “Trust him. He knows things that we don’t know. Those hapless UN inspectors aren’t good searchers. Our troops will find those WMD after they invade Iraq.”

How can conservatives reconcile their blind trust of the president with respect to the war on Iraq with their criticism of the president’s request for blind trust with respect to the selection of a Supreme Court justice? After all, as important as such a selection is, it isn’t likely to result in the deaths and maiming of tens of thousands of innocent people and the destruction of an entire country, as the president’s war on Iraq has done.

The recent rise of important domestic issues is bringing to the surface a blind spot that conservatives have long had with respect to foreign policy. While they are obviously unwilling to place their blind trust in the president with respect to domestic fiscal policy and the selection of a Supreme Court justice, unfortunately conservatives continue to maintain that “patriotism” dictates that they continue to place their blind trust in their ruler when it comes to foreign affairs.

Only libertarians maintain a consistency with respect to moral principles, liberty, and limited government — one that dictates eternal vigilance of government, not only in domestic affairs but in foreign affairs as well. That’s why libertarianism continues to be the best hope for our country and our citizenry.

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

President Bush has taken another step in the direction of military control in America, thereby threatening to bring the same type of military “freedom” he has brought to Iraq to our nation—a type of military “freedom” that in Iraq has entailed warrantless searches and seizures, indefinite detentions, gun confiscation and gun control, torture and sex abuse, closure of the critical press, shooting of demonstrators, curfews, and denial of due process.

Already, he has given the military the power to set up a torture camp in Cuba for the specific purpose of avoiding the Constitution and U.S. federal-court interference.

Already, he has given the military the power to arrest and punish, even execute, both Americans and foreigners without federal court interference and without jury trials and due process of law.

Already, he has given the military the power to invade any country on earth on his orders only, without the constitutionally required declaration of war from Congress.

Already, he has given the CIA the power to forcibly send people against their will to brutal foreign regimes for the purpose of torture.

Already, he has called for the repeal of the posse comitatus law, which for more than 100 years has prohibited the military from engaging in law enforcement within the United States, in order to grant the military the power to take over areas within the United States that suffer natural disasters.

And now, Bush is suggesting that the military should be give martial-law powers in the event of a bird-flu outbreak in towns and cities across America.

Hopefully, Americans will not have to learn the hard way why our Founding Fathers warned them against standing armies and why President Eisenhower warned them of the dangers arising from the U.S. military-industrial complex.

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Harvard University provides a good example of why the federal government is pleased to put colleges and universities on the federal dole. According to the Washington Times, Harvard initially decided not to permit army recruiters on the campus. But once it realized that it might lose $400 million in government funds, Harvard decided that discretion was the better part of valor and changed its mind.

As the Supreme Court stated in the infamous case of Wickard vs. Filburn, “It is hardly lack of due process for the government to regulate that which it subsidizes.”

Or to put it another way: “He who pays the piper calls the tune.”

In fact, Harvard’s decision reflects why U.S. officials have loved the welfare state ever since German statists came up with the entire welfare-state idea: the more that people are put on the government dole, the more they become dependent, obedient, and compliant.

Monday, October 3, 2005

Last night “Sixty Minutes” had a segment on Elian Gonzalez , the Cuban boy whom U.S. officials forcibly returned to Cuba five years ago to be with his father. The piece observed that the boy, who is now 11, has turned out to be strongly pro-Castro and is even held up as a model citizen and hero by Castro.

Not surprisingly, the segment raised the issue of brainwashing. Yet, while showing various film clips of Elian in Cuban public (i.e., government) school wearing a uniform, the segment scrupulously avoided mentioning the obvious: the powerful role that public (i.e., government) schooling plays in the molding of a child’s mind in favor of government philosophy and policies.

If only “Sixty Minutes” had pointed out that that is the primary mission of public schooling — to produce the “good, little citizen” whose mind, by the time he graduates, has conflated his country with his government, a government to which he pledges an allegiance that oftentimes becomes permanent and unconditional no matter what the government does.

When Elian is interviewed after five more years of public schooling — when he is 16 years old, it would not be surprising to hear him say how “free” the Cuban people are, based on the fact that the Cuban government provides them with free education and free health care, guarantees them housing and employment, and protects them from drugs and guns with strictly enforced laws.

As Goethe once put, “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”

Saturday, October 1, 2005

China’s most recent act of Internet censorship should provide hope for American libertarians.

According to Yahoo News,

“China said Sunday it is imposing new regulations to control content on its news Web sites and will allow the posting of only ‘healthy and civilized’ news.”

Why should this provide hope for American libertarians? Well, ask yourself: Why would one of the most powerful governments in the world — a government that owns all the guns and has loyal troops who will blindly obey orders — worry about whether Chinese citizens are visiting non-approved websites?

No, not because government officials are concerned with protecting the health and well-being of the citizenry. That’s just a lie issued by government officials to cover up the real reason for their censorship. The real reason is because Chinese government officials know the power of truth and ideas, especially ideas on freedom — and how truth and ideas can, simply by entering people’s minds, influence people into changing the entire direction of their nation, which scares Chinese government officials to death.

Truth and ideas can have the same power here in the United States, and U.S. officials know it, which is why they try to keep Americans from rationally thinking, through the use of emergencies, crises, threats, dangers, WMD, and false notions of patriotism. If truth and ideas have the potential of moving China away from paternalism, socialism, interventionism, and militarism, they have the potential of accomplishing the same thing here in the United States.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.