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, January 2008

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Thursday, January 31, 2008

An All-Abiding Faith in the Welfare-Warfare State

by Jacob G. Hornberger

Among the more amusing political mantras in the presidential race is that of Mitt Romney. “Washington is broken,” he declares, inevitably bringing cheers from Republican audiences. It’s as amusing as the popular mantra employed by the Democrats: “Change!”

They still just don’t get it. It’s not “Washington” that is broken. It’s the welfare-warfare state that Americans have lived under all their lives that is bankrupt in every sense of the term—morally, financially, and economically. People still just don’t want to face that harsh reality. For them, the welfare-warfare state is everything. That’s why many of them think it’s just a matter of changing the identity of people who are running the system.

Consider the welfare state. What part of it isn’t an absolute mess? Social Security? Medicare? Medicaid? The dollar? Education? Home mortgages? Foreign aid?

Every one of them is in crisis. Yet, people continue to pray for a political miracle, even while looking everywhere for scapegoats on which to blame the woes of their beloved welfare state. The most popular scapegoat, of course, is illegal immigrants. “They’re coming to take our welfare!” is the popular refrain, ignoring the quite obvious fact that the vast majority of illegal immigrants come here to work and improve their lives through labor. It’s only because the welfare state forces their participation through mandatory school-attendance laws, government-owned hospitals, and Medicaid that causes them to “take” people’s welfare.

It’s also amusing how people combine the welfare state with their religious beliefs. The more the government helps others, the more Christian everyone feels. Former Democrat presidential candidate John Edwards, who wants the welfare state to finally abolish poverty, is a good reflection of this mindset. But of course so is Republican President Bush who just this week endorsed increased federal funding of church-based drug-rehab programs.

Speaking of how religious the welfare state has made us, it’s also somewhat amusing how people continue trying their best to use the welfare state to get into everyone else’s pocketbook while, at the same time, using every tax device imaginable to protect their own pocketbooks from being looted by everyone else.

Meanwhile, while people are going to church every Sunday, no doubt to celebrate how religious everyone is because of the welfare state, no one ever discusses the holy welfare state’s attitude toward illegal aliens, who are among the world’s poorest people. Perhaps the feeling is that when Jesus said that God’s second-greatest commandment is “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” God only meant one’s next-door neighbor and certainly not citizens from other countries.

In any event, be prepared for more scapegoats, especially as the economic situation continues to deteriorate. While conservatives lambaste the illegal aliens, the liberals are now starting to chime in against the evil capitalist lenders. We’ll soon be hearing the condemnation of those horrible market creatures, the speculators. And as prices continue to soar, one of the favorite demons will be the price-gougers. Oh, and be sure to be prepared for the standard calls for price controls to protect us from all those greedy businessmen who are raising their prices to make all those “excess” profits.

What about the warfare state? Well, things aren’t faring there any better. The drug war? What bigger fiasco than that? Except of course Iraq. Iraq is now a country filled with terrorists who want to attack America, or so they tell us. Never mind that before the warfare state’s invasion of Iraq, there were no terrorists in Iraq who were trying to attack America. Of course, that enables the government to assume more power over Americans in order to protect them against all these new terrorists. I suppose some people might consider that a success. Did I mention Afghanistan, where opium dealing, murder, rape, and bombs have become a normal part of everyday life?

As the welfare-warfare state continues to crack at the seams, Americans will have no one to blame but themselves as things go from bad to worse. As they chant and cheer their empty mantras, not only do they continue to behave uncivilly to themselves as well as their foreigners, they continue to obstinately embrace their welfare-warfare state, believing that they will be saved by continuing to put their all-abiding faith in this immoral and debauched system.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Moral Degeneracy of Alternative Rationales for Invading Iraq
by Jacob G. Hornberger

One of the most disappointing parts of the Democratically controlled Congress has been its refusal to conduct a formal investigation into whether President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, and other U.S. officials knowingly, deliberately, and intentionally presented false rationales for invading Iraq.

Everyone knows that Bush and his associates issued many statements that later turned out to be false regarding Saddam’s WMDs. But it seems that most everyone in Congress (with some exceptions, of course) automatically accepted the official explanation that it was all just an honest mistake — that there was no mal intent to deceive the public into supporting the invasion.

That’s a shame, especially in a moral sense, given the enormous consequences of the invasion. Hundreds of thousands of people are now dead. Countless are maimed. Families have been decimated. Millions have fled the country. Museums have been ransacked. Neighborhoods have been religiously segregated. Prisons are overflowing. Torture, suicide bombers, terrorists. For all practical purposes, the country is destroyed.

Prior to the invasion, Bush presented two alternative rationales for invading — the dire WMD threat posed by Saddam and spreading democracy. The primary rationale — the one that scared most Americans into supporting the invasion — was the WMD threat that Americans were facing from Saddam. Recall Condoleezza Rice’s famous statement about smoking guns and mushroom clouds. Recall Colin Powell’s famous WMD charts before the UN.

Later, after the WMDs failed to materialize, Bush and his associates immediately shifted their primary rationale from WMDs to helping the Iraqi people achieve democracy.

An interesting aspect of relying on these two alternative rationales is that it makes both rationales suspect. Suppose China was about to unleash a nuclear attack on the United States. Does anyone honestly believe that U.S. officials would announce that emergency steps were being taken to defend the United States from this attack but that, alternatively, another reason for going to war would be to help the Chinese people achieve democracy?

That would be crazy. If a foreign nation attacks your country, as Japan did at Pearl Harbor, that nation becomes an enemy nation. Wouldn’t defense of your nation from such an attack be your only priority? How many Americans would be fighting to defend their country from a Chinese invasion while, alternatively, fighting to help the attackers achieve democracy?

There is another interesting aspect to the WMD rationale. Once it was discovered that there were no WMDs, there had already been many Iraqi people killed and maimed by U.S. forces. Wouldn’t you expect Bush and other U.S. officials to express at least some remorse over this very grievous error? After all, once the discovery was made that Saddam had in fact been telling the truth about the WMDs, one alternative would have been for President Bush to have announced, “I have made a very bad mistake. I thought Saddam was about to unleash WMDs on the United States and I led Americans into thinking that and fearing that. It now turns out that I was mistaken and that Saddam really had destroyed his WMDs. Yet, I have taken many Iraqi lives. I wish to apologize for my mistake and am hereby ordering the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces to the United States.”

Instead, Bush didn’t skip a beat. There was no apology, no remorse, no regret, no repentance over what was obviously one of the most important mistakes in history. They just kept moving forward with the invasion, quickly shifting to the democracy-spreading rationale. In other words, in the wink of an eye Iraq was shifted from the ranks of an enemy nation to the ranks of a friendly nation where U.S. officials were killing countless people in the name of helping the survivors achieve democracy.

Throughout the 1990s U.S. officials had one goal, as manifested by their brutal sanctions against Iraq: the ouster of Saddam from power and his replacement with a U.S.-approved stooge. If both the WMD rationale and the democracy-spreading rationale were nothing more than intentional deceptions designed to achieve that goal, what greater moral degeneracy than that, especially given the horrific consequences to the Iraqi people?

One would think that given all the horrible consequences, the duly elected representatives of the people in Congress would want to conduct a formal investigation into what would seem to be a rather important question: Did U.S. officials, from the president on down, knowingly, deliberately, and intentionally present fake and false rationales for their invasion and occupation of Iraq? Unfortunately, one gets the impression that all too many members of Congress, both Democrat and Republican, would rather not know.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Free Trade, Sovereignty, and Big Government
by Jacob G. Hornberger

I’m befuddled by those people who are worried about a conspiracy regarding a super-highway between Canada, Mexico, and the United States.

It seems that what concerns the super-highway opponents is the possibility that the governments of Canada, the United States, and Mexico will combine into one super-government, such as the European Union, and adopt a unified currency, much like the Euro.

So far, so good. I can understand why advocates of liberty would be concerned about a super-big government and a super-big-government fiat currency.

However, this is where things get murky because oftentimes it seems that the opponents of such a plan also oppose free trade. Even worse, they sometimes seem to endorse big-government efforts out of Washington, D.C., to interfere with free trade.

First of all, let’s keep in mind that in every trade both sides to the transaction benefit, from their own individual perspective. The fact that both sides voluntarily enter into a trade is confirmation of that phenomenon. The reason that each side benefits is that each party to a trade gives up something he values less for something he values more.

Thus, people’s standard of living can rise through the simple act of exchange. Suppose, for example, that one person has 10 apples and another person has 10 oranges. They trade 4 apples for 6 oranges. Both sides have benefited from the trade even though the apple owner gave up only 4 apples and the orange owner gave up 6 oranges. From their own individual perspective, they both gave up something they valued less for something they valued more. The standard of living of both persons went up.

A corollary of this principle then is: Whenever any government rule, regulation, edict, or law interferes with people’s ability to trade, it is interfering with their right to improve their standard of living.

Therefore, it becomes obvious from both a moral and utilitarian standpoint that people should be free to engage in mutual acts of trade without governmental interference. This is, in fact, the situation in the domestic United States, which is the largest free-trade zone in the world. By and large (with some exceptions, such as drug laws), people are free to transport goods across borders within the United States without governmental interference. That freedom is a major contributing factor to the relatively high standard of living experienced by Americans.

Obviously, these principles apply not only to trades with other Americans but also with people in other countries. Again, to the extent that two people, regardless of citizenship, enter into a mutual trade, they are both benefiting. Otherwise, they wouldn’t enter into the exchange.

Thus, the ideal, from the standpoint of freedom, is a situation in which Americans are free to enter into trades with anyone in the world. That would mean, obviously, that Americans could buy and sell across international borders as easily as they buy and sell across state borders.

That is, just as we don’t have customs officials at state borders to prevent goods from crossing state lines, there would be no customs officials at international borders to prevent goods from crossing international lines. People would be free to trade with others, both foreign and domestic, without governmental interference.

That’s what genuine freedom, free trade, and free enterprise connote — an absenceof government interference.

Yet, it seems that in their opposition to a unified political body and a unified currency, opponents of that plan sometimes support governmental suppression of free trade. Their seem to think that since a unified governmental unit will interfere with U.S. sovereignty, so would free trade, an odd conclusion given that there is no governmental involvement in free trade. (Again, the reason it’s called “free” is because it’s free of governmental interference). Moreover, as we all know, each state of the Union continues to maintain sovereignty and jurisdiction over the territory within its boundaries despite the fact that goods are crossing back and forth across state borders every day.

Moreover, in order to regulate and interfere with the millions of trades that would ordinarily take place across borders, it is obvious that one needs a very centralized, powerful government operating along the border, perhaps even with military troops, to interfere with such trades. It’s impossible to reconcile that position with a purported opposition to “big government” because it obviously takes a big government to perform that task.

So, what about the so-called super-highway? Well, as libertarians have long held, socialism in any endeavor, including highways, is not a good thing. But given that the American people have delegated the responsibility of highways to the government, why would it surprise anyone that governments build highways to facilitate trade. Isn’t that one of the justifications for the Interstate Highway System — that it facilitates the movement of goods across borders? Why would the principle be any different across international borders?

Those who are opposed to a unified government consisting of the governments of Mexico, Canada, and the United States are on the right track. But we must take care that we don’t permit that concern to lead us into opposing freedom and free trade.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Are Americans Facing a Perfect Storm?
by Jacob G. Hornberger

President Bush is advising the members of Congress not to load up his “economic-stimulus” package with a bunch of lard and pork. Unfortunately, he didn’t explain why. After all, if $800 in the hands of each taxpayer will “stimulate” the economy, why won’t a bunch of checks in the hands of favorite congressional supporters do the same?

In fact, why is President Bush being so miserly? If $800 per person will “stimulate” the economy, how about sending $10,0000 — no, $50,000—to every person, business, and organization. Heck, let’s make it an even $100,000. Think of the boost that “stimulus” will provide the economy!

Before everyone starts kneeling in gratitude to their federal daddy for sending them this allowance money, it’s important that people ask themselves an important question: Where is their daddy getting all this money to send them?

Given that the government is spending far is excess of what it brings in, there are only 3 possibilities.

First, taxes. With this approach, the government taxes each person $800 and then sends each person back $800. It should be obvious that under this method, a person gains nothing — unless the government taxes other people to get the money to send to him.

Second, borrowing. With this approach, the government must induce people to lend the $800 per person to the government, which it then sends back to the taxpayer. That means less money is available for private capital, e.g., home mortgages, which means more foreclosures. It also means that all that debt must ultimately be paid back, which means higher taxes down the line.

Third, printing the money through the Federal Reserve System. With this approach, the government simply prints the $800 and sends it out, causing the value of the dollar to continue plummeting. People pay the price in terms of higher prices for gas, groceries, cars, restaurants, movies, utilities, vacations, and the like. This is the most likely route that federal officials will take, given that most people won’t be able to figure out how their federal parent is sending them the free money.

The question is: Can this game, which has gone on for decades, go on indefinitely?

Consider, for example, the banking industry. Prior to the establishment of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, banks that could not honor their obligations to depositors would go under. Depositors would lose a part or all their money. That’s the nature of a free-market system—if you make the wrong investment, you bear the responsibility.

Then, along comes the federal daddy and announces that no longer will people lose their money from having chosen bad banks in which to deposit their money. Instead, the federal government would “insure” them against such occurrences. The government would be the people’s protector.

It’s not difficult to understand how such an “insurance” system works with respect to the fall of individual banks. When a bank goes down, the government simply taxes people to cover the losses of depositors in that bank.

But what happens if there is an industry-wide banking collapse? In that case, every depositor will be demanding that the government refund the money he has in the bank, up to $100,000, pursuant to his FDIC “insurance” policy.

But where will the government get the money to refund everybody’s money? You guessed it — in one of the three ways enumerated above — by taxing everyone, by borrowing from everyone, or by simply printing the money.

To discourage bank runs, over the years the government has steadily increased the amount of deposit insurance. But all it would take is one big panicky financial moment for depositors to appear at banks all across the land demanding their money for an industry-wide banking crisis to materialize. Then what?

Ever since the 1930s, people have put their faith in the paternalistic welfare state to take care of them, to watch over them, to guard them against the visisitudes of life. Today, every aspect of the welfare state is in crisis, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, home loans, the dollar, and more. For that matter, every aspect of the warfare state is also in crisis, including Iraq, Afghanistan, terrorism, civil liberties, privacy, torture, and more.

Time will tell whether Americans are facing a perfect storm of crises, both foreign and domestic. If so, a bit of pork and lard in an economic “stimulus” bill will be the last thing on people’s mind.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The War on Immigrants Is a War on Freedom
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Lost in the furor over the so-called immigration crisis is that the war on immigrants is a direct assault on both free enterprise and freedom of association, freedoms on which our nation was founded.

Despite the often-heard canard about immigrants going on welfare, the fact is that most immigrants come to the United States to better their lives by getting jobs. After all, how often do we ever hear about some illegal alien being caught filing false papers at the local welfare office? Answer: Hardly ever. Nor is this surprising, given the fact that most illegal aliens wish to stay as far away from government officials as possible, for fear of being detected, arrested, incarcerated, and deported.

The fact is that the vast majority of illegal aliens find their way into jobs in the private sector. To put it another way, American businessmen have voluntarily and willingly hired millions of illegal aliens to work in their businesses.

Why have they done that? Most likely it’s because immigrants work hard and are honest. If they didn’t have a strong work ethic and were not honest, American employers wouldn’t be hiring them.

When the employer and the immigrant enter into a working relationship, they both benefit, from their respective standpoints. Each one of them gives up something he values less for something he values more. Thus, while it’s tempting to conclude that employers “exploit” immigrants by paying them “low” wages, nothing could be further from the truth. By entering into the employment contract, the immigrant is essentially saying, “I’m better off with this job than without it.” By the same token, the employer is saying, “I’m better off with this immigrant than without him.” Both of them benefit from the relationship.

In fact, exploitation enters the picture as a result of immigration laws. Given that the illegal alien is subject to being reported, arrested, and deported, dishonest employers sometimes take advantage of that by refusing to pay illegal aliens the agreed-upon wage, knowing that it will be extremely difficult for the immigrant to do anything about it.

The working relationship between the American employer and Mexican (or other foreigner) employee goes to the heart of a free-enterprise system. Under principles of free enterprise, why shouldn’t an employer be free to hire anyone he wants? It’s his money, isn’t it? It’s his business, isn’t it? Why should the government have the right to interfere with what a person does with his own money?

The same principles apply to freedom of association. Doesn’t that right entail the right to associate with anyone a person pleases? If a businessman wishes to associate with a foreigner, either personally or in a business relationship, why shouldn’t he be free to do so? Under what moral authority does the government interfere with a person’s freedom to associate with another person?

Aren’t freedom of association, freedom of enterprise, and freedom of contract fundamental rights? Don’t such rights connote freedom from state interference? Under what moral authority does the state interfere with the exercise of fundamental rights?

Does this mean that people who don’t like associating with foreigners should be forced to do so? Of course not. If a businessman doesn’t want to hire foreigners, he shouldn’t be forced to do so. If a consumer doesn’t want to patronize a business that hires foreigners, his choice should be protected. No one should be forced to hire anyone or associate with anyone he doesn’t want to hire or associate with.

America was founded on the principles of individual freedom and limited government. Unfortunately, for the last several decades our nation has moved in the opposite direction, as manifested by such socialist and regulatory, big-government schemes as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the drug war, and protectionism. The war on immigrants, with its direct assault on free enterprise and freedom of association, is just one more example of this regrettable trend.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Libertarianism vs. Socialism and Interventionism
by Jacob G. Hornberger

One of the amusing parts of all the crises facing our nation — immigration, the dollar, Social Security, healthcare, Iraq, drug war, terrorism, foreclosures, and the rest — is when a supporter of the socialism and interventionism exclaims in frustration and exasperation, “Well, what is the libertarian solution to these crises?”

They just don’t get it. Libertarianism doesn’t pretend to be a philosophy designed to fix the problems arising from socialism and interventionism. It is simply a philosophy of freedom, one that produces a prosperous, peaceful, and harmonious society.

Consider, for example, Iraq. Here, the U.S. government has attacked, invaded, and occupied a country that has never attacked the United States. It has killed hundreds of thousands of people in the process. It has destroyed the country. It has produced a state of perpetual chaos, mayhem, and violence. It is now purporting to “rebuild” the nation it has destroyed.

What’s the favorite refrain of the interventionists? “Well, what’s your plan for Iraq?”

Well, libertarians don’t have a plan for Iraq. Why? Again, because libertarianism doesn’t pretend to be a philosophy that makes interventionism work. Instead, it is a philosophy that holds that interventionism is incapable of working. It is a philosophy that holds that it is morally wrong to invade a country that hasn’t attacked our country and kill people in the process. It is also a philosophy that holds that central planning, including the government “rebuilding” of a country, is doomed to fail.

Now, in the mind of the interventionist, that makes libertarianism impractical. If libertarianism cannot fix the messes that interventionism produces, the interventionist reasons, what good is it?

Consider a domestic example — healthcare. When Medicare and Medicaid were proposed, libertarians warned that adopting such programs would have a disastrous effect on America’s free-market healthcare system. Healthcare spending would soar through the roof, libertarians said, and one intervention would inevitably lead to more interventions in order to fix the problems arising from previous interventions.

The socialists prevailed, and today everyone acknowledges that healthcare is an absolute mess. Healthcare costs have soared. As each decade has passed, the socialists have enacted intervention on top of intervention to deal with the ever-increasing mess. Today, some of the socialists are even calling for a complete government takeover of healthcare, just like in socialist Cuba.

What’s the libertarian solution to the socialist healthcare crisis? Again, libertarianism doesn’t pretend to be a philosophy that cleans up socialist messes. It is a philosophy that entails the framework for a free, peaceful, and prosperous society. In the area of healthcare, that would mean a complete separation of healthcare and the state. That is, no Medicare, no Medicaid, no state licensure, no government involvement at all.

Would that automatically clean up all the perversions, distortions, and messes produced by decades of healthcare socialism? Of course not. But it would provide the basis for a healthy and prosperous healthcare system in the future — one based on the principles of free enterprise rather than of socialism and interventionism.

Unfortunately, it is apparent that most Americans remain wedded to socialism and interventionism, both in domestic and foreign affairs. One can only wonder how long Americans will continue to bang their heads against socialist and interventionist walls before finally figuring out that that’s why they continue to suffer so many headaches.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Ominous Message in Padilla
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Yesterday the presiding judge in the Jose Padilla case sentenced Padilla to 17 years in jail. Supporters of the “war on terrorism” might be tempted to smugly believe that the conviction and sentence vindicated what the government did to Padilla. They do not. What happened to Padilla continues to hang over the head of every independent-minded American like a Damocles sword.

The reason that our American ancestors added the Bill of Rights to the Constitution was twofold: (1) they didn’t trust federal officials when it came to their liberties, and (2) they understood that the greatest threat to their freedom lay with federal officials. Thus, while they believed that a federal government was necessary, they also understood the importance of enumerating express restrictions on federal power.

One of the legitimate purposes of government is to punish people who inflict violence on others. But our American ancestors understood that government could not be trusted with arbitrarily making the determination as to who was guilty and who wasn’t. Drawing on centuries of jurisprudence, stretching all the way back into English history, they understood the importance of judicial process in determining the guilt or innocence of a person whom the feds were accusing of a crime.

That’s where the procedural protections enumerated in the Bill of Rights come in, protections that stretch all the way back to the Magna Carta in 1215. The point was essentially this: Before the government will be permitted to punish a person for a crime, federal officials would have to follow a certain judicial process, one in which vital rights were guaranteed to the accused. Among these rights were the right to have a grand jury decide whether to indict you, the right to have a lawyer defend you, the right to confront the witnesses against you, the right to summon witnesses on your behalf, the right to remain silent, the right to a speedy trial, the right to due process of law, the right to be free of cruel and unusual punishments, and the right to a trial by jury.

The reason that the Padilla case is so ominous for the American people is that it established that the government now wields the post-9/11 power to ignore and violate all of those constitutional protections, as long as it is the Pentagon that is doing the ignoring and the violating.

In other words, the Padilla case did not wipe out these constitutional protections as far as the police are concerned. But it does stand for the proposition that all of these constitutional protections are wiped out insofar as the military is concerned. And this despite the fact that the Bill of Rights expressly applies to the entire federal government, not just the non-military parts of the federal government.

During the three years that the Pentagon held Padilla, he was never indicted by a grand jury. For much of that time, he was denied right to counsel. He had no due process rights. He was subjected to cruel and unusual punishments with sensory deprivation and sleep deprivation. He had no right to remain silent. He had no right to a jury trial.

The Pentagon’s denial of all these rights had absolutely no adverse effect on his ultimate criminal prosecution in federal court. The judge effectively held that despite all the things that the Pentagon had done to Padilla during those 3 years, including denying him a speedy trial, would not interfere with his subsequent prosecution and incarceration as a criminal defendant.

Moreover, don’t forget that the reason that Padilla ended up in federal court as a criminal defendant was entirely due to the discretion of the government. That is, the Pentagon’s position was — and continues to be — that if military officials had wanted to keep Padilla in military custody for the rest of his life, they had the power to do so.

Why is the Padilla case so important? Because it has established the extent of the post-9/11 power that the president and the Pentagon now wield over not just Padilla but over all Americans. Despite the express wording of the Bill of Rights, the president and the Pentagon, working together, now wield the omnipotent, dictatorial power to seize any and all Americans, railroad them into isolated detention camps, deny them access to attorneys and family, grand-jury review, due process of law, speedy trial, and trial by jury, and subject them to cruel and unusual punishments, including torture.

What is needed for the exercise of such power over any and all Americans? Just one simple thing: the labeling of the accused as an “enemy combatant” in the “war on terrorism.” Once a victim becomes the target of the “enemy combatant” label, he is a goner, until such point that the government decides, out of pure discretion, to move him into federal court as a criminal defendant, assuming it ever decides to do so.

How was this post-9/11 omnipotent, dictatorial power acquired? Was the Constitution amended after 9/11? Nope. It was simply announced by the president and the Pentagon. That’s how they effectively “amended” the Constitution to nullify the Bill of Rights.

So far, the Padilla doctrine has been applied to two Americans (and, of course, many foreigners.) But if America suffers another major terrorist “emergency,” which is entirely possible given the continued U.S. killing of Iraqis, Americans might yet get to see the full impact of the Padilla doctrine. It won’t be pretty. Just imagine dozens of Gitmos across the land housing hundreds or thousands of Americans where no one, not even the press, will be permitted access for many years.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Lou Dobbs and the Drug War
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Last night, CNN television commentator Lou Dobbs was commenting on the recent death of a Border Patrol agent at the hands of drug dealers along the border. The agent had used his vehicle to try to stop the Hummer that was being driven by the drug dealers. The drug dealers crashed into the agent’s vehicle, killing him, and then drove the Hummer back into Mexico where they escaped capture.

Dobbs blamed the deaths on the drug dealers and the so-called open-border policy of the U.S. government, which is one of his favorite rants.

What Dobbs fails to comprehend, however, is that he himself, along with other supporters of the war on drugs, are morally responsible for the death of that Border Patrol agent. That is, Dobbs and other drug-war supporters cannot escape moral responsibility for the agent’s death by simply pointing to the legal (and moral) responsibility of the drug dealers who killed him.

If the drug war had been ended years ago, as libertarians have long advocated, there would be no more drug gangs and drug lords. Those types of people survive and prosper only in black markets, not regular markets. If drugs were legalized, the people selling drugs would be pharmacies and other normally operating businesses, just as they were before U.S. officials made the sale and distribution of drugs illegal.

By putting drug gangs and drug lords out of business immediately, the legalization of drugs would obviously cause the types of occurrences that resulted in that Border Patrol’s death to immediately disappear. That is, there wouldn’t be drug gangs trying to smuggle drugs into the United States because, again, there wouldn’t be any more drug gangs. Given that there wouldn’t have been any more drug gangs, there wouldn’t have been the altercation that resulted in the Border Patrol agent’s death.

Yet, Dobbs and his drug-war cohorts just cannot let go of their beloved war, not even when it has gone on for more than three decades, with nothing but death, destruction, corruption, and failure to show for it. Even worse, they cannot bring themselves to take personal responsibility for its consequences. Like liberals and the welfare state, they inevitably exclaim, “Please, judge us by our good intentions, not by the actual results of our philosophy.”

Why do people like Dobbs continue to favor the drug war? Hope springs eternal in the minds of people who favor paternalistic government programs, whether the program is the drug war, Social Security, Medicare, immigration controls, trade protectionism, or the like. Despite all the crises, messes, and perversions that such programs produce year after year, decade after decade, their advocates continue to hope that some day an enterprising politician and bureaucrat will finally make them succeed.

But they will never succeed, at least not without a police state imposed within our country.

Look at North Korea and how it has sealed its borders. They’ll never admit it openly, but that is effectively the model of those who wish to seal the borders of the United States.

Look at the Berlin Wall. They’ll never admit it openly, but that is effectively the model of those who wish to build a wall along our Southern border.

Look at Cuba and its retirement, educational, and health care systems. They’ll never admit it, but that is effectively the model of those who wish that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and public schooling could finally be made to work.

What’s the alternative to socialism, interventionism, and a police state? Free markets, private property, and limited government, as libertarians have long maintained. Echoing the words of Ronald Reagan, libertarians exclaim, “Tear down these walls!”

Unfortunately, as a conservative Dobbs cannot bring himself to embrace free markets, private property, and limited government in the areas of trade, immigration, retirement, health care, and education. But wouldn’t it be nice if he, along with other conservatives and liberals, would take personal responsibility for the consequences of their beloved government programs. Taking moral responsibility for the death of that Border Patrol agent who died at the hands of drug dealers — and apologizing to his family — would be a good place to start.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Economic Stimulus Lunacy
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Obviously becoming increasingly concerned about the U.S. economy, President Bush is offering a band-aid solution: an “economic-stimulus package” entailing a federal welfare check of $800 being sent to every taxpayer. Oh, sure, he’s not calling it a welfare check. He’s calling it a “tax rebate” but in fact it’s nothing but a welfare check, one that he wants the welfare recipients to go out and spend to “boost the economy.”

What lunacy! But what the president has going for him is that most Americans have learned their economics in public schools and in state-supported universities. So, it’s all going to make sense to them, until they’re mugged by the reality of what happens when government spending bankrupts empires and the citizenry within empires.

First things first: The problem facing the American people is out-of-control federal spending. Such spending arises from both the welfare state and the warfare state. There is one — and only one — solution to this fundamental economic problem facing Americans — slash federal spending.

How likely is that possibility? Not likely at all. Americans are not about to tolerate any reduction in their domestic welfare programs and U.S. officials are not about to tolerate any reductions in military expenditures. The problem will remain. As Milton Friedman put it, the real burden of government is not the amount of taxes being collected but rather the total amount of government spending.

Ever since 9/11, the government has been spending far in excess of what it brings in with taxes. How has it accomplished this feat? Fearing taxpayer ire, U.S. officials simply borrowed the difference, throwing the government into ever-increasing mountains of debt. The borrowing sucked massive amounts of money out of the private capital markets, leaving less money for home mortgages than otherwise would have been the case. The feds also turned to foreigners for loans, which is how the Chinese communists became one of the federal government’s major creditors.

Ordinarily, those debts must be paid off. But rather than raise the taxes to pay off the debts, the Federal Reserve has agreed to simply print the money to pay off the debts, which is why the value of the dollar has cratered in the past 5 years, with more debasement undoubtedly coming down the pike.

Today, the government continues to spend much more money than it brings in with taxes. So ask yourself: How in the world does it perform the magical act of sending every taxpayer a welfare check of $800. Where is it going to get all the money to pay those $800 checks?

To understand the answer, you must first understand why it’s a welfare check and not a tax rebate. All the tax money that the IRS collected in 2007 has been spent. It’s gone. It’s not in a tax fund. Therefore, no one is having his tax money refunded to him. Keep in mind, after all, that the feds are not telling everyone to reduce their 2008 taxes by $800 when they file their income tax returns in April. They’re sending everyone an $800 check even though they’ve spent all the 2007 tax revenues.

So, where are they getting the $800 payments? You guessed it! They’re borrowing it! That’s right — they’re adding to the debt that taxpayers are ultimately responsible to pay back! And their plan is to use the Federal Reserve to simply print the money to pay the debt back so that taxpayers don’t realize how they’re being duped. After all, how many Americans realize that a debased dollar and rising prices are a direct result of the Federal Reserve? Don’t most Americans blame rising prices on speculators, greedy capitalists, OPEC, illegal aliens, terrorists, free enterprise, or (my favorite) “unseen forces”?

Unfortunately, government officials, from the first grade on up, have ingrained into Americans that the key to prosperity is borrowing and consumption rather than savings and capital. With the power of indoctrination, Americans have been led to believe that massive government spending is the key to their economic salvation. Failing to understand that the federal government is the primary cause of their economic woes, they continue to look to the federal officials to bail them out of their economic plight. Thus, Americans will undoubtedly fall for this economic-stimulus nonsense, even as the welfare-warfare state and its massive, uncontrolled spending continue to take them down as well as our nation.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Empire and the Economy
by Jacob G. Hornberger

It’s quite amusing to watch U.S. officials, presidential candidates, and mainstream-media types presenting their pet plans to “revive the economy.” Except for Ron Paul, they all operate on the assumption that a recession, like terrorism, is some sort of mysterious disease that periodically afflicts societies. Their diagnosis of the problem is similar to the one we were all taught about the Great Depression — that this is one of the failures of the free-enterprise system. Thus, it’s not surprising that their plans call for such things as an “economic stimulus package” entailing such band-aid solutions as welfare spending, tax cuts, and the like.

Notice one glaring omission in all their analyses: Iraq and Afghanistan and, specifically, the hundreds of billions of dollars that have gone into these imperial adventures. As we have been warning here at FFF for several years, the out-of-control federal spending was ultimately going to have a disastrous financial and economic effect on the American people. Yet, most people continued to operate under the quaint delusion that a government can continue to spend uncontrolled amounts of money without any adverse effect on the citizenry.

Consider the home-mortgage crisis. According to the military adventurers, this reflects nothing more than a failure of free markets, including over-exuberant lenders and borrowers as well as that favorite of all free-market demons, the speculator.

Yet, ask yourself: How was it going to be possible for the federal government to spend hundreds of billions of dollars — on top of all the other hundreds of billions of dollars it was already spending — without an adverse economic effect on the American people?

Did people really think that all this military adventurism, including the destruction and rebuilding of Iraq, was going to be free? Sadly, many of them did. They had no idea that they would have to pay an individual price for such folly.

Ever since the out-of-control federal spending began after 9/11, President Bush steadfastly maintained that he would not raise taxes. People praised him, not daring to ask how he was going to magically come up with the hundreds of billions of dollars he would need to fund his adventures. People just thought to themselves, “Someone else will end up paying for it, not me. So why should I care?”

How did the president get the money? He simply borrowed it. Federal officials went into domestic marketplace and borrowed capital that would ordinarily have been available for civilian use, such as the financing and re-financing of homes. Despite the fact that the U.S. is the wealthiest society in the world, there is still only a limited amount of capital available, especially given the no-saving proclivity of the American people. Thus, when U.S. officials borrowed their hundreds of billions of dollars, that contributed to the drying up of capital for other purposes. I wonder how many people who are now suffering a severe decrease in the value of their home and even the possibility of foreclosure applauded when the president announced his invasion of Iraq.

But that wasn’t all. Given the enormous amounts of money needed to finance the president’s destroy-and-rebuild follies, U.S. officials also had to go into international markets to borrow money. That’s how the Chinese communists became the holders of massive amounts of U.S. debt. They loaned Bush the money he needed to finance his adventures. Americans had better hope that the Chinese communist regime never decides to make a panic run for the exits by dumping its dollar holdings because the economic result is not likely to be pretty. Of course, if that were to happen, no doubt U.S. imperialists would castigate those evil communist lenders rather than take responsibility for the disastrous consequences of their own imperial schemes.

Ultimately, all that debt must be paid off. Would Bush raise taxes to pay it off? Not on your life — that would mean taxpayer ire, especially at election time. So, how does he propose to pay off the debt? Well, that’s where the Federal Reserve comes in. Americans are about to learn once again what Latin Americans learned long ago — the value of a central bank to a profligate ruler. To help out the ruler, the central bank simply prints the money to pay off the debt the ruler has incurred. It’s a process that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has already initiated.

What happens to the value of the dollar when the Fed starts printing the money to pay off the debt? It goes down. More dollars mean less value. That’s why the dollar has plummeted in value some 50 percent against the Euro in the past 5 five years alone. In fact, the Fed’s decades-long policy of debt accommodation is also why the value of the dollar has steadily declined for the past 70 years.

How is the crashing value of the dollar reflected in the marketplace? By rising prices across the board. That’s why just about every commodity has been soaring for the past few years. After all, how else can the plummeting value of a currency be reflected than by rising prices?

But the beauty of this process, from the standpoint of those who brought on these imperial follies, is that everyone and everything else can be blame for them — speculators, greedy lenders and borrowers, entrepreneurs, immigrants, and the free market. Who’s going to suspect that the real culprit of people’s economic woes is the federal government itself — or, more precisely, the welfare-warfare state whose out-of-control federal spending threatens the financial and economic well-being of the American people?

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Conservative Blind Eye on Empire
by Jacob G. Hornberger

One of the things that has long fascinated me about conservatives is how eager they always are to criticize foreign regimes while, at the same time, steadfastly maintaining a blind eye to wrongful policies and practices of the U.S. government. For example, a conservative will rail against the evils of socialism but then use the educational and health care systems in Cuba and Venezuela as his example rather than the educational and health care systems of the United States.

A good example of this conservative phenomenon occurs in today’s Washington Times, which is a paragon of conservatism. In an article entitled “China’s Paths to Hegemony,” writer Richard Halloran describes the growing threat from China’s foreign policy. He points out that China is building up its stock of warships, fighter planes, and missiles and is also conducting war games.

But that’s not all that concerns Halloran. He says that there is another side that should concern people — the “soft power” in which China is engaging — or what Halloran calls, ominously, a “charm offensive.” What he’s referring to is the “application of China’s expanding economy trade, aid and investment to achieve political ends.”

Here’s the crux of the “soft power” threat that has Halloran so concerned:

“In a wider context, China’s soft power seems integral to what may be a campaign to revive the Middle Kingdom, the China of yesteryear that dominated Asia. Chinese armies won’t march across international borders but rather Beijing seeks to acquire such political, economic and diplomatic clout that major decisions in every Asian capital will require Chinese approval.”

What Halloran fails to point out, is that all that China is doing is simply copying the foreign policy of the U.S. government. After all, isn’t the U.S. government on a never-ending quest to acquire more military armaments than the entire world combined? Isn’t the U.S. government forever engaged in war games, which unlike China’s war games, extend to all parts of the globe, including the Middle East?

Moreover, while it’s true that the U.S. government goes much further than the Chinese government in expanding its overseas empire, such as with assassinations, murders, kidnappings, coups, invasions, and occupations, a core element of U.S. foreign policy has long been the installation or purchase of puppets in charge of foreign regimes.

In fact, that was what Iraq has been all about. Do you recall when the U.S. government was in partnership with Saddam Hussein, when U.S. officials were delivering those infamous WMDS to Saddam and even helping him to use themagainst the Iranian people?

That was when U.S. officials thought that Saddam was part of the U.S. Empire team, a puppet who would do their bidding when called upon to do so. As long as there was that understanding, what Saddam Hussein did to his own people was totally irrelevant to U.S. officials. But once U.S. officials realized that Saddam could not be controlled, it became necessary to oust him from office, either through a brutal system of sanctions, assassination, coup, or ultimately an invasion.

It’s also what Iran has been all about. Recall that U.S. officials, operating through the CIA, ousted the democratically elected prime minister of Iran because he refused to become a team player in the U.S. Empire. They replaced him with one of the world’s most brutal dictators, the Shah of Iran, a man who proceeded to torture and tyrannize his own people for the next 25 years. When the Iranian people ultimately revolted against the Shah’s (and the U.S. government’s) tyranny, they installed a regime that refused to become a puppet of the U.S. Empire, which is what has earned Iran the ever-lasting enmity of the U.S. Empire.

It’s been the same with Pakistan, where the U.S. government has flooded millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars into the coffers of one of the world’s most brutal dictators, one that was even a close friend of the Taliban in Afghanistan prior to the 9/11 attacks. The dictator, who is a former military general, recently fired the country’s “independent” Supreme Court and jailed lawyers and judges for opposing his dictatorship. All that doesn’t matter to U.S. offciials, however, as long as the dictator, Pervez Musharraf, continues to be part of the U.S. Empire. If he were to go independent, there is no doubt that he would suffer the same fate as Saddam Hussein.

Is any of this in Halloran’s article? Of course not. In the conservative mind, the U.S. government, with its pro-empire, interventionist foreign policy, is sancrosanct and sacred. It’s only foreign regimes that are subject to criticism, even when they are doing nothing more than copying the policies and practicies of the U.S. Empire.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Empire, Interventionism, and the Wall Street Journal
by Jacob G. Hornberger

On January 15, the Wall Street Journal carried a strange article entitled “Ron Paul and Foreign Policy” by Bret Stephens, a member of the Journal’s editorial board, which criticized Ron Paul’s libertarian foreign-policy views.

Taking libertarians to task for embracing a policy of non-intervention in the Middle East (and the rest of the world), Stephens pointed to 18th-century attacks by Barbary Pirates to make his case against noninterventionism. He claimed that private shippers would have been unable to hire or provide protection from piracy and, therefore, had to rely on the federal government to protect them from the pirates.

Even if Stephens’ point about piracy is correct, which is problematic, isn’t it a bit of stretch to go from there to a foreign policy that entails support of dictatorships (e.g., Saddam Hussein, the Shah of Iran, Pervez Musharraf, Augusto Pinochet, etc.), partnerships with terrorists (e.g., Osama bin Laden), invasions and wars of aggression against countries that have not attacked the U.S. (e.g., Iraq, Grenada, Panama, Korea, Vietnam), foreign aid, military bases in more than 100 countries, an ever-expanding military industrial complex, torture and sex abuse, rendition, secret overseas prisons, and denial of due process and kangaroo military courts?

Not surprisingly, at no time in his article did Stephens take personal responsibility for the actual fruits of empire and interventionism — i.e., out of control federal spending, a crashing dollar, financial and economic crises, terrorist blowback, and anger and rage against America among the people of the world. No doubt his position is the same as that of liberals when confronted by the bitter fruits of the welfare state: Please, judge me by my good intentions, not by the actual results of my policies.

Stephens also makes a bizarre claim about how libertarianism is akin to pacifism.

What?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t pacifism a total belief in non violence, including a refusal to defend one’s self from a violent attack? Doesn’t Stephens know that while libertarians oppose the initiation of force (which distinguishes them from both conservatives and liberals), libertarians do support the use of force for self-defense? It would seem that Stephens has reached the strange conclusion that because libertarians oppose wars of aggression, such as the war on Iraq, they must oppose defensive wars as well.

Finally, in his article Stephens cattily refers to “the libertarian conceit” and “Dr. Paul’s cult-like following.” His reference brings to mind the libertarian Nobel Prize winning economist Friedrich Hayek’s famous book “The Fatal Conceit,” which criticized those who have an unshakeable belief in government central planning and in the cult of the omnipotent state.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Strange Way to Spread Peace and Democracy
by Jacob G. Hornberger

During his current trip to the Middle East to spread peace and democracy, President Bush announced that the U.S. Government is selling 900 satellite missiles to Saudi Arabia as part of a $20 billion arms sale to that country.

Pardon me, but don’t U.S. officials tell us that Saudi Arabia is one of the threats to the security of Israel? Isn’t that one of the reasons that the U.S. government floods Israel with military aid?

Well, according to the New York Times, it might be the other way around. Today’s issue states, “The $20 billion package was proposed last summer as a counterweight to a new American commitment to provide Israel with 30 billion in military aid.”

Just another day in the life of the peace-loving and democracy-spreading U.S. empire.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Anti-Immigrant Attacks on Free Enterprise and Private Property
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Have you noticed that the anti-immigrant crowd is remaining remarkably silent about the latest battle over their beloved Berlin Wall that they are constructing along the entire Southern border of the United States?

The battle is between the U.S. government and private owners of private property along the Rio Grande south of Laredo, Texas. Private landowners are refusing to permit federal officials to access their property for the purpose of surveying the property and constructing their Berlin Wall. The landowners have the quaint notion that the land belongs to them rather than the federal government. They don’t want the wall on their property, especially since in some cases it runs right behind their homes.

But wait a minute! Don’t these people know that America is a national homeland owned by the federal government? Isn’t this what anti-immigrant conservatives have been telling us? Haven’t they been saying that the federal government, as the owner of our national homeland, wields the power to keep people from breaking into our national home?

So, why the silence among anti-immigrant conservatives over what would seem to be a rather obvious point? Under their national homeland philosophy, which, by the way, is also the socialist mindset that Fidel Castro has toward Cuba, why should the federals have to concern themselves with private landowners? Why not just send in federal troops and federal tanks to overcome any resistance to the federal government’s ownership of our national homeland? Why should private owners of private property be permitted to interfere with federal ownership of America and federal construction of a Berlin Wall within our national homeland?

Some people are suggesting that the federal government use its powers of eminent domain to compensate landowners for the property taken to build the Wall. But wait a minute! Why should the feds (i.e., the taxpayers) have to pay for what is already supposedly theirs? Why should they be required to use eminent domain to forcibly take what is supposedly already theirs?

The problem isn’t arising in states like Arizona and New Mexico because the government already owns much of the land that adjoins Mexico in those two states. But unlike the residents of Arizona and New Mexico, Texans have never been enamored with the socialist concept of public (i.e., government) ownership of land. With the major exception of the federally owned Big Bend National Park, most of Texas is privately owned, including farms and ranches along the border.

For decades, the war on immigrants has constituted a direct assault on free enterprise and free markets, especially with its socialist central planning and its terrifying raids on businesses. As landowners in Texas are discovering, the war on immigrants also constitutes a direct assault on private property. Is it any wonder that so many conservatives who long ago embraced the socialism of the welfare state are so enthusiastic about it?

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Toward Militarism, War, Empire, Caskets, and Bankruptcy
by Jacob G. Hornberger

When U.S. intelligence agencies recently surprised the nation with their National Intelligence Estimate announcement that Iran had ceased its nuclear-weapons program several years ago, many people, including ardent supporters of the president, felt that the announcement put to rest any chance of a war against Iran.

Not so fast! After all, did the disintegration of the WMD rationale for invading Iraq dissuade the interventionists from continuing their invasion of Iraq and occupying the country and continuing to kill Iraqis for several years after that?

The incident in the Gulf of Tonkin — excuse me, Gulf of Hormuz — this past week confirms how easy it is for an American ruler to send the entire nation into war, especially given that he is now permitted to ignore the constitutional provision requiring a congressional declaration of war. If the captains of those U.S. battleships and destroyers had blown those Iranian speedboats out of the water, one can already hear Bush and Cheney proclaiming, “We’ve been attacked! We’ve been attacked! The Department of Defense is responding by defending our nation from this attack by bombing Iran. Support the troops. God bless America!”

Question: If China, Iran, and Venezuela sent a fleet of destroyers and battleships into the Gulf of Mexico for joint war games, how would U.S. officials respond? Wouldn’t they go ape?

Question: What’s the point of sending a fleet of warships into the Middle East if it’s not to poke hornets’ nests? Surely, U.S. officials aren’t claiming the Muslims are getting ready to board millions of troops onto tens of thousands of Muslim naval vessels in preparation for an imminent invasion of the United States.

Of course, in the old days, when the president was expected to comply with the Constitution, the president would have to go to Congress, which would decide whether such an incident warranted going to war against a nation. Today, the Decider decides whether to declare war, no matter what the Constitution says. Poking hornets’ nests can play an important role in that process.

Amidst all the political fanfare about “change,” if anyone was hoping for a change away from the machismo, militarism, and empire that has held our nation in its grip, last night’s Republican presidential debate confirmed that change isn’t going to come from that direction (Ron Paul excepted, of course).

What was fascinating was watching how conflicted these people are within their own minds. They first point out that yes, America is faced with economic problems. They then point out that it’s all because Washington, D.C., is “broken” and that each of them is the man who can finally fix the nation’s capital. They then say that the U.S. should continue expanding its overseas empire, especially in the Middle East. Of course, no department or agency of the federal government should be abolished.

It’s all just a mishmash of thinking that boils down to this: “Give the power of the welfare-warfare state to me. Put your faith in me.”

They just don’t get it — or maybe they do. The problem is not that Washington, D.C., is broken. It’s that their beloved welfare-warfare philosophy is broken and bankrupt in every sense of the term — morally, financially, and economically. The dollar, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, Iraq, immigration, trade, foreign policy, housing, drug war — all broken and bankrupt. After decades of welfare-warfare failure and catastrophe, the chickens are finally coming home to roost.

And all these people can do is summon the ghost of Ronald Reagan and call for “tax cuts,” no matter how much the Federal Reserve must continue to debase the dollar to finance the ever-increasing debt to pay the ever-increasing expenses of this federal monstrosity.

One of the weirdest parts of the debate came when they were praising Ronald Reagan’s “defense” buildup, which, they said, brought down the Soviet Union. Yeah, never mind that it was out-of-control government spending that brought down the Soviet Union. That just can’t happen to the U.S. Empire. After all, we’ll just continue borrowing the money from the Chinese communists!

One amusing moment in the debate was when Paul pointed out (I’m paraphrasing): “Let me see if I understand this correctly. You people want to go out and borrow millions of dollars from the Chinese communists in order to give the money to the unelected dictator of Pakistan while you’re continuing to kill people in Iraq for the sake of democracy.”

What was amazing was that you could tell from the faces of the other candidates that they didn’t see anything odd about any of that.

If America continues to move in the same direction of militarism, interventionism, war, and welfarism and if all this pushes our nation into a perfect storm of financial, monetary, and economic crises, combined with lots of caskets containing the remains of U.S. soldiers as well as victims of terrorist blowback, Americans will be left with a sad lament: “If only we had listened to the libertarians rather than the welfare-warfare statists who took us down this road.”

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Dying to Kill U.S.-Produced Terrorists
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Yesterday, I wrote about the U.S. military offensive that is currently taking place against Iraqi insurgents in Diyala Province in Iraq. The New York Times is reporting that six U.S. soldiers were killed yesterday in that operation. Let’s examine the meaning of their deaths in the larger context of U.S. foreign policy.

The first thing to keep in mind is that neither the Iraqi people nor the Iraqi government had anything to do with 9/11. Neither of them had ever attacked the United States when the U.S. government invaded Iraq.

Yet today, U.S. officials tell us that Iraq is filled with “terrorists,” an amorphous term that includes Iraqi insurgents who are trying to end the foreign occupation of their country. U.S. troops are killing these “terrorists,” U.S. officials tell us, in order to protect “our freedoms” here in the United States. That’s what those six soldiers died for yesterday, U.S. officials would say.

Pardon me but isn’t there something faulty with such reasoning?

Let’s assume that Country A attacks Country B and that citizens of Country B organize a resistance to the invasion and even plan counter-attacks against Country A.

Can Country A claim that the resistance to its invasion and occupation and the counterattacks by the citizens of Country B now provide moral and legal justification for its invasion, war of aggression, and occupation of Country B?

Can Country A really claim that its soldiers are dying for “freedom” because they are killing citizens of Country B who are resisting the invasion and who are also planning counterattacks on Country A?

By that line of reasoning, wouldn’t modern-day Germans be able to argue that Germany’s invasion of Poland was morally and legally justified because of the resistance that Polish citizens put up against the German invasion and occupation of their country and by their plans to counterattack Germany?

Now, some people argue that it is okay for U.S. forces to occupy Iraq and kill Iraqis because Iraqi citizens who are resisting the occupation of their country have aligned themselves with al-Qaeda. But again, didn’t this take place after the U.S. invasion of Iraq? Or to put it another way, didn’t the invasion itself produce this phenomenon? Or to put it another way, didn’t the U.S. invasion produce the very terrorist threat that is now being used to justify the continued occupation of the country and the continued killing of Iraqi people?

Among the many rationales that the Bush administration provided for invading Iraq was the “magnet” rationale. The notion was that by invading Iraq, the country would serve as a “magnet” for al-Qaeda terrorists so that U.S. forces could fight al-Qaeda there rather than here in the United States. In my article “Is Bush’s War on Terrorism a War Crime?” I explained how that rationale was a ludicrous and immoral attempt to justify the war crime of attacking and invading another country.

It’s ludicrous because human beings are not iron filings. They have the ability to make choices. A member of al-Qaeda can choose whether to come to the United States to commit a terrorist attack or go to Iraq to kill U.S. soldiers. He is not deprived of that choice simply because U.S. troops in Iraq make easier targets.

Second, where is the morality of using a third country, a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, to serve as magnet battlefield, especially since hundreds of thousands of citizens of the magnet country are going to have to die and their entire country is going to be destroyed in the process?

Third, why would it surprise anyone that third parties, such as al-Qaeda and others in the Middle East, would come to the defense of Iraqi citizens trying to oust their country of an unlawful invader and occupier? After all, didn’t the U.S. government come to the assistance of Afghani insurgents who were doing their best to oust their country of the Soviet invader and occupier? Didn’t U.S. officials and Osama bin Laden, a foreigner, even enter into a partnership to help Afghanis oust the Soviets from Afghanistan?

As I wrote yesterday, the Diyala operation is a microcosm of U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. government embarks on a course of action that produces the anger and rage that gives rise to people who wish to attack U.S. forces and the United States. Then, the U.S. government claims, “The terrorist threat (that we produced) proves that we were right to take such action in the first place. This is why we must continue the action — to kill the terrorists (that we produced and continue to produce with our killing). Our troops are dying to protect our freedoms from such terrorists.”

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Bad Policies Bring Bad Consequences
by Jacob G. Hornberger

No matter how the election results continue to go in the Democratic and Republican primaries, one thing is clear: The U.S. government is going to continue occupying Iraq for the indefinite future and killing Iraqis in the process. For example, just this week U.S. forces conducted a major offensive operation against what U.S. commanders call “the enemy” located in Diyala Province, about 60 miles north of Baghdad. The “enemy” that U.S. forces are trying to kill consists of Sunni insurgents

Now, let’s look at this carefully because it’s actually a microcosm of U.S. foreign policy and its adverse effects on both foreigners and Americans.

In its operation against the Sunni insurgents, the U.S. government is killing Iraqi people, people who never participated in the 9/11 attacks. In fact, none of the Sunni insurgents that U.S. forces are targeting ever attacked the United States.

So, why are U.S. forces trying to kill these Sunni insurgents? Because the insurgents don’t want a foreign invader and occupier in their country and are doing their best to oust the occupier from their land.

To understand their reasoning, imagine if the Soviet Union had invaded, say, Afghanistan. Suppose Afghan insurgents had begun operations against Soviet troops, perhaps even with weapons supplied to them my friendly foreign powers.

Wouldn’t most Americans proclaim that the Afghan insurgents were doing the right thing in trying to oust their country of a foreign invader and occupier? Wouldn’t they condemn the Soviets for invading and occupying Afghanistan? Isn’t that what the current movie “Charlie’s War” is all about?

Yet, when the U.S. government does the same thing, many Americans get a blind spot — the same blind spot that afflicted some Soviet citizens who felt that it was their patriotic duty to support their government and its troops when they invaded and occupied Afghanistan.

What the interventionists do not understand is that people get angry when a foreign power kills or maims their husbands, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, or other relatives and friends. The interventionists seem to think that such anger or rage only rises within Americans, such as when foreigners attacked and killed Americans on 9/11. The interventionists simply will not permit their minds to entertain the thought that that’s what happens to foreigners who are killed or maimed by U.S. forces operating overseas.

Let’s assume that a relative of a Sunni insurgent killed at Diyala Province makes his way to the United States and blows up a federal building. What will U.S. officials say? Whether the president is Bush, Clinton, Huckabee, Guliani, Obama, or McCain, the response will be predictable. They will say that the attack shows that America is still at war against “the terrorists.” They will say that this confirms that U.S. officials acted properly in enacting all their anti-terrorist legislation; and they’ll call for more such legislation. They will say that this confirms that we must tighten up our borders even more, even militarize them. They will say that this will require a new reign of terror against immigrants. They will say that Americans will have to give up a few more liberties for the sake of security. Government spending will soar even more, producing an even more calamitous drop in the value of the dollar.

And the sad part of all this is that many American will not trace the entire process back to the fact that their government — the U.S. government — is occupying a country whose government never attacked the United States and whose citizenry played no role whatsoever in the 9/11 attacks. All that will matter is, “The terrorists are coming to get us! Do something! Do anything!”

The newest mantra arising in the campaign season is that “change” is necessary because “Washington is broken” because of partisan politics. People are hoping that “change” will bring a man on a white horse who will fix and unite Washington..

But the fundamental problem is not that Washington is broken. It’s that the federal government is doing very bad things to people overseas, sometimes even in the name of doing it for their own good. Those very bad things have very bad consequences. Until Americans finally confront the truth about their own government and its policies and put a stop, once and for all, to the bad things that they are doing to people, bad things will continue to happen to the American people.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Why Is the Media Ignoring the Racist War on Drugs?
by Jacob G. Hornberger

One of the unfortunate aspects of the presidential race, so far, has been the refusal of the media to bring up one of the most important issues of our time — the drug war, especially given its racist consequences.

While the decades-long drug war has destroyed countless American families, the part of American society that has paid the biggest price is African Americans. The drug war is the biggest racist government program since segregation. For a good reference for the racist aspects of the war on drugs, one can begin with the following articles posted on the website of the Drug Policy Alliance:

Is the Drug War Racist?

The Racial History of U.S. Drug Prohibition

A New Slavery

Rockefeller History

What better way to disenfranchise blacks than through felony drug convictions? Just think — you don’t need to have members of the Ku Klux Klan threatening blacks who vote. All you need is some well-placed drug-war informants who testify that blacks are ingesting drugs and — voila! — felony convictions that deprive them of their right to vote.

Consider what happened, for example, in Tulia, Texas. An acclaimed (white) law-enforcement officer was able to wipe out a large section of the black community in town by testifying that blacks had purchased drugs from him. His testimony enabled the judge and jury to send the defendants to jail for decades.

Think of the beauty of such a program, at least from the standpoint of bigots, and the advantages it has over segregation. With segregation, racists are able to keep blacks within restricted zones within a community. But with the drug war, they’re able to remove the blacks entirely from a community and restrict them into the walls of a prison. And also deny them the right to vote.

The Tulia victims were lucky. Their lawyers were ultimately able to gain their release by showing that that acclaimed (white) law-enforcement officer had committed perjury.

But how many others are languishing in prison for drug offenses, either false or legitimate?

Ask yourself: Why should anyone be in prison for possessing or ingesting drugs? Why should the state have that power over anyone? How can drug laws be reconciled with the fundamental principles of freedom? What business does the state have in punishing a person for doing something that doesn’t involve the initiation of force against another person? Should the state really have that kind of power over people in a free society?

As most everyone knows, life can sometimes become very difficult. Some people able to confront the difficulties of life without the help of mind-altering substances, but others are unable to do so. The rich and well-to-do can go to their friendly doctor and get a prescription for Prozac or Zoloft to help them get through life’s pains. The poor oftentimes cannot afford such legal luxuries and thus turn to cheaper stuff, such as marijuana or cocaine.

Hardly anyone is going to argue that any of these substances is healthy but the fact is that some people need them to get through the difficulties of life. Shouldn’t that be their business rather than the business of the state? Wouldn’t it be better if we treated every person — rich and poor, white and non-white — with the dignity of letting him make his own choices in life, even when such choices are ones with which we disagree? Anyway, isn’t there a much better chance that a drug addict is going to seek help with a drug addiction when he can be open and aboveboard with people about his problem without fearing like he might be busted and sent to jail?

In December, in an article entitled “Report Shows Racial Impact of Drug War Policies in Counties across U.S.,” the Drug Policy Alliance stated,

“A new report by the Justice Policy Institute found that 97 percent of the nation’s large-population counties imprisoned African Americans at a higher rate than whites. Of 198 counties examined in the report, 193 showed racial disparities in the use of prison for drug offenses. While African Americans and whites use and sell drugs at similar rates, the report revealed that African Americans are ten times more likely than whites to be imprisoned for drug offenses.”

Maybe the reason that the media is choosing to not focus on the drug war during the presidential race is that it would prefer to let sleeping dogs lie. Why stir up people needlessly, especially since African American politicians seem to be rather silent on the subject?

But sometimes sleeping dogs should be stirred up. Perhaps it’s time for American blacks to do the stirring, since they are paying the biggest price for one of the most racist government programs in American history.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The “Change” Claptrap
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Amidst all the claptrap about “change” among both Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, perhaps we should remind ourselves what the candidates (except Ron Paul) mean by the term “change.” What they mean is simply a change in the identities or party affiliations of those who wield the levers of the omnipotent government they support.

As I often tell people (mostly to the chagrin of conservatives because they don’t like to hear it), philosophically there ain’t a dime’s worth of difference between a conservative and a liberal. They both believe in such things as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public (i.e., government) schooling, trade restrictions, economic regulations, immigration controls, subsidies, drug laws, government-business partnerships, welfare, income taxation, paper money, the Federal Reserve System, foreign aid, a standing army, foreign intervention, and foreign wars.

Of course, the amusing (and tragic) part of all this is that all the presidential candidates (except, again, Ron Paul) consider these programs to be “freedom.” Never mind the programs are also core elements of Fidel Castro’s communist and socialist “paradise” in Cuba. And never mind that genuinely freedom-loving Americans once lived without such programs.

What would real change mean? It would entail a demolishing of all these programs, which would restore economic liberty, free markets, private property, and a limited-government republic to our land.

That in turn would restore America’s role as the model for the freest, most peaceful, prosperous, harmonious, and moral nation in the world.

Of course, that type of genuine change is what libertarianism is all about.

In the meantime, unfortunately we have to suffer through the insufferable political battles over who is going to be new person who is going to wield omnipotent power over our lives and fortunes.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Friday, January 4, 2008

181 Dead People Obeyed D.C.’s Gun-Control Law
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Last Saturday, the Washington Post reported a statistic that cannot possibly be true. The Post said that gun violence rose in Washington, D.C., in 2007, resulting in 181 killings. Non-fatal shootings were also up.

How can that possibly be true? Everyone knows that there is very strict gun control in Washington. How can there be gun violence where there is gun control? Don’t killers obey D.C.’s gun-control law?

I wonder how many of those Washington, D.C., victims wished they had a gun at the time they were being gunned down by murderers who failed to obey D.C.’s gun-control law.

Oh well, at least D.C. officials can take solace that at least those 181 good and law-abiding people obeyed D.C.’s gun-control law, even if it did cost them their lives.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Conservatives Are Responsible for the Plummeting Dollar
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Since yesterday, I caught snippets of interviews by two well-known Fox News conservatives — Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity. The interviews showed once again what strange and unusual creatures conservatives are.

Both of them were criticizing the libertarian position of non-intervention in foreign affairs, actually arguing that the U.S. government needed to continue intervening in the Middle East and the rest of the world.

At the same time, Hannity was lamenting the precipitous fall in the value of the U.S. dollar in international markets, a point with which O’Reilly would undoubtedly agree.

Come again? Hello, this is Earth calling Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity!

Don’t these guys have any earthly idea of what causes a monetary system to collapse? It’s not just some mysterious economic disease that strikes a nation. The collapse of a monetary system is a direct result of out-of-control government spending.

When a government pays for its bills by simply printing the money, the value of the money is going to drop. Haven’t we seen this phenomenon in Latin American countries time after time? To pay their ever-mounting expenses, both welfare and warfare, Latin American regimes simply print the money — that is, they inflate the currency — which then causes the value of the money to drop. The drop is reflected in the rising prices of things that money buys.

This economic phenomenon is now afflicting the United States, compliments of the federal government. For those who think that what the government has done to our money will only adversely affect Americans who travel to Europe, think again. Any middle-class American knows full-well that he is having a much more difficult time making ends meet than he was six or seven years ago. Any housewife will tell you that it’s not just gasoline prices that have soared. It’s also the prices of groceries, restaurant outings, movies, vacations, and most everything else.

What does this have to do with O’Reilly and Hannity and other conservatives? They have one of the strangest blind spots in their minds that I’ve ever seen. On the one hand, they glory in the overseas military adventures of the U.S. government. They argue incessantly that the U.S. government must continue its imperial ways, intervening all over the world in order to set the world right.

On other hand, they lament the massive federal spending that has caused a 50 percent drop in the value of the dollar in the last five years alone.

Earth to O’Reilly and Hannity: Your mind is split by a contradiction. The reason the dollar has dropped is because of soaring federal expenditures. The reason for soaring federal expenditures is the ever-growing U.S. Empire overseas, which conservatives support, as well as the ever-growing welfare state at home, which conservatives also support.

Earth to O’Reilly and Hannity: Does it make any sense to oppose a falling dollar while, at the same time, support the government programs that cause federal spending to soar? Isn’t that like saying that you love lightning but oppose thunder? Have you people forgotten how Ronald Reagan supposedly brought down the Soviet Empire: by causing the Soviet government to spend the Soviet Union into bankruptcy?

Even worse, the conservative mind will not permit itself to accept what a mess that the federal government makes when it intervenes in foreign affairs, both for the victimized nations and the American people. That’s precisely why conservatives can’t see any inconsistency with killing and maiming hundreds of thousands of Iraqis for the sake of “democracy” while, at the same time, sending billions of dollars to a brutal unelected military dictator in Pakistan who took power in a coup and who jails judges and lawyers who oppose his dictatorship.

No matter how much of a mess that U.S. interventionism has made, hope springs eternal in the mind of the conservative. Just let U.S. officials continue invading, occupying, sanctioning, embargoing, bombing, shooting, assassinating, torturing, and sending foreign welfare into the pockets of brutal dictatorships. In the mind of the conservative, everything will work out, sometime.

After many decades of this nonsense, things are worse than ever, and the reality is that more interventions will only make things worse and worse and worse, including those interventions that are intended to fix the problems arising from previous interventions. More interventions will produce more foreign crises, more economic crises, and more anger and hatred toward the American people.

With political candidates repeating the standard pabulum calling for “change” in Washington, D.C., how about real change for a change? How about rejecting the paradigm of empire and intervention that is leading our nation toward bankruptcy and ruin and embracing the paradigm of non-intervention and republic on which our nation was founded?

At the very least, wouldn’t it be nice if just one conservative — perhaps even O’Reilly or Hannity — took personal responsibility for the damage their programs have wrought both here and abroad? Don’t count on it. While conservatives love preaching the importance of personal responsibility to others, actually taking personal responsibility is anathema to them.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Praying for the Troops in Iraq

by Jacob G. Hornberger

A year ago, I was attending a Christmas church service while visiting my brother and his family in Dallas. In the middle of that service, the minister asked the congregation to close their eyes for a couple of minutes to pray for the troops in Iraq.

This year, I attended the same church service. Interestingly, this time the minister made absolutely no mention of the troops in Iraq.

I couldn’t help but wonder about the reason for the change. Could it be that he simply forgot? Could it be that he knows that most Americans now realize what a mistake it was for the U.S. government to invade Iraq? Could it be possible that the minister has come to the realization that it is sinful for U.S. soldiers, as part of an aggressor force, to be killing people who never attacked the United States?

During my own Sunday church service here in Virginia, in the early years of the Iraq invasion and occupation there was a regular call to pray for the troops in Iraq. During the past year, the call has changed to pray for people serving in the U.S. military forces, especially those “in harm’s way.”

It is difficult for me to understand the import of the “in harm’s way” prayer because it seems to ignore a critical issue: why the troops are in harm’s way in the first place.

Suppose U.S. soldiers in Iraq were helping commit abortions and that Iraqis were trying to kill them because of it. Would church ministers be calling on their parishioners to pray for the troops “in harm’s way”? I don’t think so. Wouldn’t they instead be condemning the troops for committing abortions and calling on them to stop?

Well, what’s the difference in principle between committing abortions in Iraq and killing born people in Iraq? Aren’t the victims equally innocent, whether they are born or unborn? Why don’t born Iraqis have just as much right to life as unborn Iraqis?

The “in harm’s way” prayer also ignores the fact that the troops have knowingly and deliberately placed themselves “in harm’s way.” Suppose a person decides to walk into a bed of rattlesnakes. One might ask people to pray for the person who has placed himself “in harm’s way.” But doesn’t God help those who help themselves? If someone is concerned about the safety of someone who is choosing to do something that is really stupid, wouldn’t it be better to counsel the person to get out of the rattlesnake bed rather than spend time asking God to protect him from rattlesnake bites?

Don’t church ministers owe it to themselves, their parishioners, the troops, and, most of all God, to come to grips with the truth about Iraq? Neither the Iraqi people nor their government participated in the 9/11 attacks or ever attacked the United States. The U.S. government is the aggressor and occupying nation in Iraq and Iraq is the defending and occupied nation. Under international law and under fundamental rules of morality, the Iraqi people have the right to oust their country of an aggressor and occupier. As part of a force that has aggressed against a nation that never attacked the United States, U.S. soldiers have no right under the laws of God or man to kill any Iraqi.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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.