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The Intellectual Paralysis of Statists

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A standard liberal argument for opposing the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan is that if the federal government wasn’t spending so much money over there, it could afford to pay for a national health-care program.

Conservatives look at it the other way around. If Barack Obama wasn’t spending so much money on federal welfare, the federal government would be better able to maintain its overseas empire.

And then there are those many liberals and conservatives — I’d venture to say most — who say that the federal government should do both — spend money on both socialism at home and imperialism abroad. The federal government is rich, they say, and is able to afford all of this, notwithstanding the already high level of taxes, debt, and inflation.

This is what passes for debate in both the mainstream press and on the television talk shows. Conservative and liberals present “opposing” views, arguing over how the federal government should spend “its” money. And newspaper editors and talk-show hosts eat it up because they’re presenting a “lively” debate that shows “both” sides.

What a crock all this is!

How often do you ever see the mainstream media and the television commentators presenting the libertarian view? Hardly ever. Why is that? For two reasons: One, as statists they are absolutely terrified over the fact that libertarianism is a growing phenomenon but, more important, they simply lack the competence to counteract libertarian arguments in a substantive way.

It’s really not difficult to participate in the conservative vs. liberal debate because they both accept the same core premise: that a legitimate role of the federal government is to tax people’s income and spend the money on socialist, regulatory, or imperialist programs.

Thus, the argument between conservatives and liberals ultimately boils down to how the federal government should spend money that the IRS has forcibly taken from the citizenry.

Conservatives argue that people’s money should be spent this way, and liberals argue that it should be spent that way.

Yawn! How boring is that?

Now, consider the libertarian argument: People should be free to keep their own income and decide for themselves what to do with it. No more income taxation, IRS, or income-tax returns.

That also means no more federal welfare programs and regulatory programs, especially the drug war. It also means no more overseas military adventures, invasions, wars of aggression, occupations, foreign aid, and foreign wars.

How do liberals and conservatives, the mainstream media, and the talk-show hosts handle these fundamental libertarian principles? They don’t. Quite honestly, they lack the intellectual ability to take on libertarians. Having grown so accustomed to “debating” domestic issues and foreign-policy issues at the conservative-liberal level, they are lost and befuddled when dealing with libertarianism at a fundamental level. That’s why you often see them limiting their attacks to such snide or superficial statements as “Libertarians are whacky” or “Libertarian ideas aren’t mainstream.”

Consider the health-care debate. The liberals favor some sort of federal health-care plan. Conservatives oppose that but want to keep Medicare and Medicaid in place. So, the “debate” is actually over how much the federal government should be involved in health care.

It’s difficult to get a more boring debate than that.

Enter the libertarians. Abolish Medicare, Medicaid, health-care regulations, and occupational-licensure laws. Separate health care and state as fully and completely as our ancestors separated church and state. End all government involvement in health care. Leave people free to keep their own money and handle their health care. Totally free the health-care market for both the consumer and the producer.

“Oh my gosh!” the statists cry. “That’s so radical. That’s so whacky. That’s so non-mainstream.”

But that’s generally their only line of attack. Having grown accustomed to “debating” which form of statism Americans should embrace, the statists simply lack the competence and expertise to defend their statism against the free-market arguments presented by libertarians, both at the moral level and the practical level.

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.