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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Hornbergers Blog, May 2010

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Libertarians, Open Borders, and the Welfare State
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Nobel Prize winning libertarian economist Milton Friedman once suggested that libertarians could rightfully oppose the concept of open borders as long as the United States had a welfare state. Friedmans point was that with open borders and a welfare state, the United States would attract foreign citizens who would come here in order to get on welfare. The result would be an increase in taxes that Americans would have to pay to fund the increased number of dole recipients. The prospect of higher taxes, Friedman implied, justified libertarians opposing open borders as long as America maintained a welfare state.

Friedman was wrong.

As a libertarian, Friedman would surely have acknowledged that freedom to move, freedom to travel, freedom of contract, freedom of association, and freedom to labor are fundamental, inherent, natural, God-given rights, ones with which no government can legitimately interfere. Such rights dont turn on the nationality or citizenship of people. They adhere in all men and women.

The concept of unalienable rights was one of the points that Thomas Jefferson emphasized in the Declaration of Independence. He also emphasized that to secure such rights, people institute governments.

As a libertarian, I of course oppose the welfare state. It is fundamentally wrong and immoral to use force, either individually or through government, to take money from people to whom it belongs in order to give it to people it doesnt belong. I stand for the immediate (i.e., non-gradualist) repeal of all welfare-state programs simply because there is no justification for continuing an action that is morally wrong.

But am I going to call for a governmental infringement on the exercise of fundamental rights simply because open borders is going to result in my payment of higher taxes owing to the welfare state? Perish the thought! Given a choice between calling for infringing fundamental rights and paying higher taxes, Ill choose the higher taxes. How could I in good conscience support the infringement on peoples inherent, God-given rights simply to save myself from paying higher taxes?

Suppose Virginia has higher welfare benefits than Maryland, which is motivating Marylanders to move to Virginia. Congress approves a constitutional amendment enabling Virginia to impose immigration controls on the people of Maryland. Should I, as a libertarian, support such an amendment?

No! Simply because the open border between Virginia and Maryland, along with Virginias generous welfare state, is costing me more money in taxes is no justification for my supporting the violation of the rights of Marylanders to move to Virginia, especially since a portion of them would be moving here to work (and, in the process, paying taxes).

Moreover, open borders might well be the key that finally brings about the dismantling (i.e., the repeal) of the welfare state, something that all libertarians would welcome.

How so?

If large numbers of foreigners were coming to the United States to get on welfare, as Friedman suggests they would, what better way to shock Americans into finally giving up this immoral and wrongful way of life? After all, how many Americans would be willing to continue paying higher taxes to fund foreigners? The libertarian position calling for the repeal and dismantling of the welfare state would likely have many more supporters.

As libertarians, we should never permit statists to maneuver us into joining them in the violation of fundamental rights. If we do that, then how are we any better than the statists, who are so willing to sacrifice rights for the sake of expediency? When people complain that open borders and the welfare state are costing them more money in taxes, our response is simple: Then join up with us libertarians to dismantle, not reform, the welfare state.

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

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Relevance of the Civil Rights Controversy
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The civil rights controversy that has arisen in the context of Rand Pauls U.S. Senate bid might seem out of date given that it involves a provision in the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Actually, however, the central issue involved in the controversy is as relevant today as it was then and, in fact, highlights the moral and philosophical differences that divide libertarians from statists on both the right and the left.

Here is the core principle of libertarianism: People have the right to do whatever they want in life to make whatever choices they want just as long as their conduct is peaceful.

In other words, as long as someone doesnt murder, rape, steal, burglarize, defraud, trespass, or commit any act of violence against another person, he can make whatever choices he wants during his life.

Notice something important here: When someone is free to make peaceful choices, that doesnt mean that those choices are going to be ones that are popular, beneficial, constructive, credible, beautiful, or mainstream.

In fact, its the exact opposite. When people are free to make any choices they want, so long as they are peaceful, inevitably some of those choices are going to be unpopular, self-destructive, damaging, dangerous, ludicrous, irresponsible, immoral, ugly, and extreme.

This, in fact, is the distinguishing characteristic of libertarians, as compared to conservatives and liberals. As advocates of liberty, we protect the right of people to make bad choices, so long as such choices dont involve the initiation of force or fraud against others.

Does that mean that because libertarians favor freedom of choice, they necessarily support the choices that people make? Of course not. To paraphrase Voltaire, we dont necessarily agree with your peaceful choices, but we will fight for your right to make them, no matter how bad, immoral, or ugly they might be.

Statists, both liberals and conservatives, take an opposite view. They too want people to be free, but only if the peaceful choices they make are the right ones. As long as such choices are responsible, moral, credible, popular, or mainstream, conservatives and liberals argue that people should be free to make whatever choices they want in life.

That difference in perspective goes to the heart of the debate in the Rand Paul civil-right controversy.

Libertarians say: private individuals should be free to make the choices as to the people they wish to associate with, even if they choose to not associate with blacks, Hispanics, Jews, Catholics, women, gays, or anyone else.

Statists, on the other hand, say: Private individuals should be free to make the choices as to those with whom they wish to associate, but only so long as such choices do not discriminate against people on the basis of race, color, creed, sex, etc.

We can point to more modern-day examples to demonstrate how fundamentally different libertarians view the concept of liberty as compared to statists.

Consider, for example, the drug war, a vicious and destructive war that conservatives and liberals have waged for decades (one whose adverse consequences, ironically enough, fall disproportionately on blacks).

Libertarians say: People should be free to ingest any substance they want, no matter how harmful or destructive. If they initiate force against another person while under the influence of drugs, they should be punished for that.

Statists say: People should be free to ingest any substance they want, but only so long as the substance has been approved by public officials. If people choose to ingest a substance that hasnt been approved, they should be punished for that.

Statists often accuse libertarians of favoring drug use or drug abuse. Their rationale is: If you support the legalization of drugs, that has to mean that you favor drug use or drug abuse.

Obviously, they miss the point: Libertarians favor freedom of choice, especially when the choices are unpopular, irresponsible, et cetera, but that doesnt necessarily mean we favor the choice that is made.

Another example: pornography.

Libertarians say: Adults should be free to choose to look at depictions of other adults engaging in consensual sex acts, even if most everyone in society considers such conduct immoral and sinful.

Statists say: No, what an adult looks at should be subject to community standards or the will of public officials.

Consider adultery.

Libertarians say: Legalize it. Does that mean we favor adultery? Of course not. It simply means that the choice to engage in this particular activity should not be the domain of the government.

Statists say: Adultery is sinful and immoral, and, therefore, the state should prosecute and punish people who are caught engaging in it.

Consider financial help to others, including the poor and the elderly.

Libertarians say: Freedom entails the right to do whatever you want with your own money. If you want to donate it to the poor or use it to help your ailing parents, that is certainly your right. But if a person says, I hate the poor and I refuse to help them or my parents libertarians will fight for the right to make that choice as well.

Not so with statists. They say: Its immoral to turn ones back on his neighbor, and people have a moral duty to help the poor and to honor their mother and father. Therefore, statists say, freedom goes only so far and does not encompass the right to say no to the poor, the elderly, or anyone else who needs the money.

The irony is that a statist society, one in which people are not free to make bad choices, tends to produce the very types of people that statists wish to avoid selfish, bigoted, irresponsible, etc. Like mold in dark, musty areas, such traits thrive in an environment where genuine freedom is denied.

It is when people have the widest ambit of freedom to make choices, especially the wrong choices, that such things as conscience, responsibility, morality, and ethics are nurtured and developed.

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

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Libertarians versus Liberals and Conservatives
by Jacob G. Hornberger

As I stated in yesterdays blog post, both conservatives and liberals are using the Rand Paul controversy as a springboard to attack libertarianism in general. One almost gets the feeling that during the past several years, as the libertarian movement has been growing by leaps and bounds, a lot of pent-up anti-libertarian emotion has been building up within the statist community and that it has finally erupted as a result of the Rand Paul controversy.

Why do liberals and conservatives resent libertarians so much?

For liberals, it has to do with facing reality. For conservatives, it has to do with facing the life of the lie.

For decades, liberals have maintained a big delusion with respect to economics. For example, convincing themselves that the Great Depression was caused by Americas free-enterprise system, they then convinced themselves that Franklin Roosevelts New Deal programs were simply free-enterprise reforms that saved Americas free-enterprise system.

Actually, the reality is that it wasnt free enterprise that brought the 1929 stock-market crash. Instead, it was monetary manipulation brought about by the Federal Reserve that caused the crash. What Roosevelt then did is to seize upon the crisis to foist onto America an entirely different economic system, one that incorporated features of socialism (e.g., Social Security), interventionism (e.g., the SEC), and fascism (e.g., the NIRA and its propagandistic vehicle the Blue Eagle.).

As the libertarian free-market economist Ludwig von Mises pointed out, these types of statist programs and interventions inevitably lead to more and more economic crises. As those crises developed over the decades, liberals would blame them not on statism itself but, again, on free enterprise. They would then use this latest example of the purported failure of free enterprise to justify new statist programs and interventions.

As libertarians continue to point out, the economic crises are not the result of freedom and free enterprise but instead a direct consequence of liberal statism. Thus, our solution to such crises is the opposite of what liberals call for. While liberals call for more statism to cure what they believe is the failure of free enterprise, we libertarians call for the repeal of all the statism, which is what is actually producing the crises.

When a person is living a life of delusion, oftentimes the last thing he wants is to have someone confront him with reality. Yet, thats precisely what libertarians have been doing and are continuing to do. We cause people to see reality for what it is, and liberals obviously deeply resent that.

When it comes to economics, conservatives have a much sounder grip on reality than liberals. Unlike liberals, most of them understand, for example, that the minimum wage causes unemployment, that price controls cause shortages, and that inflationary debasement of the currency is not a good thing. Conservatives are fond of quoting libertarian economists such as Milton Friedman, Mises, and Friedrich Hayek.

So, whats the problem with conservatives? Long ago, despite their basic understanding of economics, they threw in the towel and embraced statism. They felt that if they adhered to their principles, they would never be taken seriously again by the mainstream press, which is largely statist, and, even worse, that they would never wield political power again.

So, they decided to abandon their principles and embrace statism, as reflected by their enthusiastic support for such statist programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public (i.e., government) schooling, public (i.e., government) housing, SBA loans, bank bailouts, foreign aid, corporate subsidies, the drug war, immigration controls, and just about every other statist program, department, and agency that has come down the pike.

To shroud their abandonment of integrity and principle, conservatives wrapped themselves within their old 1950s mantra of free enterprise, private property, and limited government, a mantra that even today they employ in their speeches, on their stationery, and on their websites.

Thus, is it any surprise that conservatives resent libertarians as much as liberals do? By our mere existence, which entails our unswerving opposition to statism and our unwavering devotion to free-market principles, we remind conservatives of what they did when they sold their soul in exchange for popularity and power.

Today, both liberals and conservatives can see the excitement that libertarianism is generating in ever-increasing numbers of people, especially young people. That phenomenon obviously has both liberals and conservatives terribly concerned.

In their joint attacks on libertarians, both liberals and conservatives are decrying libertarianism for being akin to late-night college debates and discussions, having no real practical application in the real world. What theyre saying, in essence, is this: Ideals and principles are fine when youre young. But once you become an adult, youve got to be practical. Youve got to abandon yourself and your integrity. You must abandon your ideals your must sell your soul if you expect to succeed in life, especially in the political process.

Libertarians say: Balderdash to all that. There is absolutely no reason to abandon your idealism, your ideas, your principles, your integrity, and your truth, no matter how old you get. Liberals and conservatives represent the bankrupt statist past, the life of unreality, the life of the lie. You dont have to become like them. You can maintain your idealism, your principles, and your integrity. Join up with us libertarians to lead the world out of the socialist, interventionist, and imperialist morass that liberals and conservative have brought us. Help us to lead the world to the highest reaches of freedom ever seen by mankind to a world of freedom, free markets, a constitutionally limited government, peace, prosperity, and harmony.

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

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Confluence of Left and Right
by Jacob G. Hornberger

One of the things that fascinate me about the Rand Paul controversy is how it is exposing the longtime confluence of conservatives and liberals. For 20 years, Ive been arguing that theres not a dimes worth of difference between a conservative and a liberal or, if you will, Depublicans and Remocrats and the liberal-conservative reaction to the Paul controversy is confirming my point.

Consider these aspects of the welfare state: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, food stamps, public (i.e., government) schooling, public (i.e., government) housing, SBA loans, mortgage guarantees, foreign aid, bank bailouts, FDIC, education grants, corporate subsidies, and many, many more.

Every one of those programs entails the socialist principle of using the force of the state to take money from people to whom it rightfully belongs in order to give it to others.

I ask you: What liberal does not ardently believe in every one of those programs? What conservative doesnt also believe in them? Oh, they might argue over which reform should be adopted to deal with the ever-increasing economic crises that come with such programs. But theyd never challenge the nature or existence of the programs themselves. They have come to believe that it is an important role of government to use the force of government to take from Peter to give to Paul.

Sure, you can point to conservatives who pay lip service to free enterprise, private property, and limited government. But in the final analysis, conservatives are as deeply devoted to this socialistic junk as liberals are, especially when the president happens to be a Republican.

Consider these aspects of the warfare state: presidential wars waged without the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war, foreign military empire, foreign wars of aggression, foreign occupations, torture, kangaroo military tribunals, kidnapping, rendition, denial of due process, enemy-combatant doctrine applied to criminal offenses, a dual-track judicial system, infringements on civil liberties, assassinations, and much, much more.

Every one of them constitutes a violation of the principles of a limited-government, constitutional republic.

I ask you: What conservative doesnt believe in every one of these programs? What liberal doesnt believe in them? Sure, you can point to a few liberals (and a few conservatives) who take a principled stand against them, but in the final analysis most liberals are as committed to this way of life as conservatives, especially when a Democrat is president, as we have once again seen with the Obama administration.

Consider all the regulatory and interventionist programs, including the ones that are racist to the core, such as the drug war and the minimum wage. (See my article Why Do Daily Kos and Alternet Favor a Racist Government Program? and Free Teenagers: Repeal the Minimum Wage.)

What conservative or liberal doesnt wholeheartedly embrace them, notwithstanding decades of damage and destruction?

Ironically, both liberals and conservatives are now acknowledging, even if only indirectly and obliquely, that all this socialist and interventionist junk is bankrupting our nation, given the out-of-control federal spending necessary to fund it.

But they are trapped and they know it. They can rail against all that spending to their hearts content, but they know that their philosophy precludes them from calling for eradicating the programs that produce the spending problem. That leaves them condemning thunder while praising lightning.

Libertarians, of course, dont have this problem. Thats because, unlike them, we adhere to basic moral principles:

1) It is wrong to take what doesnt belong to you, even if you want to give it to someone who you think needs it more.

2) It is wrong to attack, invade, and occupy countries that have never attacked the United States, murdering, maiming, torturing, and incarcerating people in the process.

3) It is wrong to forcibly impose your values on someone else in the arena of peaceful choices.

Once those principles are embraced, the next step becomes obvious: Repeal the welfare-state programs, repeal the interventionist programs, and dismantle the military empire and the wars of aggression and everything that comes with them.

That libertarian adherence to principle that consistency however, is what drives both conservatives and liberals bonkers.

For example, consider two recent op-eds, one by a conservative and one by a liberal.

The conservative article is The Principles of Rand Paul by Ross Douthat, which appeared this week in the New York Times. Douthat is a noted conservative who has written for such conservative publications as the Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, National Review, and the Claremont Review of Books.

In his opening paragraph, Douthat states: No ideology survives the collision with real-world politics perfectly intact. General principles have to bend to accommodate the complexities of history, and justice is sometimes better served by compromise than by zealous consistency.

In those two sentences lie what happened to the conservative movement.

The battle between the advocates of economic liberty and socialism/interventionism, which had raged since the latter part of the 19th century ultimately culminated in the regime of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s. During most of that time conservatives fought valiantly to maintain Americas heritage of economic liberty. They had fought against the income tax and Federal Reserve as major assaults on Americas free-market way of life, even pointing out that both institutions were among the ten planks of the Communist Manifesto. They opposed FDRs New Deal programs, correctly pointing out that they were importing a socialist-fascist agenda to our country.

The battle effectively ended in 1937. From that year forward, the primary purpose of the federal government became taking money from people in order to give it to other people and regulating peoples economic activities. The welfare-regulatory state became an accepted part of American life.

For a time, conservatives continued to fight against this new-fangled, foreign way of life. But they came to realize that if they were to retain credibility with the mainstream press, which was predominantly statist, and, more important, if they were to have any chance of winning political power, they would have to compromise i.e., abandon their principles.

To put in bluntly, in the struggle between principle and expediency, expediency won out. Conservatives threw in the towel and embraced the socialistic welfare state, even while continuing to mouth the old Ronald Reagan mantra from the 1950s, free enterprise, private property, and limited government.

The liberal article is entitled The Lesson of Rand Paul: Libertarianism is Juvenile by Gabriel Winant. It appears on the website of Salon, one of the Internets premier liberal sites. Winant writes: Libertarianism itself is what’s stupid here, not just Paul. We should stop tip-toeing around this belief system like its adherents are the noble last remnants of a dying breed, still clinging to their ancient, proud ways. The libertarian who insists that the state has no place beyond basic night-watchman duties is like a teenager who, having been given a car, promptly starts demanding the right to stay out all night. Sometimes, someone else really is looking out for your best interests by saying no.

Not surprisingly, Winant trots out the standard liberal line about the New Deal that everyone is indoctrinated with in those government-approved textbooks that are used in those government-approved schools that every parent is forced to send his children to for 12 long years. The New Deal reforms (as he calls them) saved free enterprise and private property.

I wonder if Winant has ever read Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelts America, Mussolinis Italy, and Hitlers Germany, 1933-1939 by Wolfgang Schivelbush, which details the similarities between Benito Mussolinis fascist program in Italy, Hitlers National Socialism in Germany, and FDRs New Deal programs in America. Here are three reviews of the book: here or here and here. Or I wonder if hes read Jonah Goldbergs book Liberal Fascism.

So, here we have the confluence of liberalism and conservativism. Liberals are still promoting their socialist-interventionist schemes under the banner of reforming free enterprise. Conservatives are doing the same thing under the banner of their old mantra free enterprise, private property, and limited government.

In the process, both of them have lost a grip on reality: Liberal statism is not a series of reforms that save free enterprise. It is instead a direct contradiction of the principles of economic liberty and free markets. Meanwhile, conservatives have deluded themselves into believing that reform of statism constitutes free enterprise as long as its wrapped into a mantra of free-enteprise rhetoric.

And herein lies the explanation as to why conservatives and liberals are now going on the attack against us libertarians. Unlike conservatives, we libertarians refuse to surrender our principles for a mess of pottage, for expediency, for money, or for power. And unlike liberals, we have a firm grip on reality that enables us to see that it is socialism and interventionism, not freedom and free enterprise, that are at the root of Americas economic woes.

For years, both conservatives and liberals have ignored libertarians, hoping that Americans would never discover libertarianism. That plan obviously did not succeed. People are gravitating toward libertariansim in droves. Now, conservatives have going on the attack, hoping that they can pressure libertarians into becoming like them people who abandoned their principles to become statists with free-market rhetoric. Liberals, meanwhile, are going on the attack with their bankrupt statist economic philosophy, hoping to pressure libertarians into abandoning their sound understanding of free-market economic principles and embracing statism in the name of reforming and saving free enterprise.

Its aint gonna happen. We libertarians are not conservatives and we not liberals. The pressure isnt going to work. We are going to continue adhering to our principles, not only because such principles are moral and right but also because they are the key to saving America from conservative and liberal statism and restoring prosperity, peace, and harmony to our land.

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

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Evil of Statism
by Jacob G. Hornberger

I oftentimes wonder what causes a statist to be a statist. Whatever the reason, one thing is certain: Every generation has its share of statists people who wish to impose their values on other people, not by persuasion but rather by force.

Consider, for example, the issue of helping the poor with a donation. Suppose a millionaire is asked to donate $100 to the poor. He declines to do so, saying, I hate the poor and I refuse to help them in any respect whatsoever.

For libertarians, the moral issue is clear-cut black and white. The man has the right to make that choice. Its his money. Its his life. Its his decision. What is freedom if its not having the unfettered right to make that type of choice?

We might all agree that moral principles dictate helping the poor. We can cite the Bible as evidence that this is what God wants people to do. We can show how the mans donation would help buy food for the poor. We can beseech him to change his mind.

But the central point remains: Why shouldnt the millionaire (and everyone else) be free to make that decision for himself?

The statist sees things differently. He has absolutely no problem with forcing the millionaire to do the right thing, especially if it can be shown that the force contributes to the well-being of the poor. For the statist, the end helping the poor justifies the means forcing the millionaire to share his money.

Another example: drug laws. For the life of me, I simply cannot understand the statist mindset when it comes to drugs.

Suppose that millionaire decides to spend every day of his life sitting in his house smoking dope, snorting cocaine, or injecting heroin.

For a libertarian, the issue is, once again, clear cut. The man has a right to live his life in this manner. Sure, we can all agree that its not a healthy existence, that hes likely taking himself to an early grave, and that hes missing out on the fullness of life.

But we libertarians would say: None of that entitles us to force the man to give up his lifestyle. We do not have the right to punish him for his drug choices or to impose our values on him by force.

Not so with statists. They go ballistic when they see someone behaving irresponsibly by ingesting drugs. They want the person prosecuted and incarcerated, with the aim of changing him into a decent, responsible, productive member of society. Statists simply cannot stand the thought that someone isnt living life in accordance with what the statist considers to be some sort of societal standard of proper conduct.

Or consider the recent flap over federal laws that punish private individuals for discriminating against others on the basis of race. Again, for libertarians the issue is clear cut: A person has the fundamental right to associate with anyone he chooses and on any basis he chooses. He might be the biggest bigot in the world, choosing only to associate with white supremacists, but thats what freedom is all about the right to make whatever choices one wants in his life, so long as his conduct is peaceful i.e., no murder, rape, theft, fraud, or other violent assaults against others.

Not so with the statists. Unable to accept that there will be people who choose to discriminate against others on the basis of race, color, creed, sexual orientation, or any other reason, they wish to impose their values by force on such people, in order to preclude them from living life the way they choose.

What matters for libertarians is the concept of freedom and free will, which necessarily entails choosing peaceful courses of action that entail irresponsible, unpopular, boorish, or offensive conduct. Even if it could be shown that force might bring about positive results, libertarians would still oppose it on moral grounds that freedom entails the right to make such choices.

What matters for statists is the eradication of irresponsible, unpopular, boorish, and offensive conduct from society, even if they have to use coercion to do it. For them, freedom entails the right to make only those choices that are popularly considered responsible or correct ones. Thus, for the statist theres nothing wrong with employing force to prevent people from making the wrong peaceful choices.

The late psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, who authored the deeply insightful books The Road Less Traveled and People of the Lie, wrote, I define evil, then, as the exercise of political power — that is, the imposition of ones will upon others by overt or covert coercion — in order to avoid extending ones self for the purpose of nurturing spiritual growth.

I wonder how many statists think about that when imposing their values on others with force, thereby denying people the dignity and respect of making their own peaceful choices in life.

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

Friday, May 21, 2010

Fascism and the ADA
by Jacob G. Hornberger

As part of the controversy over Rand Pauls comments on the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which I have addressed today in an article entitled Rand Paul, Civil Rights, and More Liberal Hypocrisy on Race, some liberals have been raising the Americans with Disabilities Act, which mandated American businesses to modify their operations to accommodate disabled people.

The ADA was just another law in a long process of laws in which statists leave title to private establishments in private hands while using the power of the state to control and direct the use of such property. The label for that type of economic system, of course, is fascism, a system whose model was in Italy under the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

Another example of fascism is the law that prohibits private restaurants from permitting smoking in their establishments.

The moral issue the issue involving freedom is this: Why shouldnt private owners of businesses be free to run their establishments any way they want? Its their property, isnt it? Isnt that what private ownership and free enterprise are supposed to be all about? How can an enterprise be considered free when its operations are controlled and directed by the state?

How would a free market operate?

Some businesses would establish accommodations for handicapped people. Others wouldnt. Handicapped people would be free to choose which businesses to patronize and which ones to avoid.

Those businesses which were operating at the margin, barely making it, would not be pushed out of business with the costs imposed by the law. Consumers would nudge through moral suasion those businesses who could afford to make changes to do so. But everyone would have the right to make his own decisions. The state couldnt impose its will by force.

There are those who say that businesses wouldnt respond to such moral or economic suasion. Nonsense. Today, there are many businesses that have parking spots set aside for pregnant women. The law does not force them to do so. They do so to please customers. Many of them would have done the same with such things as handicapped parking and ramps.

The principle is the same with smoking in restaurants. Under the principles of private property and economic liberty, restaurant owners have the moral right to determine how to run their restaurants. Some would permit smoking, some would have designated smoking areas, and some would prohibit smoking entirely. Customers would be free to make their choices accordingly.

Thats how a free market operates: It respects the right of people to make their own choices and relies on moral and economic suasion to move people to a higher sense of responsibility and conscientious behavior. It rejects the fascist notion of creating the false appearance of private enterprise when in fact it is the state, not the owners, that is controlling and directing the use of private property.

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

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Free Market Health Care and the Poor
by Jacob G. Hornberger

One of the disastrous consequences of having adopted the welfare-state way of life is what it has done to the concept of voluntary charity. Let’s look at Medicare and Medicaid, socialist programs that go to the heart of the economic problems facing our nation.

I grew up in Laredo, Texas, in the 1950s, when the U.S. Census Bureau labeled our city as the poorest in the United States on a per-capita income basis. Every day, the office of every doctor in town would be filled with patients, most of whom were extremely poor. While some of them may have been Mexican citizens from Nuevo Laredo, as a practical matter it didn’t really matter because the doctor knew that most of the people in his office couldn’t pay anyway, at least not right away.

Yet, I never knew of one single doctor who turned people away. They treated everyone who came into their office. I never heard of a doctor complaining about having to provide free services for the poor.

How did doctors in Laredo do financially? They were among the wealthiest people in town. The money they made from the middle class and the wealthy and the poor who could subsidized the patients who couldn’t pay.

There was never a sense of entitlement among the poor who couldn’t pay the doctor. They were always extremely grateful and would express that gratitude with gifts of tamales or other things in kind that they could give the doctor.

It was a nice interrelationship. Doctors felt good about what they were doing, and patients were appreciative.

That’s what life is supposed to be all about.

Enter Medicare and Medicaid, socialist programs that were enacted as part of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs in the 1960s. Those two programs totally changed the dynamics of health care in America. All of sudden, helping the poor and elderly was no long voluntary. Now it was mandated. The federal government got involved in the health-care process, interfering with what had been natural, harmonious relationships.

Over time, doctors became dependent on the government to pay their bills. They also learned that what government subsidizes, government controls and regulates. Compliance with government health-care regulations became a major industry. Doctors who failed to comply with the ever-growing regulations faced the prospect of criminal prosecution. Ultimately, many physicians began retiring early, disgusted with a profession that they their predecessors had absolutely loved. Government involvement in health care destroyed their love of medicine.

Patients ended up with a sense of entitlement to “free” health care. They didn’t feel any sense of gratitude toward doctors. It was their “right” to receive free health care. If thanks were owed to anyone, it was to the government, which was responsible for this “free” service.

When libertarians point out to people that the only real moral and practical solution to America’s health-are woes lies in the repeal, not reform, of all government involvement in health care, some people ask, “But what about the poor? How would they get health care in a free-market environment?”

The fact that they even ask the question shows what America’s welfare state has done to people’s faith in themselves, in others, and in a free society.

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

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Blumenthal’s Lies on Vietnam by Jacob G. Hornberger

Richard Blumenthal, who is Connecticut attorney general and candidate for the Democratic nomination to the U.S. Senate, has been fibbing about his military background. He’s been telling people that he served in the Vietnam War when, in fact, he did no such thing. What he did do is serve in a Marine Reserve unit during the war.

What’s with people like Blumenthal? Why can’t they just tell the truth: that the Vietnam War was an immoral, illegal, and destructive war based on intentional lies that the U.S. government sold to the American people and that he’s glad he did everything he could to avoid it?

Why can’t he just admit that the Reserves and the National Guard were the means by which the rich boys and those with political influence avoided the draft during the Vietnam War? During the 1960s, everyone knew that the people who were being used as cannon fodder for the Vietnam grind fest were draftees, who were the poor guys, the blacks and Hispanics, and those without political influence. Those in the Reserves and National Guard, such as George W. Bush, were kept safely ensconced here at home, I suppose to protect the home front from all those communists who were supposedly coming to invade and occupy America.

In retrospect, it seems to me that those guys who avoided the draft, including people like Dick Cheney, or those who went to Canada, were the smart ones. They recognized that the war was nothing more than a crock, and certainly nothing to kill or die for. And so they refused to blindly comply with the wishes and orders of government officials to join the military and go fight and die for nothing.

Let’s keep in mind, first of all, that there was no congressional declaration of war, which the Constitution requires before the president can commit the nation to war. There are some who claim that that’s just a technicality and, therefore, no big deal. But it’s not a technicality. It’s the law, the higher law that we the people have imposed on government officials. They’re supposed to obey our laws, just as they expect us to obey the laws they impose on us.

Second, the Vietnam War was nothing more than a civil war, one in which the communist regime in the north was trying to unify the country. Communism was — and is — a very bad thing, but lots of bad things happen around the world. The Vietnamese civil war was no more the business of the U.S. government than the U.S. Civil War was the business of Vietnam. Fifty-eight thousand American men had their lives snuffed out in a ridiculous military enterprise that, at best, would have ended up with a standard authoritarian regime in South Vietnam. That’s nothing to kill or die for or to send hundreds of thousands of American men to kill or die for.

Third, the whole war was based on a pack of lies. Most everyone now knows about the infamous lie about the Gulf of Tonkin. To secure a congressional resolution (not a congressional declaration of war) to authorize the use of force in Vietnam, Democratic President Lyndon Johnson and the Pentagon claimed that the North Vietnamese had attacked a U.S. military vessel at the Gulf of Tonkin, knowing full well that no such attack had taken place. Congress fell for the lie, and enacted the resolution, which enabled Johnson to begin pouring men and resources into the conflict.

There were also the lies emanating from the Pentagon about how well the war was supposedly going. That’s what the Pentagon Papers, which Daniel Ellsberg so heroically exposed, were all about. It’s not surprising that Republican President Richard Nixon and the Pentagon went after Ellsberg with an illegal search and a criminal indictment, accusing him of being a traitor. In their minds, a patriot is one who lies about what is going on or conceals the truth, so that government officials can continue sending American soldiers to their deaths without opposition from them or their families.

There is also the famous domino lie. That’s the one by which U.S. officials were claiming that if American soldiers weren’t killing and dying in Vietnam, the dominoes would begin falling to the communists, and that the final domino to fall would be the United States. If the United States had won the Vietnam War, you can rest assured that that’s what they would have said to justify all those deaths — that if the war hadn’t been waged, Americans would today be speaking communist. But the United States did lose the war, which exposed the domino lie in all its nakedness. The United States did not fall to the communists (notwithstanding the irony that the U.S. government is now dominated by socialists).

And, of course, there is the idea of conscription itself, which is really nothing more than a form of slavery. Think about it: The government claims the authority to seize a private citizen from his family and his business activities and force him into a military organization, against his will. How is that different from slavery, which forces people to work for other people, against their will?

By the way, apparently communism isn’t considered so bad anymore because guess where the George W. Bush Republican administration and the Pentagon got the money to fund their imperial enterprises in Iraq and Afghanistan? You guessed right: from the communist regime in China, the same communist regime that was funneling arms and weaponry that killed many of those 58,000 American soldiers in Vietnam. Where is Jane Fonda when we need her?

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of Iraq and Afghanistan, would someone mind telling me where those infamous WMDs are, and where Osama bin Laden is? Indeed, where are the congressional declarations of war against those two countries? And where in the Constitution is the president authorized to assassinate people, including Americans? And precisely when are those millions of Muslims supposed to be crossing the oceans in all those ships and planes to invade and occupy America and take over the IRS, the Interstate highways, and the public schools?

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

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Paul Krugman’s Welfare-State Fallacies by Jacob G. Hornberger

A recent op-ed entitled “We’re Not Greece” by Paul Krugman in the New York Times encapsulates everything that is wrong with liberals when it comes to economics.

The good liberal that he is, Krugman suggests that the welfare state is about “taking care of those in need.”

What he misses, however, is the issue of means, which, not surprisingly, he totally fails to address in his op-ed.

Suppose I accost you with a loaded gun and force you to take me to an ATM. I tell you to withdraw $5,000 or I’ll shoot you. You withdraw the money and give it to me. I go and give all the money to people in need. I don’t keep one dime for myself.

Haven’t I taken care of people in need? Isn’t what I did moral? Isn’t it consistent with God’s will? Aren’t I a good person?

No. I’m nothing more than a common thief. The fact that I’ve used the money to help the needy is irrelevant. The end doesn’t justify the means. I should be prosecuted and convicted.

Presumably Krugman would agree. But his moral blind spot — indeed, the moral blind spot that afflicts all liberals — is his inability to see that the same principle applies to the coercive apparatus of the welfare state. Who are the compassionate, caring people in a welfare state? All the citizens of the nation? Only the taxpayers? How about the IRS officials, especially those who harass and persecute people into paying their taxes? What about the welfare bureaucrats who distribute the dole to people? What about the congressmen, who claim credit for the federal money they bring back to their district? What about tax protestors, who don’t pay any income taxes? How about illegal immigrants who have taxes withheld from their pay?

The real answer is: None of the above. Why? Because the entire welfare-state system is founded on force, which is antithetical to moral values, compassion, and free will. The only help for the needy that matters is that which comes from the willing heart of an individual, not at the point of some bureaucrat’s gun.

Krugman laments the fact that the Greek government doesn’t have control over its own money supply, like the United States does through the Federal Reserve. If it did have that control, Krugman says, it could begin stimulating the economy with inflation — that is, by printing the money to pay off that ever-increasing mountain of debt.

What he misses, however, is not only the moral implications involved with inflationary liquidation of debt but also the fact that inflation never accomplishes anything constructive in the long term. Let’s not forget, after all, that the principal reason the Framers established a gold standard was to prevent the federal government from inflating the money supply. By manipulating money and prices, inflation produces distortions and perversions by sending bad signals to the private sector. Ultimately, those distortions and perversions become manifest, which causes things to go into a tailspin. Thus, while inflation can delay the day of reckoning, that’s all it can do.

The day of reckoning has obviously come for Greece and other European welfare states. For decades, such regimes been spending money on the dole that they didn’t have. To keep the dole payments going to Greek citizens, officials went out and borrowed money to their heart’s content and then lied about it to the other Euro countries. Ultimately, people figured out what was going on, and the jig was up.

Not surprisingly, despite facing national bankruptcy the Greek people refuse to let go of their dole system. That’s what the dole does to people — it creates a sense of hopeless dependency and also a sense of entitlement. Young Greeks are also protesting, because they feel their future life on the dole is now threatened.

Rather than dismantling their dole system, which is what they should do, the Greeks have induced foreign taxpayers to underwrite their dole, including German and American taxpayers. That’s what the U.S. Federal Reserve has committed Americans to do, without even the semblance of congressional approval.

But despite a massive Greek bailout, speculators aren’t buying it. They’re continuing to send the value of the Euro into the tank. They’re not buying it because they know that the Greeks have no intention of doing what is necessary to save themselves — dismantle their dole system. At most, they’ll reform it by reducing welfare spending a bit … and by raising taxes — the very things that Krugman recommends that U.S. officials do to address the worsening welfare-warfare spending and debt problems facing our country.

Krugman and the Greek statists recommend raising taxes as part of a welfare-state reform plan. But the problem is that the more they raise taxes, the more they send marginal firms — that is, firms that are barely making it — into closing down operations, which in turn increases unemployment, which then sends more people into the dole system.

Moreover, as people learn about the benefits of going on the dole, more and more of them look for ways to do it themselves. Why work when the government will pay you for not working? The number of people on the dole — and the amount of the dole — skyrockets while the number of people producing wealth — and the amount of such wealth — diminish.

Krugman acknowledges that Americans do have a “serious long-run budget problem,” but he says that America’s “fiscal outlook over the next few years isn’t bad” and certainly not as bad as Greece’s. He’s hoping that inflation will nurse the economy back to health so that there will be more private-sector producers paying the taxes to fund the parasitic welfare-warfare-state sector.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government continues to spend and borrow as if there were no tomorrow, both on its welfare state (including the recent bailout of Greece) and its warfare state (e.g., Iraq and Afghanistan). For decades, Krugman and others of his liberal ilk, together with conservatives, have taken our nation down the road to Greece and the Roman Empire, with their out of control federal spending, taxes, inflation, moral debauchery, socialism, interventionism, and imperialism. Today, the welfare-warfare-state chickens are coming home to roost.

There is only one solution to what they have wrought — a total dismantling of all their statism, both foreign and domestic. Tinkering will only delay the inevitable. It’s time for economic liberty, free markets, and a constitutional republic for our land.

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

Monday, May 17, 2010

Shahzad and U.S. Foreign Policy by Jacob G. Hornberger

Ever since 9/11, Americans have generally fallen into two camps in explaining why our country now faces the constant threat of terrorist attacks.

The first group is composed of people who claim that foreigners, particularly Muslims, hate America for its freedom and values. Things like rock-and-roll, beauty pageants, Lady Gaga, and intellectual and religious freedom drive the foreigners crazy with anger and hatred, claim the people in this group, which drives them to commit acts of terrorism against America.

The second group is composed of those people, mostly libertarians, who contend that the terrorist threat has nothing to do with hatred for America’s freedom and values, but instead is driven by extreme anger over the U.S. government’s foreign policy, and specifically the horrible things that the U.S. government has done to foreigners, especially Muslims in the Middle East.

That brings us to the alleged Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad, who is a naturalized American citizen who was born and raised in Pakistan. A front-page article in Sunday’s New York Times should effectively seal the lips of those people in group one. The article, which profiled Shahzad’s life before the attempted Times Square attack, leaves absolutely no doubt that his actions were rooted in anger over U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.

Consider the following three excerpts from the article:

1) “Everyone knows how the Muslim country bows down to pressure from the west. Everyone knows the kind of humiliation we are faced with around the globe.” [from an email from Shahzad]

2) After political instability and sectarian violence roiled [Pakistan in the 1990s, where Shahzad living with his parents], many Pakistanis blamed the United States. After propping up the Pakistani military dictator, Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, in the 1980s, the American government was now imposing hefty sanctions in retaliation for Pakistan’s nuclear program. The economy stalled as anti-Americanism spread.

3) Mr. Shahzad had long been critical of American foreign policy. “He was always very upset about the fabrication of the W.M.D. stunt to attack Iraq and killing noncombatants such as the sons and grandson of Saddam Hussein,” said a close relative. Mr. Shahzad had been copied on a Google Groups e-mail message bearing photographs of Guantanamo Bay detainees, handcuffed and crouching, below the words “Shame on you, Bush. Shame on you.” The following year, Igor Djuric, a real estate agent who helped him buy his house, recalled that Mr. Shahzad was angered by President George W. Bush and the war in Iraq.”

Suppose the U.S. government got into a conflict with the Israeli government in which the U.S. government imposed brutal sanctions on Israel, which ended up contributing to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Israeli children. One day, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations publicly declares that the deaths of half-a-million Israeli children from the sanctions are “worth it.” After 11 years of sanctions, the U.S. government invades Israel and imposes a brutal 9-year occupation that ends up killing, maiming, torturing, incarcerating, and exiling hundreds of thousands of Israelis. Hundreds of Israeli resisters to the invasion and occupation, which the U.S. government labels as “terrorists,” are whisked off to secret detention centers, where they are incarcerated, tortured, sexually abused, and humiliated without any due process of law. U.S. foreign aid continues to flow into Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran, which have been cheering the U.S. government’s actions against Israel.

How would American Jews react to all that? Wouldn’t most of them be extremely angry? Wouldn’t the anger rise to the level of rage as each year went on? While some American Jews would undoubtedly rally to the support of their government, would it surprise anyone that some of them would join up with the Israelis and engage in terrorist attacks on the United States?

Once the U.S. Empire went on its crusade in the Middle East after the end of the Cold War with such things as the Persian Gulf intervention, the intentional destruction of Iraq’s water-and-sewage facilities, the 11 years of brutal sanctions on Iraq, U.S. Ambassador Madeleine Albright’s infamous declaration that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions were “worth it,” the stationing of U.S. troops on Islamic holy lands, the unconditional support of the Israeli government, the support of brutal dictators, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the assassinations in Pakistan, the rendition, torture, Gitmo, and all the rest, why would it surprise anyone that people of Muslim faith would react in the same way that people of Jewish faith would react if it were Israel that had suffered the heavy hand of the U.S. Empire?

It is obvious that there is one — and only one — solution to all this: Dismantle the U.S. Empire and the U.S. military industrial complex. World War II is over. So are the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Cold War too. Time to demobilize. Bring all the troops home from overseas and discharge them. Close all the foreign military bases, including Guantanamo, and abandon leasehold rights to the bases.

That is what should have been done at the end of the Cold War. It is what should be done now. The U.S. government’s foreign policy of empire and intervention has done enough damage to our country, not only producing the constant threat of terrorist retaliation, but also contributing to the ever-growing mountain of debt that threatens the economic future of our nation.

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

Friday, May 14, 2010

An Important Rule of the Empire by Jacob G. Hornberger

It is important that Americans be fully aware of an important rule with respect to U.S. foreign policy that the U.S. government has implemented and is now enforcing. In fact, knowing and understanding the rule is a matter of life and death.

As everyone knows, the First Amendment guarantees the fundamental right of freedom of speech from infringement at the hands of U.S. officials. But ever since 9/11, there has been an important limitation placed on such freedom. While Americans are still free to condemn U.S. aggression abroad, the U.S. Empire does not permit Americans to exhort foreign citizens to resist U.S. foreign aggression with violence. If U.S. officials suspect that an American citizen is exhorting foreigners to resist U.S. aggression abroad, they wield the power to do one of three things to that citizen:

1. Treat him as a criminal defendant by indicting and prosecuting him in U.S. District Court for supporting terrorism. If they can establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant encouraged foreigners to resist U.S. aggression with violence, they can secure a criminal conviction that will result in a mandatory life sentence in a federal penitentiary.

This is precisely what happened to an American citizen named Ali al-Timimi, who exhorted a group of people at a meeting in Fairfax, Virginia, shortly after 9/11 that “the time had come for them to go abroad and join the mujaheddin engaged in violent jihad in Afghanistan.”

Al-Timimi was indicted and was convicted by a federal court jury for supporting terrorism. He is now serving a mandatory life sentence in a federal penitentiary.

Even though al-Timimi is Muslim, that fact is actually irrelevant, even though it may have served as the motivating factor for prosecuting him. The point is that what the feds did to him they can now do to all Americans.

2. The second option is to treat the American as an illegal enemy combatant. That opens up the whole panoply of powers that U.S. military and paramilitary (i.e., CIA) officials have exercised against this class of people: isolation, sensory deprivation, water-boarding, and other forms of torture, rendition, indefinite incarceration, denial of due process of law and trial by jury, and so forth. That’s what the Jose Padilla case was all about. It established that U.S. officials can now do to every American everything they did to Padilla and other people labeled as “illegal enemy combatants.”

3. The third option is simply to assassinate the American, wherever they can find him, including here in the United States, which is part of worldwide battlefield in the war on terrorism. That’s what the Anwar al-Awlaki controversy is all about. He’s the American citizen who is now residing in Yemen who purportedly has been calling on foreigners to violently resist U.S. aggression in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. The U.S. military and the CIA have now targeted al-Awlaki for assassination and are taking active steps to hunt him down and kill him. Under this option, no judicial process is necessary before the American is taken out — no judicially issued warrant and no jury trial, not even a military tribunal. All that’s needed is a bureaucratic determination that the American has exhorted — or is exhorting — foreigners to resist aggression by U.S. troops.

Presumably, it is still okay for Americans to encourage violent resistance to aggression by foreign regimes, at least those that are not allied with the U.S. Empire. For example, when the Soviet Empire invaded Afghanistan in the 1980s, it was permissible for American citizens to not only condemn the Soviet aggression but also to exhort Afghanis and other foreigners to resist the Soviet invasion and occupation of the country by killing Soviet troops. In fact, one will recall that during that period of time the U.S. government itself was partnering with Osama bin Laden and other Islamic extremists to oppose the Soviet aggression with violent resistance.

Not so, however, with respect to U.S. wars of aggression and occupations of foreign countries. Foreigners who resist the invasion and occupation of a foreign country by the U.S. Empire are automatically considered by the Empire to be terrorists, and any American citizen who calls on foreigners to resist such aggression is considered a supporter of terrorism and is subject to one of the three options listed above.

Obviously, this is an important rule in post-9/11 America, one that every American would be wise to know and comprehend. Failure to do so obviously could be extremely hazardous to one’s life and freedom.

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

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Repeating History with Iran by Jacob G. Hornberger

A French court recently recognized the idiocy of one of the U.S. government’s attempts to enforce its sanctions against Iran by denying the government’s request to extradite an Iranian businessman for allegedly violating the sanctions. U.S. prosecutors were alleging that the businessman, Majid Kakavand, violated the sanctions by exporting goods from the United States that could be used in weapons manufacturing.

Apparently, U.S. prosecutors took the position that by importing the items into Iran, Kakavand violated U.S. law that prohibits the exportation of the goods. In other words, in the minds of the prosecutors, importing is the same as exporting because when you import an item, it must be exported for you to import it.

Kakavand happened to be traveling in France when U.S. officials requested his arrest and extradition. Oddly, he did not oppose the extradition request on the same ground that the U.S. government has opposed Venezuela’s request for the extradition of suspected terrorist Luis Posada Carriles — a legitimate and well-grounded fear of being tortured. Instead, Kakavand simply claimed that the U.S. allegation that the imported items could be used for weaponry was ridiculous, pointing out that they wouldn’t have even “needed special customs clearance if they had been exported from a EU country.”

The French court agreed with Kakavand, denied the extradition request, and ordered the man’s release. Perhaps the court was familiar with how U.S. officials had used the so-called “dual use” game against the Iraqi people during the 11 years of brutal sanctions against Iraq.

The best accounts of the deadly game that U.S. sanctions bureaucrats employed against Iraq have been set forth in excruciating detail by Joy Gordon, in her article “Cool War: Economic Sanctions as a Weapon of Mass Destruction” and in her insightful new book Invisible War: The United States and the Iraq Sanctions, which I highly recommend.

We shouldn’t forget that just as the U.S. government has gone after that private Iranian businessman for supposedly violating the government’s sanctions against Iran, it did the same thing to Americans who violated the government’s sanctions against Iraq.

What made the situation in Iraq even worse, however, is that some of the people they went after weren’t even accused of helping Iraq with its (nonexistent) WMD program. Instead, they went after them because they had committed the dastardly crime of trying to save Iraqi children from the brutal effects of the sanctions.

During the Persian Gulf War, the Pentagon intentionally destroyed Iraq’s water and sewage facilities after it conducted a study confirming that this would help spread infectious illnesses among the Iraqi people, especially through the drinking of untreated, sewage-infested water. As Gordon documents in her book, U.S. sanctions bureaucrats then used the sanctions to prevent the Iraqis from repairing the water-and-sewage facilities.

The Pentagon’s study proved to be right. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children died as a result of the sanctions. The U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright told “Sixty Minutes” in 1996 (five years before the sanctions were finally lifted) that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children were “worth it.”

Two high UN officials, Hans von Sponeck and Denis Halliday, resigned their posts with the UN because of what they termed sanctions genocide.

They weren’t the only ones who were struck by a crisis of conscience. The same thing happened to an American citizen named Bert Sacks, who decided to take $40,000 worth of medicine to the Iraqi people in 1997.

What was the reaction of U.S. officials to Sacks’ humanitarian efforts? Now, before you answer that question, keep in mind the secondary justification that U.S. officials employed when they invaded Iraq five years later — after the primary justification for invading, those infamous WMDs that Saddam was about to fire at the United States, evaporated. They said that the invasion was intended to help the Iraqi people achieve democracy because, they said, U.S. officials loved the Iraqi people and just wanted to help them out.

But if you answered that they praised Sacks and gave him a humanitarian medal, you would be wrong. Instead, they threatened him with criminal prosecution and ultimately leveled a civil fine of $10,000 against him, a fine that Sachs fought all the way to the Supreme Court in a case that he ultimately lost.

Sacks wasn’t the only American who was trying to help the Iraqis escape the ravages of the sanctions. There was also a group of American medical workers, including doctors, who risked federal criminal prosecution and civil fines for violating the sanctions by traveling to Iraq to help the Iraqi people.

To my knowledge, that group of doctors escaped prosecution and fine by the U.S. government. Another American physician, a New York oncologist named Rafil A. Dhafir, was not so lucky, no doubt because he was a Muslim, one who had been born in Iraq. In fact, according to his entry in Wikipedia, he is “believed to be the only U.S. citizen ever to be held in prison for violating the sanctions on Iraq.” Having committing the dastardly crime of using a charity to send money to help alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people, the U.S. government indicted him and convicted him for violating the sanctions.

Ironically and revealingly, Dhafir’s conviction took place in 2005, three years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an invasion that by that time (i.e., no infamous WMDs) U.S. officials were justifying out of a purported love and concern for the Iraqi people.

Everyone has heard the time-honored quote by Santayana: “Those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” What better example of Santayana’s dictum than the U.S. history of sanctions in Iraq and Iran?

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

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Libertarianism is Practical and Statism Isn’t by Jacob G. Hornberger

One of the things that amaze me about life is how so many people remain wedded to statism despite the inherent defectiveness and destructiveness of the statist paradigm. Why remain committed to something — why go into emotional hyper-drive over its failures — why spend a lifetime of coming up with reforms — when it’s obvious that the program can never work?

Oftentimes statists get upset at libertarians over what they perceive as our impracticalness. Whenever they’re faced with a new crisis in their statist programs, they say to us libertarians, “Show us your plan for immigration! Show us your plan for the drug war! Show us your plan for public schooling! Show us your plan for Medicare! Show us your plan for welfare.”

We libertarians respond, “We have no plans for any of those things because they are all inherently defective. We propose the dismantling or repeal of such programs, thereby letting freedom and the free market reign.” That causes the statists to get all uptight and exclaim, “Oh, you libertarians are so impractical!”

But what could be more practical than advocating a solution that works? Freedom and free markets do work. Isn’t it rational to support something that is workable, as compared to supporting something that is inherently defective?

Consider immigration controls. As I explained in my recent article “Immigration Socialism versus Freedom and the Free Market,” immigration controls are inherently defective because they are nothing more than a form of socialist central planning. There is no way that the central planner can ever have the necessary knowledge to centrally plan the complexities of an international labor market, much less a national one or even a local one. And the more the central planner tries to do so, with new reforms and interventions, the worse the crisis becomes.

Over the decades, I have seen spate after spate of “crises” involving both immigration and the drug war. Every five years or so, after some new reform has been enacted, people have gone into emotional hyper-drive over the immigration “crisis” or the drug-war “crisis.” No reform ever satisfies them, simply because no reform can ever prove effective given the inherent defectiveness of the program.

For example, many years ago the statists said, “If you’ll just make it illegal for American employers to hire illegal aliens, we’ll never need another reform again because there will be no jobs for them (which, of course, contradicted their claims that illegal aliens come to the United States for welfare).” So, the statists finally got their wish — they got a law enacted that converted anybody who hired illegal aliens into federal felons.

Did it solve the crisis? Of course not, just as I said it wouldn’t. Did they go back and repeal the intervention once they realized that it hadn’t worked? Of course not. When everyone went into immigration-crisis hyper-drive the next time, they just stacked more interventions on top of the previous ones.

Same with the drug war. Every episode of hyper-drive over the failure of the drug war to stamp out drugs has only been met with calls for new reforms. Mandatory-minimum sentences. Asset forfeitures. Bank reporting requirements. Violations of financial privacy. Cash-importation regulations. U.S. troops in Colombia. Extradition of drug lords. The latest is the harsh military crackdown in Mexico, something that the statists have long called for on the U.S. side of the border too, which has done nothing more than cause drug-war violence along the border to soar.

The answer to all this madness is obvious: freedom and the free market. It’s the only thing that will work and it’s the only thing that is based on moral principles. Open the borders to the free movements of goods, services, and people. Legalize all drugs, not just marijuana. Immediately, the immigration crisis and the drug-war crisis would evaporate.

No more deaths along the border. No more illegal trespasses of ranchers’ lands. No more transporting of immigrants in the backs of closed-up tractors-trailers. No more ID checks. No more raids on private businesses. No more drug cartels. No more drug-war assassinations. No more violations of civil liberties and financial privacy. Just peaceful and harmonious commerce among people, with each living his life and pursuing happiness in his own way.

How much more practical can you get than that? How much more moral can you get than that?

Instead, the statists keep our nation committed to statism, telling us the only acceptable proposals are those that maintain the existence of statist programs. We must operate within their paradigm of statism, they tell us, which means that our proposals must always be limited to reforming, not repealing, their statism.

But that is sheer nonsense! When a paradigm is inherently defective, the only right and rational course of action is to call for its replacement with a new paradigm, especially one that works. Freedom and the free market work. Statism doesn’t and can’t.

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

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Monetary Dictatorship by Jacob G. Hornberger

If you’re an American taxpayer, you should expect to receive a thank-you note from dole recipients in Greece fairly soon. The reason is that Barack Obama, working with his cohorts at the Federal Reserve, is using your money to bail out the Greek welfare state, thereby enabling dole recipients in Greece to continue receiving their dole.

The problem is that for decades the Greek government has been doing what the U.S. government and many other regimes have been doing: borrowing to the hilt to fund dole payments to welfare recipients. In the hope that Euro officials would not discover how bad things were in Greece, Greek officials were falsifying their financial reports. Unlike the U.S. government which has a Federal Reserve central bank, the Greek government couldn’t simply print up the money to pay off its debts. That’s because it’s part of the Euro zone, where German officials have traditionally opposed such a policy.

But finally, the welfare-state chickens came home to roost. The Greek government lacked the money to pay its ever-growing debts. Euro officials discovered that Greek officials had been lying about their financial condition. Fearing a default, investors were refusing to invest in Greek debt instruments.

So, the most likely scenario would have been a default, one in which investors in Greek bonds took a “haircut” — that is, in which they got paid, say, 10 percent of their debt.

But that’s not what’s happened, thanks, in part, to the intervention of the U.S. government, which has promised to help guarantee, at least indirectly, not only the welfare-state debts of Greece but also those of Spain, Portugal, and others.

First of all, the European central banks are now going to be purchasing Greek debt instruments, thereby getting the Greek government off the hook. That effectively means that they’re printing the money to pay off the debts. In other words, inflation of the Euro money supply, which means rising prices across the board for Europeans.

To ease strains on the European central banks, the Federal Reserve has opened up a line of credit by which European central banks can borrow money from the United States. It’s not clear how much money is involved but it will surely be in the billions of dollars.

Meanwhile, the IMF is playing a role in the one-trillion dollar European bailout, agreeing to lend billions of dollars to Greece on top of already-exiting IMF conditions. As this article from the Wall Street Journal points out, it is impossible to calculate the exact amount that American taxpayers will be on the hook for, owing to the complexities of how the IMF operates in conjunction with its member partners. But one thing is clear: U.S. taxpayers are now on the hook to help bail out European welfare states, and the bill is certain to be in the billions of dollars.

Did you see Congress debating whether the American people should be bailing out the welfare states of Europe? Did you see congressional debates over whether to extend the infamous TARP program to that part of the world? Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel had to secure permission of the German parliament before she could commit German taxpayers to the deal.

But you didn’t see Obama and his Federal Reserve doing that. They have made that call entirely on their own, without any congressional vote on the matter.

When officials in the executive branch of the federal government have so rigged the system that they’re able to commit vast sums of U.S. taxpayer money, either directly in funds or indirectly in the form of loan guarantees, to subsidize foreign welfare states without going to Congress for specific permission to do so, that’s the time Americans should be questioning what type of political-economic system under which they live. After all, what other label can one put on such action than dictatorship?

Of course, what is also so amazing about all this is that the U.S. government is doing all this donating and lending when its financial situation is no different, in principle, than that of Greece. Everybody knows that U.S. federal spending continues to soar out of control, along with federal debt, and that the Federal Reserve is now cranking up the inflation printing presses to monetize its debt. Not only does the U.S. government have the same type of welfare-state commitments that Greece does (e.g., Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, education grants, corporate subsides, bank bailouts, mortgage guarantees, etc.), it also has its vast warfare-state empire to fund, including the occupations of two foreign countries and the operation of imperial bases all over the world. Notwithstanding all that, the U.S. government is now committing our country to underwrite the welfare states of Europe.

Thanks to Obama and his merry band of foreign-aid grantors at the Federal Reserve, American taxpayers are now bailing out European welfare recipients. The question is: When our day of reckoning arrives, who will bail out American taxpayers when the U.S. government is faced with default on its bonds?

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

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Washington Post Gets It Wrong Again by Jacob G. Hornberger

On May 5, the Washington Post published an editorial questioning whether the Obama administration had considered treating the suspected Times Square attempted bomber as an enemy combatant rather than as a federal criminal defendant. I wrote an article entitled “Hijacking the Constitution and the Bill of Rights,” which criticized the Post’s editorial.

In its Sunday edition, the Post published a follow-up editorial on the issue entitled “Questioning Suspected Terrorists,” perhaps hoping to clarify its reasoning. In the process, the Post only dug itself into a deeper hole.

First of all, the Post wants to make it clear that it isn’t countenancing torture.

But isn’t the Post being a bit disingenuous here? After all, the Post’s primary motive in advocating a system in which federal officials can treat a terrorist suspect as an enemy combatant seems to be to secure information from the suspect in a rapid manner.

What are the chances that military officials aren’t going to use all the interrogation tools that they’ve employed for the last 9 years in the war on terrorism, including waterboarding people dozens of times? Isn’t waterboarding excluded from the government’s definition of torture?

Consider the obvious benefits of turning criminal defendants, including Americans, over to the military for torture — correction, “harsh interrogation.” The soldiers can’t be sued. They’re immune. And they’d get off the hook anyway by simply saying they were following orders. The higher-ups will also get off the hook because they’ll have legal opinions from the Justice Department protecting them.

Moreover, they can always redefine torture to include waterboarding, sensory deprivation, isolation, the rack, or whatever. If things get nasty, the military can conduct 10 or 20 investigations into the matter and announce that reforms are taking place. Of course, that’s after they destroy or hide the videotapes of the interrogation sessions.

For full and complete protection, the military could turn the suspects over to the CIA. Everyone knows that no one is going to demand to know the identities of CIA interrogators, even in cases involving death. And even if someone did make such a demand, everyone knows that the CIA wouldn’t comply with it anyway.

Most important, the operative word is “suspect.” Unless an accusation by government is now going to be considered as evidence of guilt, no one really knows whether a person is truly a terrorist until he’s been convicted in a court of law by competent and reliable evidence establishing his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Under our system of government, not even a federal grand jury indictment is considered evidence of guilt.

In its follow-up editorial, the Post fails to deal directly with another fundamental issue: How does a system in which government officials have the discretion to treat a suspect as either a criminal defendant or as an enemy combatant comport with any sense of justice? It is precisely that type of discretion that the rule of law is intended to avoid. It’s also what the principle of equal treatment under law is all about.

Moreover, what the Post is implicitly endorsing is the power of the federal government to convert a crime into an act of war, thereby enabling the government to completely circumvent the Bill of Rights with respect to that particular crime.

Consider, for example, the war on drugs. Under the Post’s reasoning, the government could suddenly declare that drug suspects will now be treated as either federal court defendants or as enemy combatants. If a person suspected of illegally possessing marijuana is arrested, he could be delivered to the military as an enemy combatant, where he could be forced under harsh interrogation techniques to disclose where he got the drugs. He could also be prosecuted under the government’s kangaroo military tribunal system. How convenient — no more federal court trials with pesky criminal defense attorneys, meddling federal judges enforcing the Bill of Rights, and recalcitrant juries acquitting people. Just quick “justice” for all those suspected drug-law violators.

In support of its position, the Post cites the case of Nazis saboteurs who were taken captive on American soil in World War II. But that involved a real war, that is, a war between nation-states. The war on terrorism, on the others hand, is nothing more than a figure of speech involving a criminal offense — like the war on drugs, the war on organized crime, the war on the Mafia, and the war on poverty.

The Post also cites the U.S. Supreme Court case of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld. The Post gets it wrong again. Hamdi was held as an enemy combatant because he was taken into custody in a real war, one between two nation-states, Afghanistan (the Taliban) and the United States.

Finally, the Post editorial writers should read the New York Times. On this particular issue, the Times gets it right in its editorial entitled “Fear Itself.”

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

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Road to Greece and Rome by Jacob G. Hornberger

Leave it to the Greeks to expose American liberals and the road to statism they continue to take our nation.

Over the past 20 years, how many times have we heard European statists extolling the virtues and benefits of the socialistic welfare state? Europeans have proven that socialism works, the statists have repeatedly claimed over the years. Just look at how successful all that free government dole has proven to be in Europe.

And then there is Greece, which everyone is conceding is only the first socialist European domino that is set to fall. Notice that there’s no talk about how deregulation, free enterprise, free markets, the bankers, the speculators, profiteers, or greedy people are responsible for the Greek debacle. Everyone concedes that the core of the problem is debt, massive amounts of debt that the Greek government has incurred to fund the ever-growing demands of the parasitic class, that is, those Greek people who are on the government dole.

Let’s go back to economic basics. The only way that government gets its money is through taxes and borrowing. If it borrows, the way it pays back its debt is by taxing people and then using the tax revenues to pay off the debt.

So, government is not like a private business, which creates wealth by producing goods and services that other people are willing to pay for. Instead, government confiscates wealth that is being produced by private entities in the marketplace.

Thus, a welfare state is based on the notion that the government should seize money from people who have produced it in the marketplace and give it to people who have not produced it.

Not surprisingly, given human propensities, over time the number of people who are seeking to go on the dole increases while the will of public officials to tax people diminishes. Giving out the dole to more people is fun but collecting the taxes to fund the dole is not so much fun because people tend to get angry over that sort of thing.

So, to fund their welfare state Greek public officials just began doing what U.S. public officials have been doing to fund their welfare-warfare state. They embarked on a massive borrowing spree, borrowing ever-increasing sums of money. Needless to say, Greek statists said the same thing that their counterparts here in the United States say about the national debt — that it’s no big deal because “we owe it to ourselves.”

But as the Greeks are discovering, it is a big deal precisely because “we don’t owe it to ourselves.” One group of people — the bondholders —are owed money by the government. And the only way the government can pay off the bondholders is by taxing another group of people — those in the private sector who have wealth.

The Greek welfare-state debt has grown so large that investors no longer want to invest in Greek bonds. Investors fear a default, meaning that the Greek government would not pay back its creditors in full. Why invest in debt instruments if you are confident the debtor isn’t going to pay you back?

There is an obvious solution: dismantle the welfare state and the massive spending and borrowing it requires. But that’s anathema to statists everywhere, including Greece. Meanwhile, Greece’s dole recipients are on the rampage, refusing to accept even modest reductions in their dole. Moreover, to pay off the massive amounts of accumulated debt will require the imposition of massive taxes on those Greeks who have money, thereby causing even greater economic burden on the country.

What to do?

Not surprisingly, every proposal involves keeping the welfare state in existence. What the Greeks are proposing is that German and American taxpayers (through the IMF) help them out with foreign taxpayer money. But even if that works, lurking in the background are more welfare-state dominoes, such as Portugal and Spain. Who’s going to bail them out? And who is going to bail out the bailors, such as Germany and the United States?

So, what are American liberals proposing? They’re proposing what they’ve done for decades here in the United States: Inflation! Consider, for example, the following two articles: Bold Stroke May Be Beyond Europe’s Means and The Greek Crisis by Dean Baker. The first one is a New York Times news article and the second one is a commentary on the liberal website Counterpunch.org. Both articles lament the fact that the Greeks lack the means to do what American statists have done for the past several decades — pay off government debt by inflating the currency.

The following is the essence of their argument: government has incurred massive amounts of debt to fund its welfare-state programs and lacks the financial means to pay off its debts. So, why not simply have the central bank (i.e., the Federal Reserve or the European central bank) simply print up the money and use it to pay off the debts? Voila! Problem solved!

So, why can’t the Greeks do that? Because they’re part of the Euro zone, which the Germans control. Germans have traditionally been ardent opponents of inflation, especially given their horrendous experience with hyperinflation after World War I. Thus, the German mark, which preceded the Euro, was always much more solid and sound than other European currencies. When Germany agreed to surrender the mark for the Euro, the last thing that Germany was going to do was accept a weak currency in place of the mark.

But American liberals think that such a sound-money policy is ridiculous. Baker himself chides a German official for saying, “Inflation never solves anything.”

Harkening to the standard Keynesian notions that American students are subjected to all across the land, Baker’s ideal would be for the Greek government to inflate at least part of that debt out of existence. It would revitalize the economy, he says. I wonder if he’s heard of Zimbabwe.

But wait a minute! Does that mean that there are no costs to inflation? Is it “free,” just like all the other benefits of the welfare state?

Alas, Baker doesn’t talk about the costs, perhaps because the consequences of inflation have historically fallen most heavily on the poor, the sector in society that liberals claim to love and be concerned about. For example, people on fixed incomes and low incomes. They’re the ones whose incomes are devastated by the ever-increasing prices that inflation produces.

Inflation is nothing more than a tax, but the reason that statists love it is because they know that the poor and ignorant won’t figure out that it’s a tax on them. They’ll inevitably blame rising prices on big business, free enterprise, private owners, free enterprise, greed, OPEC, service stations, speculators, bankers, capitalists, and maybe even illegal aliens.

Moreover, liberals simply block out of their minds that inflation is just another form of legalized welfare-state stealing. By intentionally paying off creditors with debased money, the government plunders and loots people who lend money in order to help out the entities, including the government, to whom they lent the money. Where is the morality and justice in that?

Inflation is just part and parcel of the big fraud and scam known as the welfare state, a way of life that is bankrupt in every sense of the word — morally, financially, and economically.

And that’s the road that American statists have taken us and continue to take us — the road to serfdom, the road to bankruptcy, the road to moral debauchery, the road to Greece, the road to the Roman Empire.

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

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Hijacking the Constitution and the Bill of Rights by Jacob G. Hornberger

In an editorial yesterday entitled “Obama Administration Owes Answers on How It Handled Times Square Suspect,” the Washington Post wants to know whether the Obama administration was too hasty in treating accused Times Square terrorist Faisal Shahzad as a criminal suspect rather than an “enemy combatant.”

The Post stated:

“The administration rightly came under fire for its handling of the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian citizen who tried to ignite explosives on a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day. In that case, the Justice Department … rashly embraced a law enforcement approach without fully considering other options, including holding Mr. Abdullmutallab as an enemy combatant.” (Emphasis added.)

The Post goes on to say:

“The Shahzad case is different, primarily because Mr. Shahzad is an American citizen.”

The Post’s editorial exemplifies how corrupt America’s federal criminal- justice system has become as a result of the 9/11 attacks.

We begin with a fundamental principle, one that even the Post implicitly acknowledges: Terrorism is, in fact, a federal criminal offense. Let me repeat that: Terrorism is a crime under U.S. law.

Thus, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that suspected terrorists have always been subject to the rules, guarantees, and protections that relate to the federal criminal-justice system. Grand-jury indictments, jury trials in federal court, criminal-defense attorneys, the presumption of innocence, the exclusion of incompetent and irrelevant evidence, the right to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses, the right to remain silent, the right to call favorable witnesses, and so forth.

So, what does the Post mean when it wonders whether the Obama administration should have considered treating Shahzad as an “enemy combatant” instead of as a criminal defendant?

The Post is referring to the alternative, competing system of criminal justice that the Pentagon established in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. It’s a system that is totally unlike the federal court system. Yes, there are still criminal prosecutions for terrorism, but in the Pentagon’s system the defendant is treated in an entirely different way.

The Pentagon’s system, for example, encompasses the power to waterboard and otherwise torture people who the feds suspect are guilty of terrorism. The defendant is presumed guilty and treated as such. There is no right to a speedy trial, and defendants can be held forever without a trial. If a trial is ultimately held, the guilt or innocence of the accused is determined by a kangaroo tribunal consisting of military officials, not by regular Americans from the community. At the trial, evidence acquired by torture can be admitted against the accused. The defendant does not have an absolute right to cross examine witnesses, and hearsay evidence can be admitted against him.

In other words, ever since 9/11 the United States has had two separate and distinct competing criminal-justice systems, one that is governed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and the other that is governed by brutal, arbitrary, and ad hoc procedures, ones which, by the way, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were designed to prohibit.

Obviously, it makes a world of difference which system a person is subjected to. As the Post editorial implies, that decision — which system to employ against a person accused of terrorism — is entirely arbitrary and ad hoc. Federal officials have absolute and total discretion to make the call. There are no set standards.

Let’s assume that Shahzad did, in fact, try to set off the Times Square bomb and that he did it with the active participation of a partner. Under America’s post-9/11 criminal justice system, the feds could treat one of the partners as a criminal defendant and the other one as an enemy combatant, notwithstanding the fact that they allegedly committed the same act.

It would be difficult to find a better example of a violation of equal treatment under law and the rule of law than that. When the life and liberty of people turns on the discretionary judgments of government officials as to whether criminal defendants should be accorded due process of law or kangaroo courts, that’s not a system founded on justice but rather a system that makes a mockery of justice.

Where did the feds acquire this omnipotent post-9/11 power to completely circumvent the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in federal criminal prosecutions through the arbitrary, discretionary, and ad hoc power to label people accused of terrorism as either criminal defendants or as enemy combatants?

They made it up. Out of whole cloth. They knew that terrorism is a federal crime. They knew that terrorism is listed in the U.S. Code as a federal criminal offense. They knew that accused terrorists, including Ramzi Yousef, the terrorist who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993, had always been prosecuted as criminal defendants in U.S. District Court.

But they also knew that the fear-laden crisis of 9/11 gave them an opportunity, the opportunity to make up an entirely new and false doctrine, one that they claimed now entitled them to call a federal crime either a crime or an act of war, one that enabled them to completely circumvent the procedural protections in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

That’s what they did with the federal crime of terrorism. They didn’t repeal the U.S. Code provisions on terrorism. Those still remain on the books, which is why many suspected terrorists are still prosecuted in federal court. What they did was say, “We now have another option — the option to treat accused terrorists as enemy combatants instead of criminal defendants. We now wield the total and absolute power make that call.”

The Post is being disingenuous when it states that “the Shahzad case is different because Mr. Shahzad is an American citizen.”

Different in what respect? Is the Post suggesting that there should be one form of criminal justice system — the constitutional one — for Americans and another form for foreigners — the military system? Never mind that such a dual criminal justice system flies in the face of more than two centuries of U.S. history, one in which all persons, not just Americans, accused of federal crimes are entitled to the same criminal-justice system and to the protections of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Moreover, Americans had best get used to the fact that the feds now possess the power to treat American citizens as enemy combatants. That’s what the Jose Padilla case was all about. In other words, what they did to Padilla when they were treating him as an enemy combatant — indefinite incarceration, torture through sensory deprivation and isolation, denial of due process, presumption of guilt, and the like — they now can do to all Americans.

And this revolutionary transformation of criminal justice, one in which the military now wields omnipotent power over the citizenry, was effected without even the semblance of a constitutional amendment. It’s just another part and parcel of America’s war on terrorism and the U.S. government’s foreign policy of empire and intervention. Not only are the American people being economically bankrupted by that war and that foreign policy, they’re also having their Constitution and Bill of Rights hijacked and circumvented.

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

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Terrorism and America’s “Way of Life” by Jacob G. Hornberger

In a press conference yesterday about Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-American who allegedly tried to blow up the car bomb in Times Square, Attorney General Eric Holder stated, “The reality that there is a constant threat from those who wish to do us harm simply because of our way of life.”

We haven’t yet heard any public statements from Shahzad himself. But my hunch is that the “way of life” that allegedly motivated him has to do with what the U.S. government has been doing to people in the Middle East.

Consider Iraq, a country that never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so. How many Iraqi citizens have been killed and maimed in the U.S. government’s invasion and occupation of that country? While the estimates range from a hundred thousand to a million, actually no American can answer that question with any degree of certainty. The reason? Early on, the U.S. government announced that while it would keep track of the number of U.S. soldiers killed and injured, it would not do the same with Iraqis. They just weren’t important enough.

Moreover, consider the cavalier attitude toward Iraqis that U.S. officials have maintained ever since those infamous WMDs failed to materialize. Their attitude has been this: that any number of deaths of Iraqi people are worth bringing democracy to Iraq.

Indeed, consider the fact that not one single Iraqi who was tortured, raped, sexually abused, and incarcerated at Abu Ghraib had anything whatsoever to do with 9/11. Every one of those victims was innocent of that crime.

But it’s all justified under the notion that we’re bringing democracy to your country.

Isn’t that nice? We will invade your country and kill you, your spouse, your children, your parents, or your friends and neighbors, but actually you should be grateful for our performing this service for you because in the long run your nation will have democracy, which is beautiful.

And get this: there has never been an upward limit on the number of Iraqis who could be killed in the pursuit of this illustrious goal. No number of Iraqi deaths and injuries could ever be considered too high, given the benefits of democracy.

How nice. How cavalier.

This Bush-Obama attitude toward Iraqi life was no different during the Clinton administration, when the brutal sanctions were being enforced against Iraq for more than 10 long years. When Clinton’s Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright was asked in 1996 (five years before the sanctions expired) whether the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions were “worth it,” she replied that they were “worth it.” Her reply perfectly encapsulated the mindset of U.S. officials, both then and now.

Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that the Times’ square attempted bombing took place after the U.S. government’s repeated acts of assassination in Pakistan, but I doubt it. My hunch is that there is as much anger over those assassinations as there was during the time that those brutal sanctions were killing all those Iraqi children.

The U.S. government justifies the assassinations by saying that the people they’re targeting are “terrorists.” But how many of those people who they’ve assassinated had anything to do with 9/11, which, let us not forget, was the purported reason for invading Afghanistan in the first place. We don’t know the answer to that question because the U.S. government won’t answer questions on its assassination program. But my hunch is that 99 percent of the people they’ve assassinated in Pakistan had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11 and that the only reason they were labeled “terrorists” is because they were opposing the foreign occupation of Afghanistan, a neighboring country, just as the U.S. government, working with Osama bin Laden and others, were trying to end the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan during the 1980s.

In fact, my hunch is that 99 percent of the people they’ve killed and maimed in Afghanistan had nothing to do with 9/11 and are simply considered “terrorists” because they oppose the foreign occupation of their country.

Moreover, notwithstanding the standard apologies that are issued after wives, children, grandparents, friends, and neighbors are killed in those drone assassinations in Pakistan or in the military attacks in Afghanistan, any reasonable person can surely understand why such deaths have served to swell the ranks of would-be terrorists, especially when such “collateral damage” is calculated in advance of the attacks to be worth it.

Supporters of the death and destruction in Afghanistan and Pakistan repeat the old canard that the Taliban gave sanctuary to Osama bin Laden and, therefore, that all this death and destruction is justified to keep the Taliban from returning to power. But there are big problems with that claim.

One, the U.S. government has never provided one iota of proof that the Taliban and al Qaeda conspired to commit the 9/11 attacks. Let’s not forget, after all, that some of the 9/11 hijackers were living in Saudi Arabia and, well, also here in the United States, before the attacks. In other words, the simple fact that a suspected terrorist is living in a particular country prior to an attack doesn’t necessarily mean that the government of that country has conspired with the terrorist to commit the attack.

Two, before attacking Afghanistan the Bush administration asked the Taliban to unconditionally extradite bin Laden to the United States. If the Taliban had actually participated in the 9/11 attacks, would Bush have bothered to make such a request?

Three, prior to his invasion of Afghanistan Bush was negotiating with the UN Security Council to give him permission to invade Afghanistan. Would he have done that if he had proof that the Taliban had participated in the 9/11 attacks?

Let’s face the truth: U.S. troops are killing and injuring people in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, not out of a sense of justice for 9/11 but simply out of the long-term U.S. foreign policy of installing and maintaining U.S.-favored rulers in foreign regimes. And it doesn’t matter whether the regime is totalitarian, democratic, authoritarian, or whatever. All that matters is that U.S. foreign policy dictates that it be a U.S-approved regime.

That’s what Holder undoubtedly is referring to when he says that terrorists want to do us harm because of “our way of life” — a “way of life” that involves empire, interventionism, sanctions, embargoes, invasions, occupations, torture, bombings, foreign aid, support of dictatorships, and assassinations.

As long as Americans permit their government to pursue such an immoral, cruel, brutal, destructive, and hypocritical “way of life,” they had better come to terms with the virtual certainty that there will be victims of this “way of life” who will do their best to retaliate.

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

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Minimum Wage Protects the Rich by Jacob G. Hornberger

In the past week, I have written two articles (here and here) detailing how one of the favorite economic interventions of liberals (i.e., “liberals” in the corrupted, big-government meaning of the term), falls disproportionately on poor, inner-city black teenagers, people whom liberals purport to be concerned about.

As I pointed out in those two articles, the mandated minimum wage locks out of the labor market all those people whose labor is valued by employers at less than the mandated minimum.

The moral issue is this: Why shouldn’t poor, inner-city, black teenagers have the unfettered right to freely compete against well-to-do white teenagers (and adults) by offering to work in any business or enterprise at any wage they’re willing to work for, even if it is less than the mandated minimum?

Liberals respond: That would be unfair because then they would be working at an extremely low wage.

But that position, obviously, is ridiculous because what liberals end up doing with their minimum-wage law is prohibit the poor, inner-city black teenager from working at all.

Which is better: working at $1 an hour and learning a trade and a work ethic and watching how a business is run or being prohibited from working at all?

But there is another important factor involved here. Not only does the minimum wage lock poor, inner-city black teenagers out of the labor market as employees, it also prevents them from opening up businesses to compete against the already-established, well-to-do businesses run by white people and others.

In other words, the minimum wage serves as a government-granted privilege to already established businesses, protecting them from competition, including from poor, inner-city black teenagers.

How does this privilege work? In the absence of the minimum wage, black teenagers would be free to establish their own businesses, hiring people in the neighborhood at, say, $1 an hour. That would mean that their start-up costs would be much lower than if they were required to pay their workers $7 an hour. Thus, what the minimum wage does is impose artificially high labor costs that preclude new, upstart, competitive businesses from coming into existence to compete against the established firms.

Consider, for example, a big, long-established landscaping service that charges its clients extremely high rates for lawn-maintenance services. An 18-year-old inner-city, black teenager who has been mowing lawns all his life decides that he can provide a better lawn-maintenance service at a lower cost. He decides to open his own business. Lacking much capital, he offers a bunch of unemployed 13-year-old black kids from the ghetto $1 an hour to work for his company as lawn-maintenance workers. The kids are eager to go to work at that wage because they get to learn a skill, earn a bit of extra money, and, most important, get to see how a business operates from the ground up.

The business comes into existence and is thriving. The new landscaping company is charging half what the established company is charging and still making a nice profit. Attracted by the lower price and excellent service, many customers of the old firm are gravitating to the new firm.

So, what happens? The president of the old firm files a complaint with the state, complaining that the new firm isn’t paying its workers the minimum wage. The state investigates and confirms that the new firm is violating the state’s minimum-wage law. “This is outrageous,” scream the bureaucrats. “You’re exploiting those 13-year-olds,” liberals cry. “Pay them the minimum wage!”

But the newly established business cannot afford to pay the mandated minimum. It shuts down its operations. The customers go back to the established firm. The black teenagers start pushing drugs, robbing people, or go on the dole. What else can they do, when the state has effectively prevented them from sustaining their lives through legitimate labor?

Meanwhile, liberals continue to remind everyone about how much they love the poor, needy, and disadvantaged, as they call for even more increases in the minimum wage.

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

Monday, May 3, 2010

Free Teenagers: Repeal the Minimum Wage by Jacob G. Hornberger

An editorial in the Saturday New York Times indirectly confirms what I wrote in my recent article “Why Do Daily Kos and Alternet Support a Racist Program?

In that article, I pointed out that a minimum-wage law locks out of the labor market all those people whose labor is valued by employers in the marketplace at less than the mandated minimum.

For example, if the minimum wage were set at $100 an hour, everyone could easily see the enormous damage to workers that such a law would produce. Every worker whose labor was valued at less than $100 per hour would be immediately laid off.

This principle, as I pointed out in my article, is no different with respect to a $7.25-per-hour mandated minimum wage. The number of workers locked out of the labor market will obviously be less than if the mandated minimum were $100. Nonetheless, those people whose labor is valued in the marketplace at less than $7.25 are laid off or never employed. As I pointed out in my article, the ones who feel this unemployment burden the most are inner-city black teenagers.

Here is what the Times’ editorial states:

The problem of joblessness among teenagers is far more severe in poor, minority communities. Those are the places where violent, criminal street gangs actively recruit disaffected teenagers. Teenage joblessness has other long-term consequences; young people who fail to find early jobs are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed into their 20s and permanently trapped at the margins of the economy.

Unfortunately, but not surprising given the depth of economic ignorance among liberals (as I observed in my article), the Times does not point to the root cause of the problem: the minimum-wage law. In order to resolve the teen unemployment problem, all that would be needed would be a repeal of the minimum-wage law. Then, those teenagers whose labor is valued at less than the mandated minimum would be free to compete for jobs in the marketplace at less than the mandated minimum.

Instead, the Times takes the standard liberal approach — pile one intervention on top of another intervention. The paper is calling on Congress to approve hundreds of millions of dollars for a jobs program. The Times correctly observes that “bills like these are often portrayed as pork barrel spending” but the Times justifies such spending because, it says, “summer jobs help young people in desolate communities find meaning in their lives while improving their long-term work possibilities.”

The Times gets it both right and wrong, however. While summer jobs do in fact bring meaning to young people’s lives and help them to learn job skills while earning a bit of money, this principle applies only in the free market, where they are freely competing for the jobs they want. An artificial jobs program induced by government’s taxing and spending is nothing more than a boring, meaningless, dead-end dole-distribution system that provides nothing of long-term value to young people.

There is one — and only one — just, moral, and pragmatic solution to the problem of teenage unemployment, especially for blacks in the inner city: Repeal the minimum wage.

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

 

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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.