Hornberger's Blog

Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Hornberger’s Blog, October 2010

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Debating a Socialist

I just returned from Tampa, Florida, where I engaged in a debate sponsored by the Tampa branch of the Young President’s Organization. The topic was “Libertarianism or Socialism?”. My opponent was a gentleman named Brian Moore, who is a self-avowed socialist.

The debate was cordial but hard-hitting. Moore is an affable guy, but it amazes me that there are actually people in the world who still openly support and defend socialism. Sure, conservatives and liberals defend socialist programs, such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, subsidies, and public schooling, but they do so under the delusion that such programs are actually part of America’s free-enterprise system. At least Moore has a grip on reality, in that he recognizes that such programs are socialistic in nature.

Moore made it clear that he opposes big government, which again distinguished him from both liberals and conservatives. He favors decentralization of power, with state and local governments, rather than the federal government, imposing socialism. He also made it clear that he opposes a Big Brother type of government and is a strong supporter of civil liberties, which again distinguishes him from conservatives.

I pointed out that the fundamental issue in libertarianism vs. socialism is a moral one, regardless of what level of government is imposing socialism. I pointed out the core principle of libertarianism: that in a free society, people have the fundamental right to live their lives any way they choose, so long as they don’t murder, rape, steal, defraud, trespass, or commit other acts of violence against others.

I used the religion arena to exemplify libertarianism, explaining that libertarians, like most everyone else, do not want the government intervening in the area of religion. People should be free to worship or not, to donate to churches or not, and so forth — without governmental interference.

I then explained that we libertarians, unlike socialists, believe the same principle should apply to economic liberty. People should be free to engage in any economic enterprise. Let the consumer, not the government, decide who’s going to engage in occupations and professions. People should be free to enter into any mutually beneficial transactions with anyone in the world, including hiring a Mexican housekeeper or selling to a Cuban citizen. People should also be free to accumulate unlimited amounts of wealth and decide for themselves what to do with it — save for their retirement, spend it, donate it, take care of their parents, or whatever, without any governmental interference.

Thus, I pointed out, libertarians, unlike conservatives and liberals, favor the repeal of such socialistic programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schooling, subsidies, foreign aid, and all other coercive redistributive programs — along with the taxes that pay for them. The primary reason is moral — that it’s wrong to forcibly take money from a person to whom it belongs in order to give it to someone else.

I also emphasized that we favor sound money and the abolition of the Federal Reserve, which is nothing more than socialist central planning in the monetary sphere.

I pointed out that socialism leads a nation toward poverty and pointed to Cuba and North Korea, which have total socialism (including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and public schooling). As a nation moves up the spectrum toward less government control over economic activity, standards of living rise.

During the Q&A session, one of the audience members asked what I thought the reaction of people who have become accustomed to the dole would be if we immediately repealed these programs. I said that undoubtedly many American dole recipients would be upset and protest as vehemently as the dole recipients in France and Greece are protesting over welfare cutbacks there.

That only goes to show how insidious socialism is, in inculcating in people a mindset of helplessness and dependency. I said that freedom really does work. We could repeal all these programs today and people would quickly adjust. We just have to recapture a faith in freedom. I also emphasized that it’s a moral issue: that is, given that it’s wrong to take one person’s money to give it to another person, continuing such wrongful conduct for any period of time cannot be morally justified. Finally, people have a right to protest and demonstrate all they want, but everyone knows that under our system of government, no generation can bind future generations into accepting their socialist programs. The generations living today can — and should — immediately repeal all socialist (and imperialist and interventionist) programs and restore economic liberty to our land.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Libertarianism, Statism, and NPR

The controversy over NPR’s firing of Juan Williams brings two predictable consequences: liberals decrying a violation of freedom of speech and conservatives making their periodic call for the termination of federal funding for NPR.

Actually, there is no free-speech violation at all. The First Amendment operates as a restriction on the federal government, not private organizations. NPR is a private entity, not an agency or department of the federal government. Therefore, the First Amendment doesn’t apply to NPR. It has the right to fire any employee for whatever reason it wants (subject to contracts that have been entered into), including statements by employees that NPR doesn’t like.

In fact, NPR has instituted its own ethics code that restricts employees from publishing their personal views on issues. As a private entity, it has the right to do that. If employees don’t like that policy, they are free to work elsewhere. They cannot violate the firm’s policy and then recover damages after they’re fired on the basis that their “free-speech rights” have been violated by their employer. Again, the First Amendment operates as a restriction on Congress (and the federal government), not on private firms.

For their part, conservatives are absolutely right in calling for the termination of federal funding for NPR. The government has no more business giving a taxpayer-subsidized dole to NPR than it does to Fox News or any other media outlet.

The problem with conservatives, however, is that they don’t apply this principle consistently, which implies that the only reason they want to terminate funding to NPR is because NPR is a liberal organization. If it were instead expounding right-wing rhetoric, would conservatives still call for terminating federal subsidies? I doubt it.

After all, the wrongfulness of giving a dole to NPR is that fact that the federal government is taking money from people by force, through the IRS, and giving it to someone else. People should be free to keep their own money and decide for themselves whether to donate to NPR .

But that principle applies across the board to the entire welfare state. It’s just as wrong to take money from a person to whom it belongs to give it to anyone else. In principle, giving a dole to recipients of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education grants, school vouchers, bank bailouts, food stamps, agricultural subsidies, SBA loans, and foreign aid is no different than giving a dole to NPR.

Yet, when was the last time you saw a conservative calling for a termination, rather than reform, of any of those redistributive welfare-state programs? My hunch: Never.

But of course, that’s one of the things that distinguish libertarians from statists. Libertarians believe in principle and further believe that principles should never be compromised, not even for purposes of political power or financial gain. That’s why libertarians call for the termination, not the reform, of all welfare-state programs, not just the one that doles money to NPR. That’s also why the future well-being of our country lies with libertarianism, not with liberal or conservative statism.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Torture, Death, and Destruction in Iraq

The Wikileaks revelations confirm that ever since the U.S. government invaded Iraq seven years ago, U.S. officials were willing to accept any amount of death, destruction, and brutality among the Iraqi people to achieve that goal.

Recall what U.S. officials said after those infamous WMDs failed to materialize. Did they admit their error? Did they apologize? Did they order U.S. troops to exit the country once they realized that their WMD claims had been false?

No, they simply shifted to an alternative rationale for invading Iraq: to bring democracy to the Iraqi people.

From the very beginning, we pointed out that both rationales — WMDs and democracy-spreading — were lies. There never was a genuine WMD threat. Contrary to all the fear-mongering that U.S. officials were doing to arouse the American people into supporting the invasion, Saddam Hussein had neither the ability nor the interest in striking the United States with WMDs.

But President Bush and his cohorts needed a rationale for justifying an undeclared war of aggression against Iraq. They couldn’t just say, “The reason we’re invading Iraq is because the Empire wishes to replace Saddam Hussein with a U.S.-approved puppet regime.” Bush knew that Americans needed something more than that to justify massive death and destruction, and so he figured that a WMD scare would be the best way to get Americans on board his war. And when the WMDs couldn’t be found, Bush simply shifted to his alternative rationale: “We invaded to bring democracy to the Iraqi people.”

But it really didn’t matter whether the new regime was democratically installed or not. Democracy was the cover, for purposes of making Americans feel good about all the people being tortured, brutalized, and killed and the country being destroyed. All that mattered, however, was the installation of a regime that would be loyal to the Empire.

Think about Iran. In 1953 the U.S. Empire, operating through the CIA, ousted the democratically elected prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, and installed the unelected Shah of Iran into power. Does that sound like a commitment to democracy?

For the next 25 years or so, the Shah tortured and brutalized his own people, with the full support of the CIA. From the standpoint of the Empire it doesn’t matter how brutally a dictator treats his own people. All that matters is that he remain a loyal member of the Empire. If he has to brutalize his own people to retain power, so be it.

Think about when the CIA ousted the democratically elected president of Guatemala, Jacobo Arbenz, and installed a succession of unelected military generals to take his place. It didn’t matter that such military regimes proceeded to torture, brutalize, and kill dissidents. All that mattered was that the regime was loyal to the U.S. Empire.

In fact, that’s been the entire history of the U.S. Empire’s relationship with Latin America: Full support of dictatorships, including training their military personnel at the School of Americas, and turning a blind eye toward the torture and brutalization of their own citizenry.

Look at Augusto Pinochet, the unelected military dictator of Chile. U.S. officials loved him even though he was a dictator. Why? Because Pinochet was loyal to the Empire. And it didn’t matter one whit to U.S. officials that Pinochet’s henchmen tortured, raped, and murdered Chilean dissidents.

Or consider Pervez Musharraf, the military general who took power in a coup in Pakistan. U.S. officials loved him and supported him.

In fact, consider Saddam Hussein himself — the man that U.S. officials called a new Hitler when they were trying to arouse the American public into supporting Bush’s war on Iraq. Guess who U.S. officials were supporting during the 1980s. Saddam Hussein himself, the man who was torturing, brutalizing, and killing his own people. Why, during the 1980s U.S. officials were even delivering to him those infamous WMDs that they later used to scare the American people into supporting the war. See herefor the proof.

How in the world can it surprise anyone that U.S. personnel were turning a blind eye to torture and brutalization at the hands of the regime that replaced Saddam? This is the entire history of U.S. foreign policy: install a friendly regime and let it have free rein to torture, brutalize, and kill within the country. Moreover, given the U.S. Empire’s policy on torture, its policy on rendition to other countries for the purpose of torture, and its policy on immunity for torturers, how could it have been otherwise in Iraq, the country the Empire was occupying?

Every Sunday for seven years, Christian ministers across the land have exhorted their congregations to pray for the troops in Iraq. Wouldn’t it be nice if, just once, they asked their parishioners to pray for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi victims of torture, brutality, death, and destruction arising from the U.S. war on Iraq? Indeed, wouldn’t it be nice if the American people repented what the U.S. Empire has done to Iraq by dismantling the U.S. government’s military empire and restoring a constitutional republic to our land?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Liberals, Conservatives, and Cuban Socialism

Constitution of the Republic of Cuba, 1992 [Excerpts]

Preamble: We, Cuban citizens … guided by … the political and social ideas of Marx, Engels, and Lenin.

Principles of the State: 

Article 1. Cuba is an independent and sovereign socialist state….

Article 9: The state … directs in a planned way the national economy… assures the educational, scientific, technical and cultural progress of the country … guarantees that every man or woman, who is able to work, have the opportunity to have a job with which to contribute to the good of society and to the satisfaction of individual needs, that no disabled person be left without adequate mean of subsistence, that no sick person be left without medical care, that no child be left without schooling, food and clothing, that no young person be left without the opportunity to study, that no one be left without access to studies, culture and sports, works to achieve that no family be left without a comfortable place to live.

Now, ask yourself: What American liberal or conservative doesn’t share, in principle, the core principles of Cuba’s socialist system, as reflected by their joint commitment to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public (i.e., government) schooling, education grants, public housing, food stamps, agricultural subsidies, subsides to the arts, and other welfare-state programs?

So, the next time someone accuses Barack Obama of being a socialist, you might respond, “Well, that’s true, but doesn’t the same label apply to all American liberals and conservatives?”

Thursday, October 21, 2010

More Illegal Alien Nonsense in California

The latest illegal-alien controversy in California’s gubernatorial race reflects the vicious and hypocritical assault on fundamental rights and economic liberty that liberals and conservatives have waged for decades.

In 2000 Meg Whitman, the Republican candidate for governor, employed a Hispanic housekeeper, Nicky Diaz Santillan. Unbeknownst to Whitman, Diaz was an illegal alien who furnished false documentation establishing that she was here legally. In 2009 Whitman learned that Diaz was here illegally and terminated her employment. Liberals claim that Whitman treated Diaz badly by letting her go.

Whitman’s money belongs to her, not to the state and not to society. She has the fundamental right to do whatever she wants with her own money. That’s part of what it means to be free. The right to acquire, own, and dispose of money is one of those fundamental, God-given rights that preexist government, rights to which Jefferson referred in the Declaration of Independence.

By the same token, Diaz has been endowed with certain fundamental, God-given rights as well. She has the right to sustain her life through labor, to enter into contracts with others, and to try to break free of the chains of poverty by accumulating wealth.

No government has the moral authority to interfere with the exercise of fundamental, God-given rights. As Jefferson pointed out in the Declaration, it’s the job of government to protect, not destroy, the exercise of such rights.

Diaz and Whitman entered into a mutually beneficial economic arrangement, one in which they both benefited.

Enter liberals and conservatives — i.e., statists — with their beloved immigration controls. They’ve made it a felony offense for American employers to knowingly hire illegal aliens. When they enacted that law sometime in the 1980s, they claimed that it would solve, once and for all, the immigration “crisis” in America.

What their law criminalizing the employment of illegal aliens did was spur a new industry — one of false document creation. In order to make the employer think he was hiring a legal immigrant, illegal aliens would furnish employers with false documents that they purchased from someone who was making money by producing and selling such documents.

What were employers supposed to do — become background investigators? Were they supposed to send the documents to a questioned-document examiner to make certain they weren’t hiring an illegal? Were they supposed to hire a private detective to search into the matter? Were they expected to buy a lie-detector machine? Were they supposed to hire a lawyer to cross examine the employee?

Ridiculous. Not surprisingly, like all other immigration interventions, the law criminalizing the hiring of illegal aliens didn’t solve the perpetual immigration “crisis” after all. Ever since it was enacted, we’ve been treated to an endless series of immigration paroxysms, immigration crises, and immigrations reforms.

Liberals are criticizing Whitman for being “heartless” for laying off Diaz when she learned that she was an illegal. What hypocrisy! What was Whitman supposed to do once she was put on notice of Diaz’s illegal status — keep her employed, thereby subjecting herself to the risk of a felony conviction? Make no mistake about it: if Whitman had continued Diaz on the payroll, liberals would be screaming for a grand-jury indictment.

Liberals continue to accuse anyone who objects to their beloved welfare-state programs as “hating the poor, needy, and disadvantaged.” Meanwhile, in partnership with conservative statists, they continue their decades-long, failed and destructive, vicious war on immigrants, enacting intervention after intervention, raiding businesses, and deporting some of the poorest people on earth, thereby preventing them from escaping poverty through labor and enterprise.

For their part, conservatives continue braying their mantra “free enterprise, private property, and limited government,” even as they continue building up the power to government to destroy the right of foreigners and Americans to engage in mutually beneficial economic relationships.

Meanwhile, many of the statists continue going to church every Sunday, where they meditate on such things as God’s second-greatest commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

The latest immigration controversy in California reflects the immorality and hypocrisy that pervades the entire statist agenda that liberals and conservatives have foisted upon our land.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Stuck in the Statist Box

The latest political controversy in the Christine O’Donnell and Chris Coons race shows how conservatives, liberals, and, yes, Tea Party types, still operate within the box of statism.

The controversy involves whether public schools should be teaching creationism or evolution.

Coons says that they should be teaching evolution because it is a scientific fact and should not be teaching creationism because that would violate the First Amendment’s separation of church and state.

O’Donnell says that public schools, being local units, should be free to teach whatever they want — evolution or creationism — and claims that the First Amendment doesn’t prohibit teaching such doctrines at a local level.

Yawn!

Just like the welfare-state way of life and warfare-state way of life, all of us have been born and raised under the system known as public schooling. Thus, like Social Security, Medicare, the drug war, and foreign empire, public schooling is accepted by most people as a permanent and ordinary feature of American life, with no one except libertarians questioning the legitimacy of its existence.

Thus, the endless controversies that rage between conservatives and liberals (and Tea Party types) is over how to run the public schools, not over whether they should be abolished. Of course, the public-school controversies are always politicized, given their nature as a governmental institution.

In fact, the reason the Constitution enters the controversy is because public schools are government schools. The Constitution prohibits the state from establishing a religion. Thus, since children are in government schools by virtue of the state’s compulsory-attendance law, the state is prohibited from using the schools for purposes of religious indoctrination.

The irony is that while conservatives and liberals (and Tea Party types) generally understand the virtues of separating church and state, they are unable to bring themselves to apply the same principle to education — that is, a separation of school and state — a complete end to all governmental involvement in education, as in religion.

Why do they have trouble breaking out of the statist box and raising their vision on education to a higher level — toward a total free market in education?

The answer lies in public schooling itself. Through the 12 years of enforced regimentation, it inculcates a mindset of conformity among the students, one that ensures that the 18-year-old will look upon his government with a deep reverence and never challenge the political order of things at a fundamental level, e.g., by questioning why it’s necessary to have institutions like public schooling, Social Security, Medicare, a military empire, etc.

Thus, the political debates and controversies inevitably occur within the statist box: how to fix or reform the socialist, interventionist, and imperialist programs, but never asking the most important question: Is this a legitimate function of government in a free society?

The real beauty of having a young, captive audience for 12 long years is that over that long period of time the state is able to mold children’s minds into accepting a false notion of what it means to be free. If we were to travel to, say, North Korea and ask the average person, “Do you consider yourself free?” the answer would be, “Yes, of course I’m free,” and the person would genuinely mean it. The primary reason for this false conviction is the many years he spent in the government’s schooling system.

It’s really no different here in the United States. With the exception of libertarians, the average American will respond in the same way as the North Korean citizen, perhaps even embellishing his answer with: “Thank God I’m an American because at least I know I’m free.”

The biggest benefit of public schooling then, from the standpoint of the state, is reflected in the point made by the German thinker Johann von Goethe: None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Conservatives and Health-Care Socialism

For a good example of what a disaster conservatives are — and why they are just as responsible as liberals for America’s healthcare (and economic) woes — just look at an article that was published this week in the Washington Times by Thomas R. Saving and John C. Goodman. Saving is director of the Private Enterprise Research Center and Goodman is president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, both of which are conservative organizations devoted to developing “market-oriented” solutions to major public-policy issues.

The thrust of the article? You can tell it by reading the title: “Obama Murdered Medicare.” The case that Saving and Goodman are making against Obamacare is that it hurts Medicare! How about that? As a solution, Saving and Goodman offer a “market-oriented” reform of their own, convinced that their particular reform will help preserve Medicare and make it work more efficiently.

Meanwhile, conservatives continue to rail against President Obama for being a socialist!

Consider this sentence from the first paragraph from the Wikipedia entry on “Healthcare in Cuba”: “The Cuban government operates a national health system and assumes fiscal and administrative responsibility for the health care of all its citizens.”

Everyone concedes that Cuba is a socialist country, right? No one disputes that and especially not conservatives, who have long railed against Cuban socialism.

In fact, free government-provided health care, along with Social Security and public schooling, are the pride and joy of former Cuban president Fidel Castro, one of the most famous socialists in the world. Castro has long held these three government programs up to the world as models of socialist success.

In fact, socialism has been a disaster for Cubans. It’s not a coincidence that the Cuban people have long been on the verge of starvation. That’s what total socialism produces.

But partial socialism isn’t any winner either. It’s not a coincidence that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and public (i.e., government) schooling, all of which have their ideological roots in German socialism, are in chaos and crisis here in the United States. Socialistic programs produce the same adverse consequences as total socialism, albeit to a lesser degree.

The Saving-Goodman article goes to the heart of what is wrong with the conservative movement. Conservatives have come to accept the basic principles of the welfare state and have chosen to devote their lives, resources, and efforts to reforming it and improving it with what they call “market-oriented” reforms.

Suppose Saving and Goodman were in charge of Medicare and had the power to run the program any way they chose. The result would still be chaos and crisis, with people soon calling for new reforms. As Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek repeatedly emphasized, and as the Soviet and Cuban experiences demonstrated, socialism is inherently flawed. No one, not even conservatives, will ever make it work.

Moreover, let’s not forget the moral implications of socialism, including Medicare and Medicaid. It involves the forcible taking of money from those to whom it belongs and using it for the benefit of those to whom it does not belong. The resulting debacle confirms that God has created a consistent universe, one in which immoral means (socialism) produce bad results (chaos and crisis).

When a person is diagnosed with cancer, does the doctor tell the patient: “We’re going to do our best to reform your cancer”? Of course not! He says, “We’re going to do our best to eradicate your cancer because if we leave some of it there it will come back and kill you.” And sometimes radical surgery is required to remove the cancer.

It’s no different with socialism, which is a cancer on the body politic. There is one — and only one — solution to America’s healthcare woes. It lies not in conservative reforms of Medicare and Medicaid. It lies in the libertarian call to immediately repeal Medicare and Medicaid, occupational licensure, and regulation. The way to restore a healthy, vibrant, and prosperous society lies in economic liberty, free markets, and constitutionally limited government, not in warmed-over socialism.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Freedom Oasis

We have exciting news here at The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Beginning on Saturday, November 6, from 7-8 pm ET, I will have my very own weekly Internet radio program, entitled “The Freedom Oasis.” You can listen to (and watch!) the program live on the Internet by accessing the following website: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/the-future-of-freedom-foundation And it will be available later by podcast.

This radio program will be devoted to discussing the principles of freedom.Genuine principles of freedom — libertarian principles of freedom — not the fake principles of “freedom” of liberal and conservative statists.

The statists, both liberals and conservatives, believe that freedom entails having government take care of people (e.g., Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid), regulating people’s peaceful pursuits (e.g., the drug war), and bombing foreigners into accepting democracy (e.g., Iraq and Afghanistan).

Libertarians, on the other hand, oppose all forms of socialism, interventionism, and imperialism. Our vision of freedom entails economic liberty, self-responsibility, voluntary charity, and limited-government constitutional republic.

This will be a radio show that exposes the “left-right” debate for what it is — a fraud. It will be a show that doesn’t hesitate to show that there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between liberals and conservatives. It is their joint commitment to statism that is taking our country down the road to moral debauchery, financial ruin, and economic catastrophe. The only real alternative — the only real solution to restoring freedom, prosperity, peace, and harmony to our land — lies with libertarianism.

I hope you’ll tune in: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/the-future-of-freedom-foundation.

Yours for freedom,

Jacob G. Hornberger
President
The Future of Freedom Foundation

Friday, October 15, 2010

Interventionist Blind Spots

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius is saying that interventionism just isn’t getting the credit that it’s due. He’s pointing to the “successful” government bailouts of the automobile and banking industries. Thanks to the bailouts, he says, the banks and the auto companies are getting back on their feet and might even repay most of the taxpayer money that was provided them. He’s also saying that the bailouts saved America from being plunged into another gigantic Great Depression.

I wish people like Ignatius would read Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt and The Law by Frederic Bastiat. Then, perhaps the poor readers of theWashington Post would be spared such ridiculous statist nonsense.

No one argues that a government dole is incapable of helping out someone, whether it’s a person who needs an operation, a business that is going under, or a local politician that needs a community center.

What people like Ignatius fail to understand are the moral implications of a government dole along with what Henry Hazlitt described as the unseen consequences of interventionism.

Take, for instance, a thief. Let’s say he breaks into someone’s home and steals $50,000. He takes the money and gives it to a buddy whose business is about to fail. The cash enables his buddy to pay off the money he owes the bank and to expand his business. The business survives and prospers.

Now, undoubtedly, the advocates of thievery will say the same thing that Ignatius says about interventionism: “See, thievery really does work! It’s time for the anti-thievery crowd to silence their criticisms of thievery. Thievery has not only saved that man’s business, it also produced jobs for the community. Hail thievery!”

But you see the problem? There are at least two major ones.

One, the money didn’t belong to the recipient of the loot. It belonged to the person from whom it was stolen. From a moral standpoint, any good that was done with the money — whether it’s to help the poor, provide retirement for seniors, enable someone to have a needed operation, or to save a business — is irrelevant. The fact is: It’s morally wrong to take what doesn’t belong to you in order to give it to someone else, even if you do good with it.

My hunch is that Ignatius might recognize the moral wrongfulness of stealing even when the thief is able to document with 100 percent certainty that he put the loot to a beneficial use.

The problem arises when government enters the picture. Here is the moral blind spot that afflicts people like Ignatius. Interventionists somehow conclude that when government agents forcibly take money from Peter through taxation in order to give it to Paul, somehow the entire process has been converted into a moral deed in which all the actors — bureaucrats, politicians, taxpayers, voters, and citizens — are converted into good, caring, compassionate individuals.

The other blind spot that people like Ignatius have is respect to the unseen consequences of interventionism — that is, all the things that did not happen because the owner of the money wasn’t permitted to use the money himself.

In other words, whenever a government grant is doled out, interventionists will proudly proclaim, “Look, look — a new center for your community.” Or, “Look, look — the banks and auto companies have been saved! See how much good we have done!”

But what about all the businesses that failed or never came into existence because the owner of the money wasn’t free to spend, donate, or invest it the way he wanted. Suppose, for example, he intended to invest the money in a friend’s struggling business. Or suppose he planned to donate it to a person who needed a medical operation. Or suppose he intended to use it to remodel his house.

What about all the people in those sectors? We don’t see them, and certainly people like Ignatius aren’t going to point to them. Yet, all of them have been harmed by not having received the money that was taken from the owner and instead given to the banks and the auto companies.

The principle is no different if the government borrows the money rather than tax people for it. By sucking money out of the private credit markets, it is unavailable for people in the private sector to use, thereby harming all the sectors on which those people would have invested or spent the money.

That’s why interventionists needs to read Bastiat and Hazlitt — first, in order to comprehend that it’s immoral to take what belongs to one person in order to give it to another person, whether the dirty deed is done by private thief or by government officials, and second, to comprehend the concept of unseen economic consequences of government interventionism.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Time to Admit It: It Was Wrong to Invade Afghanistan

As the killing and destruction in Afghanistan have mounted over the past 10 years, and as they have expanded into Pakistan during the Obama administration, interventionists have tried to justify the massive death and destruction by claiming that the reason the U.S. government went to war against the Taliban was because the Taliban had supposedly been complicit in the 9/11 attacks.

Unfortunately for the interventionists, however, nothing could be further from the truth. The U.S. government went to war against Afghanistan for one reason and one reason alone: The Afghan government (i.e., the Taliban regime) refused to comply with President Bush’s unconditional demand for bin Laden’s extradition.

After receiving President Bush’s extradition demand, the Taliban asked to see the evidence establishing that bin Laden had in fact been involved in the 9/11 attacks. The Taliban also offered to deliver bin Laden to an independent third party for trial rather than to the United States.

The Bush administration refused. Its demand for bin Laden’s extradition was unconditional: Give us bin Laden or else suffer the consequences.

Was the Taliban’s refusal to comply with Bush’s unconditional demand unreasonable?

Well, consider the case of Jose Posada Carriles. He’s the former CIA operative who is widely suspected of planning the bombing of a Cuban airliner over Venezuelan skies. The plane went down 34 years ago this month, killing 73 people on board. Among the dead were 24 members of Cuba’s national youth fencing team.

Venezuela has repeatedly sought the extradition of Posada to stand trial for this heinous crime.

The U.S. government’s response? It has refused to comply with the extradition request. Its reason? It says that it fears that Posada will be tortured if he is returned to Venezuela.

But does that make any sense? The U.S. government supports torture for accused terrorists. That’s what it’s been doing ever since 9/11 — torturing accused terrorists. So, how come the sudden concern the possibility that accused terrorist Posada will be tortured in Venezuela?

The answer might lie in the fact that if Posada was responsible for planting the bomb on that Cuban airliner, it’s entirely possible that he was acting on behalf of the CIA. That is, even though the CIA claims that Posada was no longer an employee at the time of the bombing, that’s what the CIA would say if Posada was acting on behalf of the CIA.

Thus, if Posada were returned to Venezuela to stand trial and face justice, there is always the possibility that he would sing like a canary about his life in the CIA.

If the U.S. government’s refusal to comply with the Venezuelan extradition demand is genuine, then why wouldn’t the same apply to the Taliban’s refusal to comply with Bush’s extradition demand? After all, everyone would agree that bin Laden would definitely have been tortured in CIA custody.

I should point out that the U.S. government has indicted Posada, but not for the terrorist bombing of that Cuban airliner but rather for the relatively minor crime of making false statements on some immigration forms. In my opinion, the possibility that Posada will ever serve time for that offense is nil. In fact, given the repeated delays in the case, one might reasonably ask whether the entire proceeding is nothing more than a sophisticated sham to disguise the intentional harboring of an accused terrorist — i.e., the same thing that the U.S. government accused the Taliban regime of doing with bin Laden.

The irony is that there is actually a formal extradition treaty between Venezuela and the United States, a treaty that the U.S. government has chosen to intentionally violate. There was no extradition treaty with Afghanistan.

Thus, two separate questions arise with respect to Afghanistan: (1) Was it right for the United States to go to war against the Taliban based on its refusal to comply with Bush’s extradition demand? And (2) Was it right to use military means to bring bin Laden to justice?

Both questions must be answered in the negative.

The Taliban’s refusal to comply with Bush’s unconditional extradition demand was no different in principle than the U.S. government’s refusal to comply with Venezuela’s extradition demand. A refusal to comply with an extradition demand provides no just reason to go to war against another nation.

Using military means to bring bin Laden to justice has been a disaster. Not only has the military failed to capture bin Laden, it has become the biggest terrorist-producing machine in history. Every time it has killed or maimed people — people who had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks — it has added more people to ranks of those who hate the United States and seek vengeance.

Contrast how the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center was handled. Some three years after the attack, Ramzi Yousef was captured by the police in Pakistan. He was extradited to the United States, stood trial in federal district court, and given a life sentence.

Wasn’t that a better way to handle things than to invade, bomb, and occupy Pakistan and assassinate Pakistanis?

Another example: Mir Aimal Kasi, the man who shot CIA employees near CIA headquarters in Virginia. He too was a Pakistani. Four years after the attack, he was taken into custody in Pakistan, sent back to the United States, stood trial in federal district court, and given the death penalty.

Again, no invasions, occupations, or assassinations. Just patient police work and judicial processes.

After 10 years of invasion, occupation, torture, killings, incarcerations, renditions, assassinations, death, destruction, anger, hatred, and the constant threat of terrorist retaliation, it’s time to admit that the military invasion of Afghanistan, like that of Iraq, was horribly wrong. Not only did it fail to capture bin Laden, it killed and maimed countless innocent people in the process, placing Americans in constant jeopardy of retaliation.

There is also the possible financial bankruptcy of the U.S. government to consider as well.

It’s time to admit wrong and bring the troops home, immediately.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Pentagon’s Judicial System is Like Castro’s

The case of a Maryland man named Alan Gross shows how much the U.S. military has altered the course of U.S. criminal and constitutional law since 9/11, and not in a good way.

Gross is a technology expert who was arrested by Cuban officials and charged with spying after being caught distributing cell phones to groups in Cuba. He was working as a consultant to a State Department contractor that had received an $8.6 million contract from the Agency for International Development, an agency long known for its close ties to the CIA. The U.S. government has denied that Gross works for the CIA but, of course, such a denial doesn’t mean anything because U.S. officials would deny that Gross was a CIA employee if it were true. And of course, we are all aware of the U.S. government’s 50-year-old obsession with trying to effect regime change in Cuba, especially through the CIA.

There are indications that Cuba is trying to work a trade — one in which they release Gross in return for the U.S. government’s release of five Cuban agents who were tried and convicted of “spying” for trying to uncover terrorist plots in Miami against Cuba.

Even since he was arrested, Gross has been sitting in a Cuban jail. There is nothing that he can do to get out, and there is nothing the U.S. government can do to get him out, short of another invasion of the island.

Let me repeat that: There is nothing Gross can do to get released from that Cuban jail. He must continue to sit there indefinitely, possibly for the rest of his life. He is stuck. In fact, the Cuban government could even execute him, even though it would undoubtedly have some sort of show trial before doing so.

Could such a thing happen in the United States? Not under our constitutional order. The Framers ensured that what the Cuban authorities have done to Gross could never happen here in the United States.

Suppose, for example, the U.S. government had treated the Cuban Five as the Cuban government has treated Gross. Suppose the U.S. government had simply said, “We’re holding these Cubans for as long as we want.”

Under our constitutional order and legal framework, U.S. officials couldn’t get away with it. The Cuban prisoners would first retain a criminal-defense lawyer to represent them. He would immediately file a petition for writ of habeas corpus with a U.S. district judge.

The judge would issue the writ, commanding U.S. officials to bring the Cuban Five to his courtroom and show cause why they are being held. If U.S. officials disobeyed the order, the judge would issue a warrant for their arrest.

Once U.S. officials produced the Cuban prisoners, they would have to show some degree of evidence establishing that the Cuban prisoners had broken federal law. If they failed to do so, the judge would order their release.

But even if U.S. officials satisfied the judge with some evidence establishing that the prisoners had broken the law, that wouldn’t be the end of the story. While the habeas corpus petition would be denied, the prisoners’ lawyer would demand a speedy trial for their clients

After a grand jury indictment accusing them of a crime, the Cuban prisoners would be entitled to have a jury, not the judge, decide their guilt. At the trial, the prisoners’ lawyers would have the right to confront the witnesses against them and cross-examine them. The judge would not permit illegally acquired evidence to be introduced. The prisoners could not be forced into testifying but could do so if they wished.

The judge would tell the jury that they were required to presume that the prisoners were innocent and could convict only if the evidence convinced them of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Finally, the prisoners would be entitled to appeal any mistakes made by the judge to the federal Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Do you see the differences between the Cuban judicial system and the U.S. judicial system? In the Cuban system, a person accused of a crime has no chance of being freed from his confinement. In the United States, thanks to the Framers, he does have a chance.

What’s this have to do with the U.S. military?

After 9/11, the U.S. military established its own independent judicial system — ironically, in Cuba — to run parallel to the judicial system established by the Constitution here in the United States. The Pentagon’s system was designed to be limited to prisoners accused of the federal crime of terrorism, but there was certainly no inherent reason why the Pentagon’s jurisdiction could not later be extended to other federal crimes, such as possession or distribution of illicit drugs. The federal courts would continue to have concurrent jurisdiction over terrorism cases, but the government would now have the option of deciding which forum a suspected terrorist would be sent to.

The Cuban judicial system could easily have served as a model for the Pentagon because as a practical matter they both operated the same way. Like the Cubans have done to Gross, the U.S. military now wielded the authority to take anyone it wished into custody and imprison him for as long as the military wanted. The system was designed to be totally independent of the U.S. Constitution, with no recognition for habeas corpus, the right to an attorney, due process of law, speedy trials, trial by jury, and right to confront and cross-examine witnesses. If the military ever did conduct a trial, especially as a prelude to executing the accused, it would be nothing more than a show trial because the verdict, which would be rendered by military officials, would be preordained and could even be based on evidence acquired by torture.

It’s appropriate that the Pentagon established its new-fangled judicial system in Cuba, rather than in the United States, because the judicial principles that underlie the Pentagon’s system are the same as those under which the Cuban authorities have imprisoned Alan Gross.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Great Lecture by Don Boudreaux

We just posted the video of a great lecture that George Mason University economics professor Don Boudreaux delivered last week at our Economic Liberty Lecture Series, which we co-sponsor with the GMU Econ Society, a real fire-in-the-belly student group devoted to libertarianism and Austrian Economics.

The video of Don’s talk is posted here.

The title of Don’s lecture was “Liberty, Legislation, and Law” and was inspired by Friedrich Hayek’s great 3-volume series Law, Legislation and Liberty.

The central thesis of Don’s talk was to show the difference between law and legislation. Law refers to the natural order of things, or natural law. Legislation refers to rules and regulations enacted by government. Don showed that when government goes beyond codifying the natural law by enacting positive law, all sorts of distortions and perversions occur, not to mention infringements on liberty.

I’m sure you’ll enjoy this talk as well as the discussion period, which turned out to be quite interesting and lively.

Monday, October 11, 2010

No Tea Party Meetings in Cuba

Given the anger of the Tea Party over out-of-control federal spending, soaring debt, taxation, inflation, and constitutional violations, it would be nice if they got angry over something much more fundamental: the infringements on the fundamental rights and freedoms of the American people by the federal government. After all, what’s more important than freedom?

Consider, for example, one of the most basic infringements on freedom committed by the federal government against the American people: the federal government’s ban on travel to Cuba.

What could be more fundamental than the right to travel? It is certainly one of the natural, God-given rights to which Jefferson was referring in the Declaration of Independence.

In fact, most U.S. officials would acknowledge that freedom of travel is an inherent human right with which no government, not even the U.S. government, can legitimately interfere.

In fact, that’s the reason that U.S. officials have not actually banned travel to Cuba. They want to create the appearance of not infringing on what they acknowledge is a fundamental right.

What U.S. officials have done instead is simply make it illegal for Americans to spend money in Cuba. It’s a nice, hypocritical way to behave like a dictatorial regime by infringing on the fundamental rights of its citizenry while creating the appearance that it isn’t really doing that.

The operation is a sham. As a practical matter, the ban on spending money in Cuba operates as a ban on travel to the country. That’s why most everyone refers to it as a travel ban, not a spending-money ban.

Equally important, however, is the obvious point: What a person does with his own money is as much a fundamental, natural, and God-given right as what he does with his travel choices or, for that matter, what he does with his religious choices.

After all, it’s your money. It belongs to you. It doesn’t belong to society or to the president or to the members of Congress. You own it. Therefore, no government, including your own government, has any moral authority to prohibit you from spending it in Cuba or anywhere else you want.

The awful truth is that all too many Americans have come to accept that freedom is really nothing more than permission bestowed upon them by the government rather than a natural, God-given right that preexists government. That’s why they hardly give it a second thought when the government threatens to jail them for traveling to Cuba and spending their money there. Modern-day Americans have simply been inculcated with the notion that “freedom” is what the federal government “lets” you do.

But that’s not what genuine freedom is all about. Genuine freedom means the free exercise of fundamental, natural, God-given rights — without permission, without interference, without regulation of the government.

There is an interesting article in today’s New York Times about a trip that the noted American jazz musician Wynton Marsalis and the music group Jazz at Lincoln Center recently made to Cuba.

Not surprisingly, the musicians were a big hit in Havana. According to theTimes, “The Lincoln Center players came to spread the word of American jazz to Cuban music lovers, and they found an eager audience…. At the end the audience danced and clapped as the Americans played blues and paraded through the auditorium, trailing a line of Cuban trumpeters, violinists, clarinetists and saxophonists. ”

So, will the group be criminally prosecuted for violating the federal government’s ban on travel to Cuba?

No. The Times gives the reason: “This was partly because American officials are interpreting travel restrictions less rigidly under President Obama than they did under George W. Bush. They are letting more Cuban artists visit America, and vice versa. ” (Emphasis added)

Did you catch the operative word that I emphasized? Letting! Isn’t that nice? They are letting more Americans exercise what are fundamental, natural, God-given rights by interpreting more liberally the rules and regulations regulating freedom of travel and freedom to spend your own money.

Should Americans be fighting Cuban infringements on the freedom of the Cuban people with U.S. government infringements on freedom of the American people? Absolutely not! Americans should fighting infringements on freedom with freedom. The way to do that is for the American people to demand an immediate end to the U.S. embargo on Cuba, one of the greatest infringements on fundamental rights in history — the rights to travel freely and spend your money the way you want.

Maybe the Tea Party can lead the way.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Hugo Chavez Can Teach Us a Lot about America

Even though U.S. officials rail against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Americans can learn a lot about the U.S. government and, indeed, about America’s political, economic, and education system by studying what is happening in Venezuela.

Recently, the Venezuelan people delivered a stunning electoral blow against Chavez by electing opponents of his administration to Parliament, thereby denying Chavez the 2/3 majority he had hoped for.

In other words, in Venezuela there is democracy. The Venezuelan people decide by popular vote who their elected representatives are going to be, including the president of their country.

Don’t forget that democracy is a shibboleth that guides U.S. foreign policy. That’s now the primary justification for the U.S. Empire’s having invaded Iraq and killed and maimed untold number of Iraqis, not to mention the destruction of the country.

So, does that mean that Venezuela is a free country? After all, that’s what U.S. officials never cease telling us about Iraq and Afghanistan — that Iraqis and Afghans are now free because the U.S. invasion and occupation of those countries has brought democracy to them.

Last week, the New York Times published a news story about how the Iraqi government recently banned a music festival because it conflicted with Islamic law, which is the supreme law of the land in Iraq. The Times article stated, “The festival fell afoul of the religious and political schisms — and the chaos — that democracy has wrought.”

Does that mean that the ban on that music festival by the democratic government of Iraq shows how free Iraqis now are?

But back to Chavez. As most everyone knows, Chavez is a self-described socialist. He believes in socialism very deeply, and has taken great strides to convert Venezuela into a socialist country.

But wait a minute? How can Chavez be a socialist when Venezuela is a democracy? Doesn’t democracy mean freedom? And how can freedom and socialism exist simultaneously?

The answer lies in the fact that democracy relates to a county’s political system. Socialism relates to a country’s economic system. Therefore, a country can have a democratically elected government and a socialist economic system, one that is administered by the democratically elected officials.

Chavez’s socialism entails free government-provided health care for every Venezuelan. His socialism also includes free government-provided education for all the children of the nation. He says that health care and education are fundamental human rights and, therefore, that government must ensure that they are provided to everyone.

Consider what Chavez said on health care: “The care and medicine here in the health centres is free, and specialists serve the people without distinction. We stand for free medical attention, and not, as under capitalism, for private clinics and private medicine.”

Recently, Chavez threatened to close down all private schools in Venezuela that refused to submit to the supervision of the federal government. As a Venezuelan official explained: “We must train socially minded people to help the community, and that’s why the revolution’s socialist program is being implemented.” Chavez’s brother said the goal is to help educate “the new citizen.” Chavez himself pointed out that a state role in regulated education is accepted in the United States.

Indeed it is. That’s what free public (i.e., government) schooling is all about, along with government-approved private schools and government-monitored homeschooling. Just this week, the Los Angeles Times published an editorial extolling public schooling, stating the following:” Like libraries and parks, public education has a special place in civic life as a democratizing institution that offers free and equal access to all.”

Needless to say, Venezuela has a Social Security program; it’s one of Chavez’s most important socialist programs.

And let’s not forget creating jobs, an important role for the state in Chavez’s government-managed economy.

Integrating principles of democracy and socialism, Chavez stated in an interview in The Progressive: “We are building a true democracy, with human rights for everyone, social rights, education, health care, pensions, social security, and jobs.”

What self-respecting American statist, liberal or conservative, wouldn’t wholeheartedly embrace Chavez’s statement?

U.S. conservatives accuse Chavez of being a dictator. But how can that be? How can a democratically elected president be a dictator? Aren’t dictatorship and democracy opposites? Isn’t that what U.S. officials tell us about Iraq and Afghanistan—that the U.S. invasions and occupations of those two countries ended dictatorship by bringing democracy to the two countries?

The truth is that democracy and dictatorship are not necessarily opposites. Democracy is simply a political means by which people select their public officials. Dictatorship relates to the powers that a ruler wields, whether he is elected or appointed.

The next time that American statists, either liberal or conservative, tell Americans how free they are because they live in a democracy in which the government is providing (and requiring) free health care to people, free education to people’s children, and free retirement benefits to seniors, and creating jobs for the unemployed, while their democratically elected ruler wields the power to send the entire nation into war without the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war, the power to assassinate his own people and others, the power to torture and rendition suspected criminals, and the power to deny trials to criminal suspects and jail them forever, Americans should simply study the principles of democracy, socialism, and dictatorship in Venezuela to see through the statist charade.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Obama Is Nothing More than a Warmed-Over Version of Bush

According to an article in yesterday’s New York Times, Barack Obama has effectively given up hope of generating support from independents for Democratic Party candidates in the upcoming mid-term elections and instead is trying to energize the liberal base that supported him in the 2008 presidential race.

But as the article points out, that liberal base has been deflated by Obama’s first two years in office. “Without offering regrets for policy choices that have angered liberals, Mr. Obama argues that the Republican alternative is far worse.”

Oh? How is that?

Consider foreign policy.

When he assumed office, Obama could have told the American people, “Iraq and Afghanistan were Bush’s wars. Bush had eight years to accomplish what he wanted to accomplish, and he failed. I have a different vision for America. I’m moving our nation in a new direction. I am hereby ordering the withdrawal of all troops from Iraq and Afghanistan … and from Asia, Europe, Latin America, Africa, and everywhere else.”

Obama had the opportunity to extricate our nation from the foreign-policy morass in which it is mired. It was an opportunity to dissipate the horrible anger and resentment that the U.S. Empire has engendered among so many around the world — not just Muslims — as a result of the bad things the Empire has done to people all over the world, especially in the Middle East.

Alas, it is now painfully clear to everyone, including liberals, that Obama lacks the necessary leadership, vision, fortitude, and courage to break out of the pro-empire, pro-intervention, pro-militarism box. Instead, he has embraced fully Bush’s statist foreign-policy paradigm, continuing the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, along with the killings, the bombings, the abuse, and the assassinations, while fighting fiercely to protect the torturers and the secrecy of their torture operations.

On civil liberties, it’s been no different. Despite campaign promises to the contrary, Obama has surrendered to his generals and kept open their prison camp in Cuba, along with its kangaroo judicial system of tribunals, denial of speedy trial, denial of due process, denial of effective assistance of counsel, denial of protection from cruel and unusual punishments, and denial of protection from illegal searches and forced confessions.

The fact is that when it comes to foreign policy and civil liberties, it is undeniable that Barack Obama has been at least as bad as George W. Bush and arguably much worse. That’s precisely why many Republican Party statists are cheering him. Why would any self-respecting liberal, who traditionally has opposed a pro-militarist foreign policy and traditionally supported civil liberties, be energized by a Democratic version of George W. Bush?

On domestic policy, what has Obama done that is any different from Bush? Aren’t they both Big Spenders? In fact, the entire mid-term debate between Republicans and Democrats is really over which president — Bush or Obama — or which party — Republicans or Democrats — is the Bigger Spender. Obama, like Bush, continues to spend much more than what the government is receiving — to the tune of $1 trillion a year, adding to the $42,000 that each American already owes as his share of the federal government’s debt.

Big deal. Not much to get excited about there.

What about the drug war? Barack Obama, a former drug user himself who never voluntarily turned himself in to seek punishment for his drug use, maintains the same fierce drug-war attitude as Bush and the Republicans. Not even 28,000 recent drug-war deaths in Mexico have caused Obama to ask Congress to legalize drugs. Instead, Obama continues to fight the drug war as fiercely as Bush did, wreaking death, destruction, and havoc without one bit of pain or remorse.

What about the war on immigrants? Obama, a welfare-state liberal who claims to love the poor, needy, and disadvantaged, continues the same vicious anti-immigrant policies as Bush and the Republicans. Immigration raids on businesses, round-ups, checkpoints, increases in the Border Patrol, and deportations. No change here except possibly for the worse.

What about Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other so-called entitlements and military spending, all of which total about 80 percent of federal spending? Obama’s position is the same as that of the Republicans. Save them, reform them, fix them, notwithstanding decades of failure and despite the fact that national bankruptcy looms on the horizon, just like in Greece. Like Bush and the Republicans, Obama just keeps jabbering about how federal spending needs to be reined in.

Why should liberals be enthusiastic about Barack Obama and Democratic Party candidates for Congress? Obama is nothing more than a warmed over version of George W. Bush, and Democratic Party candidates are no different in principle and philosophy from Republican Party candidates.

What is there for liberals — or anyone else — to get excited about?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Another Nonsensical Attack on Libertarians

I can’t help but comment on the latest liberal attack on libertarians because the entire episode is so humorous. This newest attack comes from Joshua Holland, senior editor at Alternet.org, one of the most liberal organizations in the country.

The controversy involves a decision by a fire department in Obion County, Tennessee, to stand by and watch a house burn down because the owner hadn’t paid the $75 fee to be protected by the fire department.

Holland went on the attack, describing the episode as an example of libertarianism and “Ayn Rand conservativism” at work. Holland wrote: “It’s a picture of a society in which ‘rugged individualism’ run amok means every man for himself. Call it Ayn Rand’s stark, anti-governmental dream come true.”

Well, except for one important detail: It was a government-owned, government-operated fire department!

In other words, Holland took a decision made by a socialist enterprise and used it to attack libertarianism!

How’s that for liberal logic at work?

One of the principal tenets of liberals is their overarching belief in the goodness of government.

Indeed, whenever libertarians call for the repeal of socialist welfare-state programs, what is the standard attack leveled by liberals?

“You hate the poor, the needy, and the disadvantaged!”

The implication, of course, is that government can be trusted to love the poor, needy, and disadvantaged.

Well, I don’t know how poor that homeowner was whose house burned down or how disadvantaged he was, but I do know one thing: He was quite needy at the time his house was burning down.

Where was the much-vaunted government compassion when his house was burning down? It was nowhere to be found!

Needless to say though, liberals aren’t going to condemn a government-owned enterprise. That would be akin to blasphemy. Better to use the lack of compassion by government bureaucrats to attack libertarians instead!

Let’s assume that the fire department was entirely private, as libertarians call for. Would a private fire department have made the same decision as the socialized, governmental-owned fire department?

Holland says yes because he obviously thinks that people in the private sector would be just as uncaring and indifferent to the sufferings of people as those government bureaucrats were.

Sure, it’s entirely possible that a private fire department would have made the same decision as the socialized, government-owned fire department.

But not very likely.

You see, Holland ignores a critical difference between the private sector and the government sector: the profit motive. The private company exists to make money. Therefore, a private fire department would have the incentive to have pre-written contracts in which an owner who had failed to purchase fire protection would be asked to agree to pay, say, double the costs of putting out the fire.

When that guy whose house was burning down offered to pay the costs of putting out the fire, the government bureaucrats not only didn’t accept the offer, they didn’t make a counter-offer. Socialized institutions aren’t driven by the profit motive.

In a follow-up post to his article, Holland displayed a surprising naïveté about another point about government operations that libertarians have long made: that people are “taxed at gunpoint.”

(This isn’t the only area in which liberals have a blind spot. Another one is their support of minimum-wage laws, as I pointed out in my article “Why Do Daily Kos and Alternet Support a Racist Program?”)

Holland writes: “Fun fact: if you don’t pay your taxes, you get a letter in the mail informing you that your wages will be garnished or a lein (sic) is being placed on your property. No guns involved!”

I hate to burst Holland’s bubble but he’s obviously unfamiliar with what happens after the government places a lien on someone’s house. It’s not fun, if the property owner steadfastly refuses to pay his taxes. Here’s what happens. The government will proceed to foreclose its lien by advertising a foreclosure sale. At the foreclosure sale, a government official auctions the property and sells it to the highest bidder. A deed transferring ownership of the property is given to the new owner. He now legally owns the property.

The new owner calls the taxpayer and says, “Get out of my house.” The taxpayer says, “Nope. This is my house, not yours.”

The new owner goes to a judge and secures a writ of possession and an order commanding the taxpayer to get out of the house. The writ and order will be served by deputy sheriffs (or deputy U.S. Marshalls in the case of IRS liens), all of whom have loaded guns on them. What happens if the taxpayer refuses to vacate? What happens if he decides to use force against those deputy sheriffs who are charged with evicting him? They will pull their guns out and they will use them against the recalcitrant taxpayer who is using his guns to resist the eviction. The final outcome of the encounter will be called “resisting arrest.”

As libertarians have long pointed out, the entire socialist paradigm is founded on force, which is antithetical to principles of individual liberty, free markets, and voluntary charity. That’s reason enough to reject such collectivist notions as government-owned fire departments as well as such immoral and destructive socialist programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education grants, agricultural subsidies, bank bailouts, food stamps, foreign aid, and other welfare programs.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Biggest Threat to National Security

Everyone is finally starting to recognize that the federal government is merrily traveling down the road to national bankruptcy … and is going to take a lot of Americans down with it. The government is spending at least $1 trillion dollars more than what it is taking in … every year, with no end in sight.

Everyone knows what happens when people do that on a personal or family basis. If you’re already deeply in debt and you keep spending lots more than what you’re bringing in, there can be only one result at the end of the road — bankruptcy.

Well, guess what. In case you haven’t noticed, the federal government is already deeply in debt. In fact, each American, including children, owes an average of some $42,000, which is each person’s share of the federal debt. For a family of four, that amounts to $168,000.

Care to pay up your family’s share?

Alas, most Americans say, “Well, I’m not going to worry about that. That’s a problem for my elected representatives to work out.”

That’s a foolhardy attitude. Why? Because contrary to what you were taught in those government schools, public officials don’t look out for your interests; they look out for their own interests. Every American needs to take personal responsibility for the direction in which our nation is headed.

What are the biggest programs that all that federal spending and debt are funding?

Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other so-called welfare-state entitlements, along with military spending, including the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yet, what do Republicans and Democrats say? They say, “We promise you that we won’t touch any of those programs. But we also promise you that we’ll rein in out-of-control federal spending and debt.”

That’s ridiculous. Why? Because all those welfare-warfare programs amount to 80 percent of federal expenditures! How can they rein in federal spending without touching programs that constitute 80 percent of federal spending, especially when the balance of the spending includes interest on the debt and such sacrosanct programs as the war on drugs?

They can’t. It’s a joke when they claim they can.

The day of reckoning has arrived. It is time for Americans to embrace the libertarian solution to this giant mess: Immediately abolish (repeal) all the welfare-state and interventionist programs, beginning with the crown jewel of socialism, Social Security, and the crown jewel of interventionism, the drug war.

It’s time to admit that America’s experiment with statism, originating with the Franklin Roosevelt administration, was a grave mistake, one that has not only inculcated a sense of helplessness, dependency, and fear among the American people, not only plunged our nation into the moral debauchery of coercive confiscation and redistribution of wealth and punishment for peaceful activity, but is now also heading our nation into bankruptcy.

Medicare and Medicaid, the pride and joy of Roosevelt’s protégé, Lyndon Johnson, have destroyed what was once the finest health-care system in the world. It’s not a coincidence that health-care costs have soared ever since this socialist program was adopted. Reforming socialism is futile. The only practical solution is to repeal it, immediately, and restore a total free market in health care. The free market produces the best of everything, including health care.

The military and the military-industrial complex? Actually, they constitute a much bigger threat to national security than the welfare state. We all know that military spending is a major factor heading our nation into bankruptcy.

What makes the situation worse, however, is that it’s the military that is producing the environment of perpetual war for the United States, which means perpetually growing military expenditures, which means the perpetually increasing threat of bankruptcy.

It is the military that is producing the constant threat of terrorist retaliation, which is then being used as the excuse for ever-growing infringements on the fundamental rights and freedoms of the American people, rights and freedoms whose origins stretch all the way back to Magna Carta.

What do we need a standing army for? What do we need a military-industrial complex for? What do they do for us?

Nothing good. They suck vast amounts of productive capital out of the pockets of the American people, they mire America in foreign invasions, occupations, assassinations, torture, rendition, indefinite incarceration, and suspension of habeas corpus and civil liberties, create new enemies every day, and send us further down the road to national bankruptcy with ever-increasing expenditures.

As President Dwight Eisenhower warned us many years ago, the military-industrial complex poses a grave threat to our freedom and well-being. Time has proven him correct.

There is no nation-state on earth that has the military capability — or the interest — to cross the oceans and invade and occupy the United States. To pull off such an enormous undertaking would require tens of thousands of ships and planes and millions of troops. No nation state has the equipment, supplies, or personnel to pull it off. No nation-state could even afford it.

Therefore, what do we need an enormous standing military and military-industrial complex for? Certainly not to defend the United States from a foreign invasion. And the military’s quest to dominate and rule the world is itself the biggest threat to our national security.

What about terrorists? It’s the U.S. military that is producing the terrorists! Duh! In other words, they produce the terrorists and then say that we need the military to fight the terrorists.

That’s ludicrous.

Moreover, as we’ve learned the hard way in Afghanistan, using the military, instead of the police, to bring terrorists to justice is wrongheaded, deadly, destructive, and expensive … and oftentimes ends in failure (as Osama bin Laden will attest).

By immediately withdrawing all troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and the rest of the world and by closing the 700 imperial bases in 130 countries, the death and destruction stops, bringing an end to the biggest terrorist-producing machine the world has ever known.

It’s time for the American people to confront the obvious: the welfare-warfare state way of life has proven to be a bad mistake. It should never have been adopted. We should never have abandoned the principles of liberty, free markets, and a constitutionally limited republic on which our nation was founded.

It’s still not too late. We need to repeal, not reform, all socialist, interventionist, and imperialist welfare-warfare state programs, departments, and agencies. It’s the only way to avoid national bankruptcy, hyperinflation, and soaring taxes and debt. It’s the only way to restore freedom, peace, prosperity, and harmony to our land.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Syphilis Experiments and the State-Secrets Doctrine

If I had suggested that the U.S. government had probably done syphilis experimentation on people other than the Tuskegee experiments on unsuspecting American black men, American statists would undoubtedly respond, “Conspiracy theory! Conspiracy theory! It is inconceivable that our government would do such a thing.”

What’s interesting about statists, however, is that when it turns out that government officials really did conspire to do horrific things to people, the statists are never surprised.

Sure enough, it turns out that federal officials did conspire to commit syphilis experiments, not just at Tuskegee but also on unsuspecting prisoners in Guatemalan jails.

The experiments took place in 1948 and just came to light, thanks to a researcher who discovered the experiments in notes kept by one of the federal officials involved in the Tuskegee experiment. The Guatemalan experiments have been kept secret until now — some 64 years later, which confirms that federal officials can be very adept at keeping nefarious federal conspiracies secret.

What U.S. officials did was bring prostitutes that they knew were infected by syphilis into Guatemalan jails to infect prisoners, so that U.S. officials would be able to study the effect that antibiotics had on the syphilis.

Some of the prisoners, however, failed to contract syphilis from the prostitutes. No problem. U.S. officials simply used other ways to infect the men, methods that are too gruesome to describe here.

Keep in mind that these medical experiments took place in 1948, about the time that U.S. officials were prosecuting Nazi officials for subjecting human beings to gruesome medical experimentation.

Keep in mind also that this was the period of time when the U.S. welfare state, which had been adopted in the Franklin Roosevelt administration, was being justified under the rubric of loving the poor, needy, and disadvantaged.

Statists would argue that that’s a long time ago and that the malefactors are now dead. Time to move on, they always say.

Of course, if any of the descendants of those Guatemalan men were to retaliate with a terrorist attack against the United States, federal officials would immediately exclaim, “They just hate us for our freedom and values! The fact that we intentionally infected their father or grandfather with syphilis as an experiment has nothing to do with it.”

Meanwhile, today’s statists argue in favor of the “state-secrets doctrine,” claiming that federal officials should have the power to keep all their nefarious deeds in the so-called war on terrorism secret.

Never mind that 64 years from now, when Americans living at that time discover the horrific and gruesome things that CIA and U.S. military officials were doing in the “war on terrorism,” statists at that time will say the same thing: that that’s ancient history and that it’s time to move on.

The state-secrets doctrine needs to be ditched, completely. Nowhere does it appear in the Constitution. Instead, it was created as a judicial doctrine by the Supreme Court several decades ago, in response to a request by federal officials in a civil suit that reached the Court. The nasty little irony is that the case in which the doctrine was created involved, as it was discovered decades later, lies, wrongdoing, and cover-ups by federal officials. In other words, federal officials defrauded the Supreme Court into adopting the state-secrets doctrine.

We can’t do anything for those Guatemalan men and we can’t do anything to the federal officials who conducted those horrific experiments. But we can do our best to ensure that federal officials cease and desist from committing horrific acts against both foreigners and Americans, including torture and abuse of prisoners and detainees.

The best way to do that — indeed, the best way to restore a sense of honor and decency to our nation, not to mention peace, prosperity, security, and harmony — is to dismantle the CIA’s and Pentagon’s overseas military empire, bring all the troops home and discharge them, dismantle the enormous standing army and military-industrial complex, abolish the CIA, and open up all the files on all the nefarious things that the CIA and the military have done to people, from 1948 all the way through the present.

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Yuma Immigration Debate

I had another exciting evening last night. I participated in a live and lively debate on immigration in Yuma, Arizona, from my home in Ashburn, Virginia. The debate was sponsored by a great organization named the Freedom Library, which is run by one of the most devoted libertarians in the country, a good friend of mine named Howard Blitz. The organization’s mission is to educate young people on the principles of individual liberty, free enterprise, private property, limited government, and the Constitution.

The program consisted of four high school debaters — two per side — debating the following topic: “Resolved, that the U.S. government should substantially strengthen regulation of immigration to the United States.”

Then, the program was followed by commentary and discussion from 5 adult panelists, four of whom were on the stage, plus me from Virginia.

What was cool was that we used Skype for my participation. I was able to see the stage from my laptop and hear everyone’s comments. And they were able to see me on a big screen and listen to my comments.

Not surprisingly, the general trend of the debate and discussion was the standard one — immigration laws need to be enforced, the border needs to be secured, and the system needs reform.

Which is why Howard brought me into the program — to expose people, especially the students in the audience, to the idea of open borders as the solution to the immigration mess in which our nation finds itself.

I told the audience that I wished to make two important points:

First, no matter what reform or intervention is adopted, it won’t work. People need to finally realize that truism. I’ve watched this immigration debate unfold over the past 60 years. It’s just been one long cycle of crisis, reform, crisis, reform, crisis, reform.

Every reform or intervention just brings new problems, which then causes people to go into a new round of emotional hyper-drive, which then leads to new calls for reform.

The process is endless. No matter which reform is adopted today, we’ll be back 3-5 years from now with a new crisis and new calls for reform.

In fact, the Arizona immigration crisis is a direct result of the reform in California, when they built that immigration wall that was supposed to solve the immigration problem. Instead, immigrants simply moved east, where they cross the Arizona desert and oftentimes lose their lives in the process. They also began trespassing on people’s ranches and traveling through Arizona towns near the border.

What was the response of Arizonans? The predictable one: emotional hyper-drive over the new crisis, and new calls for reform.

I repeat: No matter what reform is adopted, it won’t work. And all it does is pile intervention upon intervention, which adds up to ever-increasing infringements on the liberty of the American people.

The reason? Immigration socialism, in the form of socialist central planning. With immigration controls, you’ve got a board of bureaucrats trying to plan, in a top-down fashion, the economic activities of millions of people. As people learned in the Soviet Union, it cannot be done.

Central planning produces distortions and perversions, not to mention death. It is inherently defective. There is no way a central planning board can plan something as complex as a labor market involving millions of people.

Second, there is only one solution that will work — the free market, which means open borders. That is, the free movements of goods and services and people. I repeat: This is the only solution to the immigration crisis. Nothing else will work.

Two examples:

1. The United States, which is the freest free-trade, free-movement-of-people zone in history. There are no immigration controls or trade restrictions between the states, which is one of the principal causes of economic prosperity in our nation. It didn’t to have to be that way, and it doesn’t have to be that way. There could be trade and immigration controls between each state, but most of us recognize that that would be an economic disaster.

2. The EU countries, which have abolished controls between the people of the EU countries. People are now free to cross back and forth between nations, without losing their citizenship. They never see an immigration or customs official. They love it. The EU countries have not lost their sovereignty or their borders, as some people predicted they would.

So, open borders is the only pragmatic solution because it is the only thing that works. Interventionism does not work and is incapable of working. Moreover, open borders not only bring economic prosperity, they are also consistent with religious principles (e.g., Love thy neighbor as thyself), the exercise of fundamental, God-given rights (e.g., the right to sustain one’s life through labor and voluntary contract), and the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you).

This post was written by:

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