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Libertarianism versus Statism

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Sometimes it’s constructive to just sit back and reflect upon some of the major differences between libertarians and statists.

With respect to foreign policy, both conservatives and liberals are devoted to the continuation of America as a military empire. Sure, there are the standard debates over whether the empire should invade or bomb this country or that country but most statists agree on the fundamentals: The U.S. government should retain its status as a military empire with the capability of invading, bombing, and occupying any country it wants.

As part of the empire, both liberals and conservatives also favor the continuation of the 700-1,000 U.S. military bases in more than 125 different countries, claiming that such an extensive array of bases is necessary to maintain “peace and stability” around the world through the projection of military force. No matter which party controls the presidency or the Congress, neither of them wants to dismantle the Empire’s string of overseas military bases.

The statists also favor foreign aid to foreign governments, many of whom are run by brutal dictators. Again, regardless of which party is in control, the flow of foreign aid never ceases.

Both liberals and conservatives also believe in the war on terrorism, along with everything that comes with it, including Gitmo, the Patriot Act, indefinite detention, kangaroo tribunals, torture, the enemy-combatant doctrine, denial of due process, and assassination.

Libertarians favor an entirely different foreign-policy paradigm, one based on the concept of a limited-government, constitutional republic, as did our nation’s Founding Fathers.

Thus, we would bring all the troops home from every country, not just Iraq and Afghanistan, and immediately discharge them into the private sector.

We would also close all the foreign military bases and abandon all leasehold or ownership rights to the property to the host countries.

We would end America’s standing army and military-industrial complex, including closing thousands of military bases all over the United States. The Cold War ended long ago and there is no nation on earth that has the money, the military capability, or even the interest in invading and occupying the United States.

Would all this make Americans unsafe? On the contrary, it would make them safer than they’ve ever been. For one thing, bringing all the troops home and closing the foreign bases would end the anger and hatred that has led to anti-American terrorism. For another, it would strengthen the economic base of the country, thereby making the nation stronger.

Conservatives and liberals will not permit themselves to recognize that (1) it is the U.S. government — and specifically its foreign policy, including such things as sanctions, embargoes, support of brutal dictatorships, foreign aid, torture, invasions, occupations, kidnapping, indefinite detention, etc. — that is responsible for anti-American terrorism, and (2) it is military spending that is, in large part, responsible for the spending, debt, and inflation that is sending our nation into bankruptcy.

With respect to the welfare state, the statists are agreement here too with respect to the fundamentals. Or sure, conservatives might periodically object to funding NPR or food stamps, but they don’t have any problem with the basic idea of the state’s taking money from some people and giving it to others.

That’s what distinguishes libertarians from the statists. We libertarians believe that it’s immoral for one person to take what belongs to another person with force and without consent. We call that stealing, even when the government is doing it.

Thus, while the statists favor such socialistic programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schooling, farm subsidies, corporate bailouts, and thousands of other welfare-state programs, we libertarians oppose them all. We believe not only that people should be free to keep their own money but also that a free people can be relied upon to use their own money to help people in need. We believe in private charity, not coercive welfare.

On the drug war, the statists, needless to say, remain firmly committed to this program, notwithstanding its manifest failure and destructiveness as well as its fundamental assault on individual freedom. Think about it: Why should the state have the power to punish you for putting whatever you want into your own mouth, be it sugar, salt, fatty foods, marijuana, beer, tobacco, cocaine, or whatever? Is the government your daddy? Are you a child?

The statists say yes. They say the state owns you and, therefore, can control you until the day you die.

We libertarians say no. We say that you own yourself. You decide how to live your life. You have the natural, God-given right to make your own choices, so long as your conduct is peaceful, even if your choices are irresponsible, unhealthy, or immoral. That’s what genuine freedom is all about.

Libertarians are different from statists. Unlike them, we believe in freedom, free markets, free enterprise, private property, private charity, freedom of choice, and a limited-government, constitutional republic. We place our faith in ourselves, in freedom and free markets, in others, and in God. The statists place their faith in militarism, empire, socialism, interventionism, and the coercive apparatus of the state.

Isn’t it obvious why our country is in such bad shape? Isn’t it obvious what the solution is?

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.