Friday, April 29, 2011
Nutrition and the Nanny State
Even while bombing and killing people overseas, the federal government hasn’t forgotten its important role of being a daddy for the American people. According to an article in today’s New York Times, the Food and Drug Administration is issuing rules directed to food companies that target children in their advertising. Since child obesity is a national problem, the FDA is telling the companies that they had better get their act together and stop promoting unhealthy foods to the nation’s children … or else.
Wouldn’t you think that what children eat should be a responsibility of parents? Shouldn’t a kid’s diet fall exclusively within the realm of family decision-making?
Not when people are living under a nanny state. And hey, it’s not as if the federal government is watching over only the nation’s children. It’s also the daddy for American adults — people whom federal officials look upon as child-adults — that is, adults who must still be treated by the state as children.
Isn’t that what the drug war is all about? Doesn’t the federal government possess the authority to punish child-adults for putting unhealthy things into their mouths? Can’t a child-adult be sent to his room in a federal penitentiary for several years if he’s caught violating the government’s drug laws?
Consider country singer Willie Nelson. He recently got busted for possession of marijuana at one of the federal government’s notorious Soviet-like immigration checkpoints inside the United States. He’s 77 years old but the government is still his daddy, punishing him for possessing (and ingesting) substances that our daddy says are bad for us.
But lest you think that the government’s role as our daddy is limited to dangerous drugs, not so. The government watches over the nutrition needs of his adult-children as much as he does his children. After all, the adult children are suffering from obesity too, right?
Recently the FDA issued rules to chain restaurants directing them to publish nutrition information, including calorie counts, to their customers, including the adults. That sort of thing couldn’t be left to consumers to request restaurants to do because irresponsible, fat child-adults might not request it. So, our daddy had to step in and take care of us by forcing the restaurants to tell us what we might not want to know.
Of course, the logical next step would be to impose punishments on the child-adults themselves if they fail to make responsible decisions after being advised of the nutrition information. Perhaps a sentence ranging from 1- 10 years in jail would be appropriate, depending on how many pounds overweight the child-adult is. Why not? If they’re going to put people into jail for ingesting unhealthy drugs, why not the same for ingesting unhealthy foods?
What the FDA is doing perfectly reflects the mindset of the statist, of the collectivist. It is a mindset that views people as drones in a bee hive, existing to serve the greater good of the hive. If a drone doesn’t take care of himself, he isn’t being as productive as he could, which hurts the hive.
The idea of keeping people healthy is that people in the private sector need to be productive citizens in order to provide the tax sustenance needed by the welfare-warfare state to wage its wars and provide its welfare. A citizen that isn’t taking care of himself is hurting “society,” which hurts the machinery of the welfare-warfare state.
Let’s keep in mind that our nation was founded under libertarian principles that rejected the paternalistic state. The Framers believed that people should be free to decide for themselves how to live their lives and raise their families. They understood that being taken care of by the state constituted slavery and that freedom entailed making one’s own decisions in harmony with others in the marketplace. It’s a heritage that Americans of today should revisit.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Thanks to the Fed, They Already Are Defaulting
The doomsday crowd claims that the sky will fall in if the Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling. If the ceiling isn’t raised, they say, the federal government will be forced to default on its debt payments, which apparently will then cause the sky to fall in.
That’s, of course, ridiculous. For one thing, just because the federal government isn’t permitted to add to its ever-soaring mountain of debt doesn’t mean that it will be forced to default on debt payments. With the $2.2 trillion it collects in tax revenues, it can give first priority to debt payments.
But let’s assume there is a default. Will the sky fall in, as the doomsayers claim?
Not likely. After all, thanks to the Federal Reserve the federal government is already defaulting on its debts — and has been for decades.
While the ostensible purpose of the Federal Reserve is to “stabilize” the money supply, its real purpose is to enable public officials to spend as much money as they want by borrowing it and then letting the Federal Reserve pay off its creditors with newly printed, debased, cheapened, devalued dollars.
That’s precisely what the Fed is doing now, has been doing recently, and has been doing ever since it was established in 1913. It “monetizes” the government’s debt by printing the money to pay it off. The inflated supply of money cheapens the value of the money in circulation, which means that bondholders are being repaid in currency that is worth less than it was when they loaned it.
That’s a default.
Let’s assume I loan the government $1,000 at 10 percent interest, with the note payable one year from now. The year passes. The government owes me $1,100. The government doesn’t have the money to pay me because all of its tax revenues are devoted to welfare and warfare, which the big spenders in Congress are dead-set on continuing.
The members of Congress are reluctant to raise taxes to pay me back for two reasons: one, they know that overtaxed people get upset over more taxes, and, two, they’re concerned that more taxes will kill the private sector that funds the welfare-warfare state
No problem. The big spenders simply turn to the Fed to do the dirty work for them. The Fed cranks up the printing presses and starts printing large quantities of new money to pay me and the other creditors whose debts are now due.
The government sends me its newly printed $1,100 to pay off my debt. But there is one big problem: That $1,100 now only buys 90 percent of what it used to. Due to the Fed’s expansion of the money supply, the dollar has been debased or devalued by, say, 10 percent.
The government has not complied with its promise to pay me $1,100. It has instead paid me in money now worth $990.
That’s a default because the government isn’t paying me what I am owed.
That’s what the Fed has been doing for decades. That’s why the dollar is worth about 5 percent of what it was worth in 1913, when the Fed was established. Decade after decade, the Fed has expanded the money supply to accommodate the big spenders in Congress (and the big-spending president), thereby debasing and devaluing the currency. Throughout most of that time, the government’s creditors have been paid off in cheapened, debased, devalued dollars.
While decades of continuous default have brought monetary chaos, the sky has never fallen in.
Needless to say, the big spenders in Congress love the Fed. They know that they can keep spending and borrowing to their hearts’ content and not have to incur voter wrath by raising taxes. They know that the Fed will always come to their rescue by printing the money to pay for their big spending and big borrowing.
The citizens, of course, have no idea what is occurring. All they see is soaring prices (initially gold, silver, oil, gasoline, and other commodities, and, later, retail prices in general). Unaware that the government itself — through the Fed — is the culprit, the citizens blame the rising prices on greed, speculation, the banksters, the profiteers, the capitalists, the middle men, the entrepreneurs, and perhaps even the illegal aliens.
Our American ancestors had it right. That’s why they lived for more than 100 years with no Federal Reserve and no welfare-warfare state and a way of life based on economic liberty, sound money, private property, the free market, and a limited-government, constitutional republic.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Syria and Standing Armies
The brutal military crackdown in Syria confirms the wisdom of our Founding Fathers’ opposition to standing armies. The Syrian military is loyally obeying the orders of their commander in chief to suppress the protests sweeping the country by opening fire and killing peaceful protestors.
That is one of the big problems with standing armies, as our American ancestors repeatedly emphasized. Standing armies are among the greatest threats to a free society because of their willingness to obey whatever orders are issued to them by their commander in chief.
People might say, “But our Founding Fathers were wrong, at least with respect to a standing army in the United States. Standing armies might loyally obey whatever orders their commander in chief in Syria might issue but not here in the United States. America’s standing army takes an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution. Its loyalty is to the law, not to its commander in chief.”
Nonsense. As a practical matter, U.S. soldiers owe their fealty and allegiance to the president, who is there commander in chief. They know that when they join the standing army, they are agreeing to do whatever the president orders them to do. They know that the minute they join the standing army, they are surrendering their consciences and their personal judgments on what the president is ordering them to do. They are agreeing to go wherever the president sends them and kill, maim, kidnap, incarcerate, torture, or abuse anyone anywhere in the world.
In their minds of those in the standing army, loyally obeying the orders of the president is synonymous with supporting and defending the Constitution, defending the rights and freedoms of the American people, and protecting the national security of the United States. This is especially true when the president cites some big threat to national security when he issues his orders, such as terrorism, communism, drugs, or weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).
It is ingrained in U.S. soldiers that their job is not to question or challenge or even think about whether the president’s orders to them are constitutional, wise, or just. To them, those are issues for Congress and the federal courts to debate or adjudge. In the minds of military personnel, their job is simply to carry out the orders of their commander in chief. That’s where their loyalty lies. And that mindset is precisely one of the main reasons our Founding Fathers opposed standing armies.
Indeed, every military personnel in the standing army knows what will happen to him if he refuses to carry out an order of the president on the ground that it is unconstitutional or immoral. Recall the case of Army Lt. Ehren Watada, who refused orders to deploy to Iraq on the grounds that President Bush’s war was illegal (a war of aggression), unconstitutional (no congressional declaration of war), and immoral. His superiors arrested him, incarcerated him, and prosecuted him for a grave criminal offense, to wit: refusing to obey the orders of his commander in chief. That helped to ensure that no other member of the standing army followed Watada’s lead.
Consider President Obama’s war on Libya. There is no declaration of war, as required by the U.S. Constitution. Yet, not one soldier is refusing order to participate even though every soldier takes an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Not one soldier is trying to resign from the army in protest. Everyone in the standing army is going along. They’re all loyally obeying the orders of their commander in chief.
Consider the standing army’s military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, which the president ordered his standing army to establish with the express intent that it be a Constitution-free zone and a zone free of federal-court interference. Did America’s standing army refuse to participate in the establishment of that camp? Did any military personnel attempt to resign the standing army in protest? Did any soldiers publish op-eds showing that the camp violated the Constitution they had sworn to support and defend?
Of course not. If they had, they know that they would have been prosecuted criminally and severely punished. In the minds of those who serve in the standing army, the fact the president issued orders to the military to set up the Constitution-free camp was all that was necessary. The fact that the president cited “terrorism” and “national security” provided a further guarantee that the standing army would loyally obey his orders.
In fact, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Syrian president uses the same tactic to ensure obedient loyalty from his standing army. According to the New York Times, the Syrian military is citing terrorism as the reason for its brutal crackdown.
One of the most disturbing aspects of America’s standing army has been its willingness to partner with, associate with, and support the standing armies in U.S.-supported dictatorships in the Middle East. Notwithstanding the common knowledge that such dictatorships have long been oppressing their own people with brutal practices, the U.S. standing army has continued working with the standing armies in those dictatorial regimes.
Even more disturbing is the fact that America’s standing army shares many of the same values as the standing armies in such foreign dictatorships. After all, when America’s standing army received orders to create a prison camp and a judicial system at Gitmo, it rejected the U.S. Constitution as a model and instead copied the type of systems employed by those foreign dictatorships it has been working with (e.g., arbitrary arrests, indefinite incarcerate, torture, hearsay, kangaroo tribunals, extra-judicial executions, etc.)
America’s Founding Fathers were right to reject a standing army for our country. They understood a standing army is among the biggest threats not just to liberty but also to a nation’s financial and economic well-being, not to mention the constant threat of terrorist blowback that results from the activities of the standing army overseas.
The Syrian standing army is confirming that our ancestors were right.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
The Debt-Ceiling Charade
With respect to the debt ceiling, let me issue an easy prediction: The Republicans are going to cave. They are going to vote to raise the debt ceiling. Oh sure, there will be plenty of posturing. There will be expressions of anger and outrage over out-of-control federal spending, borrowing, and debt. There will be strategic political posturing, including threats to “shut down” the government.
But in the end the Republicans will capitulate to the threats, the dire scenarios, and the Democratic demands to raise the debt ceiling once again. Federal spending, borrowing, debt, and inflation will continue to soar.
In the process, Republicans and Democrats will once again be engaging in their periodic debt-ceiling charade, a charade that is leading our nation down the road to national bankruptcy, moral debauchery, economic impoverishment, and monetary destruction — the road that such nations as Greece, Ireland, and Portugal have already traveled.
What exactly is the debt ceiling? It is an acknowledgement by the Congress that the total debt incurred by the U.S. government has reached too high a level. It’s a promise to the American people that their government will not incur a total debt in excess of the amount established in the ceiling.
Yet, every time the debt ceiling is reached, the Congress votes to lift it, thereby enabling the federal government to continue racking up even more debt. It’s actually just one big charade because everyone in Washington knows that when the debt ceiling is reached, it will be raised and extended and that the process will be repeated when the new debt ceiling is reached down the road.
Here’s how the process works. As the debt ceiling is approached, the politicians, bureaucrats, and mainstream pundits begin issuing all sorts of dire predictions as to what will happen if the government is not permitted to add to its debt. “The sky will fall! The sky will fall!” the statists cry.
As the debt-ceiling deadline approaches, the prospect of a government “shutdown” occurs. Of course, it’s not really a “shutdown” but rather a temporary suspension of what U.S. officials consider to be “nonessential” government functions. American tourists are threatened with closures of government-owned parks and museums, and welfare beneficiaries are threatened with a suspension of their welfare checks.
Most everyone goes into emotional hyperdrive, which then causes the members of Congress to “reluctantly” raise the debt ceiling. The American people breathe a big sigh of relief, while the politicians, bureaucrats, and pundits get another good laugh out of the whole process. Their scare tactics have pulled it off again: Even though Congress had set a maximum amount of federal debt a couple of years before, the maximum has been raised once again.
Everyone now starts looking down the road to the newly established debt ceiling. So, you would think the statists would prepare for the new debt ceiling down the road by reining in spending and borrowing, right?
Not so. They don’t care. Why? Because they know that when the new debt ceiling is reached down the road, the same thing will happen that always happens. The dire predictions, the threats to close government-run museums and parks, and the threats to suspend welfare checks. Congress will capitulate again, just as they’ll do this time.
So, the debt ceiling is really just one great big charade and fraud. By setting a debt ceiling, they’re publicly recognizing that too much federal debt is a dangerous thing for our nation, and they’re promising not to exceed that maximum amount of debt. But they know that their promise is false when they make it. They know that when the debt ceiling is reached down the road, they’re going to raise it again, thereby enabling them to continue spending, borrowing, and inflating to their hearts’s content.
The more honest approach would be to abolish the debt ceiling and announce that there is no limit to the amount that federal officials’ are spending, borrowing, and inflating. The effects would be just as damaging but at least Americans would no longer be subjected to the debt-ceiling charade.
Monday, April 25, 2011
Economic Crimes in China and the U.S.
The U.S. government is criticizing the Chinese government for one of the communist regime’s favorite tactics: using “economic crimes” as a legal cover to prosecute, convict, and incarcerate people who are actually guilty of political crimes. The latest instance involves Chinese celebrity artist and social critic Ai Weiwei, who is being held on suspicion of violating “economic crimes.”
As Ayn Rand pointed out in Atlas Shrugged, that’s one of the primary purposes of economic crimes. Since economic regulations and tax regulations are so extensive and complicated, they provide government officials with the ability to prosecute businessmen whenever they want, which serves as a tremendous incentive for businessmen to keep silent and cooperative.
As the New York Times explained in a story about the Ai prosecution: “Such crimes can include prosaic failures to properly comply with regulations on business registration or taxation…. The government has convicted citizens of financial fraud before when trying to silence them.”
Actually though, U.S. officials are, once again, being disingenuous and hypocritical in leveling their charges at Chinese officials. Ever since the advent of the regulated economy under President Franklin Roosevelt, U.S. officials have done the same thing that the Chinese communists are doing: use economic crimes to prosecute American businessmen who fail to tow the official line.
Consider Joe Nacchio, who served as chief executive officer of Qwest Communications. After the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush and his people approached various heads of U.S. telecommunications firms to solicit their participation in an illegal and unethical scheme in which the telecoms would turn over confidential information about their clients to the federal government.
Not surprisingly, most of the telecom heads acceded to the president’s request. They were not dumb. They knew what the feds could do to them if they refused the president’s request to become lawbreakers and sell out their customers.
To his everlasting credit, one telecom head said no to the president. That man was Joe Nacchio. He refused to compromise the interests of his customers. He refused to break the law.
And so they went after Nacchio. No, they didn’t go after him for refusing the president’s request to violate the law and sell out his clients. That would have been too flagrant. Instead, the feds did exactly what the Chinese communists do. They went after Nacchio for committing an “economic crime,” to wit: violating the ridiculous insider-trading laws. For that economic crime, Nacchio got sentenced to six years in the federal penitentiary.
Or consider Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks. He helped finance a movie named Loose Change, which posited that President Bush orchestrated the 9/11 attacks to justify his subsequent war on Iraq. That set off a man named Jeffrey B. Norris, an S.E.C. lawyer in Fort Worth, who accused Cuban of being unpatriotic for financing a “vicious and absurd documentary.”
So, did the feds go after Cuban for accusing them of orchestrating the 9/11 attacks? Of course not. That would be violating his right to freedom of speech. Like the Chinese communists, they just figured out some economic crime that Cuban supposedly committed, and went after him for that. What was Cuban’s economic crime? You guessed it — insider trading. While they haven’t indicted him for the crime, the SEC is going after him with a civil suit.
It’s no different with the IRS Code. Every election cycle we hear promises by candidates for federal office to simplify the tax code. But they’ll never do it because they know they’d lose one of the biggest hammers they have over people’s heads. The tax code consists of countless complex rules and regulations. That ensures that they’ll always be able to go after anyone they want because most everyone is guilty of violating at least one provision of the tax code. The scheme works especially well against businessmen in major companies, whose activity exposes them to many more tax regulations (and economic regulations) than other people.
What better way to ensure that wealthy and powerful businessmen remain in line, both in communist China and the United States? If they step out of line, federal officials can do precisely what their Chinese counterparts do — go after the recalcitrant businessmen for tax crimes or economic crimes while claiming that the prosecution has nothing to do with the political positions being taken by the prosecuted person.
There really is only one solution to this problem, and it lies not with getting “better” people into public office, either in China or the United States. Instead, it lies with a total separation of the economy and the state, in the manner the Framers separated church and state. The solution lies in the embrace of the principles of economic liberty, as reflected in constitutional amendments along the following lines: “No law shall be enacted respecting the regulation of commerce or abridging the free exercise thereof” and “No tax shall be levied on income.”
Friday, April 22, 2011
Physician, Heal Thyself
Outgoing U.S. ambassador to China Jon M. Huntsman Jr. recently issued a broadside against China’s human-rights record, a pointed attack that comes in the wake of a brutal crackdown on dissent by the communist regime. “The United States will never stop supporting human rights because we believe in the fundamental struggle for human dignity wherever it may occur.”
What hypocrisy. Surely, the good ambassador has heard of the U.S. government’s infamous prison camp and “judicial system” at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Sure, everyone knows that the Chinese regime is a brutal regime, one that pays no regard to civil liberties. In China, there is no right to trial by jury, no right of due process of law, no right to be presumed innocent, no right to be free of cruel and unusual punishments, no right to bail, no right to confront witnesses, no right to remain silent, and no right to speedy trial.
Chinese officials arbitrarily arrest people, including criminal-defense attorneys, whom they disdain. They incarcerate people indefinitely, they torture and brutalize them, and they even execute them, usually after some sort of kangaroo “judicial” proceeding.
And sure, it used to be that the United States stood for such important rights as trial by jury, due process of law, the presumption of innocence, no cruel and unusual punishments, bail, confrontation of witnesses, remaining silent, and speedy trial. That’s what the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments are all about.
Not anymore. Just ask the men that the U.S. government has kept imprisoned at its Guantanamo Bay prison camp for some 10 years.
They get a kangaroo tribunal rather than trial by jury, just like in China.
They don’t get due process of law, just like in China.
They get presumed guilty, just like in China.
They get tortured, abused, isolated, and brutalized, just like in China.
They don’t get bail, just like in China.
They don’t get to confront witnesses against them, just like in China.
They get coerced into making confessions, just like in China.
They don’t get effective assistance of counsel, just like in China.
They don’t get a speedy trial, just like in China.
Lest anyone think that the U.S. government’s “emergency” powers are limited to foreigners, not so. The federal courts held in the Jose Padilla case that the U.S. government has the post-9/11 authority to treat American citizens as “enemy combatants” in the government’s perpetual “war on terrorism.”
Americans could once take pride in having the finest criminal-justice system in the world, thanks to the wisdom and courage of our ancestors who insisted on the passage of the Bill of Rights as a condition for letting the federal government come into existence.
No longer. While the efforts by President Bush, President Obama, the Pentagon, and the CIA to make the U.S. government’s extensive overseas prison system, including its prison camp at Gitmo, into a Constitution-free zone may have filled the Chinese communists with a sense of pride, the only proper feelings left for Americans are revulsion, shame, and embarrassment.
As Ambassador Huntsman condemns the Chinese criminal-justice system, he would be wise to familiarize himself with the proverb, “Physician, heal thyself.” After all, what better way to lead than by example, rather than by hypocritical criticism of others?
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Cuban and American Socialism
The disastrous failure of Cuba’s socialist economic system provides valuable clues to the American people as to why the United States is mired in economic woes. While total socialism has led Cuba into the depths of economic despair, the partial socialization of the American economy has led America in the same direction. Equally important is what socialism has done to the mindsets of both the Cuban and American people.
Consider Cuba’s system for providing food to the populace. Since the state owns everything in Cuba and has a totally centrally planned economy, the state is responsible for providing food to the people. It has long used a ration system, one in which the Cuban citizen goes to a nearby government-run ration station to pick up his regular allotment of beans, vegetables, meat, and other food-stuffs.
Recently Cuban President Raul Castro proposed doing away with the food-ration system, given the horrible economic disaster it has produced. Not surprisingly, that caused some degree of fear and consternation among the Cuban people. According to the New York Times, one 36-year-old engineer exclaimed, “How will we afford food? They will have to lower food prices a lot so people do not starve. This all seems so much so fast.”
That is what socialism does to people. Here is a guy who has lived under a system of socialist central planning with respect to food all his life. The system has proven to be a disaster, with people on the verge of starvation. Yet, when you propose to him that such a system be abolished, immediately, and that the food industry effectively be turned over to the free market, he panics. He simply cannot imagine how the free market could be trusted to ensure that everyone is adequately fed.
Of course, that was the same mindset that afflicted many people in the Soviet Union. The mindset was: “How can we sure that the free market will produce the correct number of sweaters, the right sizes, and the colors that everyone wants? Don’t we need the state to guarantee these things?”
If you were to ask the average American whether he would favor the federal government’s nationalizing the food industry, including all the farms and ranches, and taking over the production and distribution of food, he would exclaim, “Absolutely not! Leave food in the hands of the free market. The government would just make a big mess of things, as it has in Cuba.” And most Americans would not hesitate to explain to that Cuban engineer that the free market can be trusted to ensure plenty of food in privately owned grocery stores and convenience stores across the country.
But consider such socialistic programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, central banking (i.e., the Federal Reserve), and public schooling, all of which, by the way, are part and parcel of Cuba’s socialist system. Most Americans living today have been born and raised under these socialistic programs, which are almost as big a mess as Cuba’s food-rationing program. They are all in perpetual crisis, and no matter how many different reform plans are adopted, the crises are always ongoing.
The disastrous failure of these programs should not surprise anyone. Like Cuba’s food system, they all involve some sort of socialistic central planning — in the areas of retirement, charity, health care, money, or education. As the Austrian economists (e.g., Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek) showed long ago, socialistic central planning is inherently defective. It will always produce crisis and chaos no matter whose reform plan is adopted.
When libertarians propose the immediate end of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Federal Reserve and paper money, and public schooling, isn’t the reaction of most Americans just like the reaction of that Cuban engineer? Don’t Americans freak out at such a thought as much as the Cubans freak out at the thought of dismantling their food-rationing program?
“We can’t just end Social Security all at once. Why, old people would die in the streets!”
“We can’t just end Medicare and Medicaid all at once. Why, people would be dying of illness in masse!”
“We can’t restore sound money to America all at once. Why, there would be chaos in the financial markets!”
“We can’t separate school and state all at once. Why, everyone would be stupid!”
That’s what socialism does to people. It causes them to maintain and abiding dependence on the state for their sustenance.
The best thing that could ever happen to the Cuban people would be for them to “push the button” and immediately and completely dismantle Cuba’s food-rationing system and, well, for that matter, its entire socialist economic system.
Equally so, the best thing that could ever happen to the American people would to “push the button” and immediately and completely repeal Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, paper money and the Federal Reserve, public schooling, and, well, all other welfare-state (and warfare-state) programs.
An immediate dismantling of socialism and socialistic programs would immediately produce a tremendous surge in creativity, ingenuity, capital, productivity, prosperity, charity, and education.
What is needed to ditch socialism into the dustbin of history, once and for all? A restoration of self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-reliance and a renewed faith in freedom and free markets — in the Cuban people, the American people, and the people of the world.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Emergency Laws and Public-School Indoctrination
An interesting aspect of the Syrian protests shows, once again, the big success of public (i.e., government) schooling in America.
Syria is ruled by a brutal dictatorship. Everyone agrees on that. The world is witnessing the power of that dictatorship today, as it employs overwhelming police and military force to suppress dissent and anti-government demonstrations by the Syrian populace.
Syria’s dictator, President Bashar al-Assad, is attempting to placate the protestors by pledging to end the nation’s 48-year-old emergency law. According to the New York Times, the emergency law “gives the president and security forces expansive power to detain Syrians for any cause.”
The Syrian protestors have made lifting of the emergency law one of their major demands, especially since it is used round up and torture Syrian protestors.
What’s that have to do with the success of America’s public-schooling system?
The average public-school educated American can’t understand why the Syrian people would demand a lifting of the emergency laws because he’s been taught to believe that such emergency laws constitute “freedom” and “security.” And where else would such American have acquired such a belief except in the government’s public schools? That’s where, day after day and year after year, he was taught to be grateful that he was living in a free country, one in which the federal government is keeping him safe from the terrorists (and the drug dealers) and in which the troops are overseas fighting for our freedoms?
Consider the war on terrorism’s enemy-combatant doctrine. Didn’t that emergency measure come into existence during the “emergency” of the 9/11 attacks in New York City?
Don’t American public-school graduates (except libertarians) fervently believe in the enemy-combatant doctrine as much as they do, say, the Patriot Act? Don’t they consider the powers vested in federal officials by such measures as necessary means to protect our freedoms and to keep us safe? Don’t such Americans vehemently object to suggestions that such measures be ended here in the United States because of their fear that the terrorists will come and get us?
Yet, doesn’t the U.S. enemy-combatant doctrine empower U.S. officials to do the same things that Syria’s emergency laws do? Thanks to the 9/11 “emergency” 10 years ago, don’t the president and his military now wield the power to round up any American they want, incarcerate him indefinitely, torture him, and even execute him after some sort of kangaroo tribunal? Weren’t those emergency powers confirmed and upheld by the federal courts in the Jose Padilla case? Indeed, don’t the president and the military now wield the power to ignore verdicts of acquittal in federal court jury trials and take custody of acquitted Americans who the military nonetheless thinks are terrorists?
Oh sure, it’s true that U.S. officials still have to label the person a “terrorist” before they can just go out and pick him up, but big deal. All they have to do is decide who they want to target and affix the label of “terrorist” on him.
If the American prisoner files a habeas corpus petition, all the government has to do is come up with some minimal amount of evidence, perhaps through bribery or torture of some other suspected terrorist., in order to get past the habeas hearing, especially given that the federal judiciary is deferring to the commander in chief and the military during this “time of perpetual war.”
What would the average public-schooled American say to the average Syrian protestor? He’d say this:
Wait, Syrians! You are making a big mistake! Don’t you know that emergency laws that enable your government to arrest people, incarcerate them indefinitely, and torture them are freedom? Don’t you know that such laws keep you safe? You need to start trusting your public officials. They’re not perfect but they are looking out for your welfare.
Why, here in the United States, our president and his military have emergency powers too because of the 9/11 emergency that occurred 10 years ago. Like Syria’s 48-year-old emergency, our 10-year-old emergency is also temporary. Our officials have assured us that the emergency will end as soon as the last terrorist in the world is killed.
What you Syrians need to do is simply find a new president who is more benevolent than your current president. Our presidents — President Bush and President Obama — have been very cautious when it comes to the exercise of these emergency powers. They have been arresting, incarcerating, torturing, and killing real terrorists, not innocent people. You Syrians just need to find a president like Bush and Obama. But don’t get rid of the emergency powers. They’re making you free and safe.
Oh, by the way, Syrians, you might also want to take a look at our Patriot Act here in the United States, which empowers our president and his intelligence forces to arbitrarily search our banks, homes, and businesses. Sure, the government has to allege a link to terrorism, but that’s no big deal either. The Patriot Act us free and safe.
Freedom and safety, Syrians! Don’t make a mistake! Don’t let your president and his forces relinquish their emergency powers over you. Your freedom and personal security — indeed, your nation’s national security — are at stake!
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Nullifying the Drug War
No doubt to the chagrin of many judges across the land, a New Hampshire jury has shown, once again, that juries are the final judges of both the law and the facts in criminal cases, contrary to what all too many judges falsely inform juries in their courtroom.
The New Hampshire case involved the drug war. A man named Bob Constantine was charged with felony possession of marijuana, to wit: growing marijuana plants in his house. Constantine suffers from arthritis, and there was no evidence that he used the marijuana other than simply consuming it himself. Apparently, some nosy neighbor snitched on Constantine to the authorities.
Constantine defended himself at the trial. Before trial, he was offered a plea bargain involving a guilty plea to misdemeanor marijuana possession with 60 days in jail. It would have been a smart move to take the plea, given that Constantine had no defense to the felony charge. However, Constantine knew that this is how the drug war is often played, and he decided not to play the game. He went to trial and rolled the dice, obviously hoping that the jury would engage in some jury nullification.
I don’t know anything about the particular judge in Constantine’s case, but I am familiar with the general attitude that judges have toward jury nullification. They hate it. In fact, they hate it so much that they have come to lying to juries about the power of the jury to judge the law in criminal cases.
Once both sides in a criminal case have provided their evidence to the jury and rested their cases, the judge reads a formal set of instructions known as “the charge” to the jury. In those instructions, the judge sets forth the parameters for the conduct of the jury. For example, he informs the jury that it must presume the defendant innocent and must refuse to convict the defendant unless convinced of his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The judge also tells the jury that it is the sole judge of the facts in the case. The jury decides which of the witnesses are telling the truth and who aren’t. It weighs the evidence and determines guilt or innocence.
The controversy comes with respect to the law itself. Judges tell juries that they do not have the power to judge the rightfulness or wrongfulness of the law that the defendant is being charged with. Or the jury is simply told that it must accept the law as the judge provides it in his charge.
But the judge is lying. The truth is that the jury has the power to judge the law, even if the judge fails to tell the jury of such power. Once the judge hands the case over to the jury, the jury has the power to acquit the defendant for whatever reason it wants, including the fact that the jury finds the law to be immoral or unconscionable, and there isn’t anything the judge can do about it.
Consider, by comparison, a civil suit. After both sides have rested in a civil suit, the judge has the power to enter what is called an “instructed verdict.” He does that if there are no facts in dispute. Since there is nothing for the jury to determine, given that both sides agree on the facts, the judge can dismiss the jury and enter judgment for the side he believes should prevail on the law.
Not so, however, with a criminal case. Even if all the facts are agreed upon — even if the defendant openly confesses on the witness stand to having committed the offense — the judge lacks the power to dismiss the jury and summarily enter judgment for the state. The judge must nonetheless send the case to the jury because the jury is the final judge of not only the facts but also the law. It has the power to acquit the defendant even if the evidence conclusively establishes that the defendant has committed the offense.
That’s what happened in Constantine’s case. To the judge’s credit, he apparently permitted Constantine some latitude in his final summation to the jury, during which he asked the jury to acquit him of the felony charges. One or more members of the jury refused to convict on the felony offense despite the fact that the evidence was undisputed that Constantine was growing marijuana plants in his home. Absent a unanimous verdict, the jury hung on the felony charges. Unfortunately, however, the jury did unanimously vote to convict Constantine of the misdemeanor charge, and the judge sentenced him to the same 60-day jail sentence and $1,000 fine that he would have received with the plea bargain.
According to an article about Constantine’s case by Carla Gericke, president of the New Hampshire Free State Project, entitled “Live Free and Nullify,” the New Hampshire state senate is now considering a bill requiring judges to tell juries the truth regarding their power to nullify and permitting defendants and their attorneys to argue the matter to the jury.
The Constantine case make two valuable points: One, juries have the power to nullify bad laws, regardless of whether or not judges inform them of such power, and, two, at least some jurors are refusing to be willing agents of the cruel and tyrannical war on drugs.
Monday, April 18, 2011
Duplicity and Debacle at the Bay of Pigs
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion, a regime-change operation in Cuba planned and initiated by the CIA. The invasion was a disastrous failure, one that the CIA is still trying to rectify half-a-century later.
When the CIA was established in 1947, the original idea was that it would simply be an intelligence-gathering agency to help the president make decisions in the Cold War against America’s World War II ally, the Soviet Union.
However, the CIA refused to countenance such a limited mission. From the very beginning, it intended to be a major player in the formulation of U.S. foreign policy. The CIA would make itself the prime protector of the “national security” of the United States, with the CIA being the ultimate arbiter of the meaning of that nebulous term.
In 1953, the Iranian people learned first hand the power of the CIA. In a brilliantly planned and orchestrated regime-change operation, the CIA succeeded in ousting the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, a man named Mohammed Mossadegh, and replacing him with an unelected brutal dictator known as the Shah of Iran.
With the full support and cooperation of the CIA, the Shah ruled Iran for the next 26 years with a brutal hand, rounding up opponents, torturing them, and executing them, all with the goal of maintaining “order and stability” in Iran. In 1979, fed up with the cruel U.S-supported tyranny and oppression under which they had lived since 1953, the Iranian people revolted and ousted the Shah from power.
One year after the CIA’s anti-democratic regime change operation in Iran, the CIA did it again, this time in Guatemala. In a brilliantly carried out plan, the CIA succeeded in ousting the democratically elected president of the country and installing a series of brutal military dictatorships. The event ended up throwing the country into a decades-long civil war that took the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Nonetheless, the coup was considered a huge success by the CIA, especially since it, like the CIA’s regime change in Iran, had somehow protected the “national security” of the United States.
So, coming on the heels of two successful regime-change operations, the CIA figured that a regime-change operation in Cuba would be a piece of cake. It was not to be. When the hundreds of anti-Castro Cubans landed at the Bay of Pigs, Fidel Castro’s military forces were waiting for them. The attackers were killed or captured.
While the CIA had planned the attack during President Eisenhower’s administration, it was actually carried out in the first few months of the Kennedy administration. While Kennedy formally took responsibility for the failure, given that the “buck stopped” with him, the truth is that it was the CIA that was actually responsible for the debacle, and Kennedy knew it.
The CIA and anti-Castro Cubans blamed Kennedy for refusing to provide U.S. air support for the invaders. If U.S. warplanes had come to the assistance of the invaders, the argument went, the invasion would have succeeded.
However, prior to the invasion Kennedy had made it clear to the CIA that the United States would provide no air support for the attackers. If they were to succeed, they had to do it without U.S. air support. The CIA had assured Kennedy that U.S. air support would not be needed and that the operation would succeed without it.
The CIA’s representation to Kennedy was a flat-out lie. The CIA knew that U.S. air support would be required for success. The whole plan was a set-up from the get-go, one in which the CIA hoped to trap Kennedy into providing the needed air support. The CIA figured that once the invasion was underway and in danger of failing, the new president would be trapped into providing the needed support.
But the CIA misread the new president. When Kennedy told them that there would be no air support, he meant it. While he was willing to go along with supporting a group of Cuban immigrants who wished to invade their home country, Kennedy had no intention of using the U.S. military to effect regime change in Cuba or any other Latin American country.
After the invasion, Kennedy realized that he had been set up by the CIA, and was furious. He vowed to tear the CIA into a thousand pieces. He also fired three of the most respected and revered figures inside the CIA: CIA Director Alan Dulles and CIA deputy directors Richard Bissell and Charles Cabell.
Yet, in the eyes of the CIA as well as the anti-Castro Cubans, by failing to provide the air support Kennedy had betrayed his country, Cuba and the Cuban people, and the cause of freedom. Worst of all, he had jeopardized national security by leaving a Soviet-aligned communist in charge in Cuba, one who would allow the Soviet Union to install nuclear missiles in Cuba aimed at the United States the following year.
The anger and distrust between Kennedy and the CIA continued growing until the day he was killed in Dallas, especially after Kennedy refused to bomb and invade Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis, promised the Soviet Union that the United States would never invade Cuba, promised to withdraw nuclear weapons from Turkey, refused to send combat forces into Laos and Vietnam, and, worst of all, began reaching out to the Soviet communists to explore a détente between the two nations.
Ironically, the CIA’s decades-long obsession with regime change in Cuba has never died. Fifty years after duplicity and debacle at the Bay of Pigs, the CIA is still interfering with the internal affairs of Cuba with the hope of finally achieving the regime change it failed to achieve five decades ago.
Friday, April 15, 2011
Welfare and Warfare Are a Renunciation of Freedom
Perhaps the most damaging effect of public (i.e., government) schooling is the malleable mindset that it produces in American children, a mindset that defers to the authority of the government in important matters. Day after day, year after year, state officials mold the minds of the children into accepting popular, albeit false, doctrines. While some succeed in breaking free of the indoctrination (libertarians are the premier example), many people carry their molded mindsets for the rest of their lives.
Let’s look at two major examples: the welfare state and the warfare state.
From the first grade on up, state officials in the government schools ingrain every child with the notion that he is living in a free country, one based on the principles of “free enterprise.” The message is reinforced by a combination of the textbooks, schoolchildren, administrators, and teachers.
Thus, by the time they become adults most Americans have no reservations about singing, “Thank God I’m an American because at least I know I’m free.” And there isn’t any doubt in their minds about it.
The mindset is carried over with respect to the warfare state. From the time they are six years old, public-school children are ingrained with the idea that the United States is a “republic,” a notion that is reinforced every day with the Pledge of Allegiance They are taught that the U.S. military’s job is “defense” — the defense of our nation and the defense of our freedoms. The children are taught to glorify and honor the troops, who “defend our freedoms” all over the world.
Libertarians are different, which is what confuses and confounds the statists. We have achieved a breakthrough from the indoctrination.
For example, unlike the statists we libertarians don’t consider a welfare-state way of life to be freedom. A genuinely free person is one who is free to keep everything he earns in life and to do decide for himself what to do with his own money. When government wields the power to forcibly take whatever money it wants from one person in order to give it to another person, there is no way that people in such a society can truly be considered free.
Libertarians also have broken free of the indoctrination regarding “defense.” If a foreign nation invaded the United States, the invaders would be the attackers, the aggressors, the initiators of the war. Americans opposing the invasion would be defending their country against the invasion.
Today, there is no nation on earth that has the military or financial capability or even the interest in invading and occupying the United States. Therefore, since there is no invasion or even the remotest threat of an invasion, there is nothing for Americans to be defending against. Therefore, there is no need for us to have an enormous military machine and an enormous military-industrial complex within our midst.
What statists are unable to do, thanks to the mindset molded within them in their formative years, is recognize that the U.S. government is no longer a republic and hasn’t been a republic in more than a century. Instead, long ago our government assumed the role of a worldwide military empire, one with an enormous standing army with about a thousand military bases all over the world. Having assumed the self-appointed role of guarantor of global “order and stability,” our government has become an invader, aggressor, and initiator of violence. As part of ensuring “order and stability, the Empire engages in foreign regime change, intrigue, deception, interference, sanctions, embargoes, support of dictatorships, kidnapping, torture, abuse, humiliation, foreign aid, invasions, and occupations.
Statists see all that but their mindsets tell them that it’s all part of “defense.” They are unable to recognize that the troops are not defending our nation or our freedoms with their foreign adventures but instead producing nothing but trouble for us, including terrorist blowback and financial bankruptcy, trouble that the federal government then uses as the excuse to take away our freedoms under the rubric a “national security” emergency.
Getting our nation back on the right track requires a dismantling of both the welfare state and the warfare state. That requires Americans to achieve libertarian breakthrough, one that recognizes that the welfare-state and warfare state way of life aren’t freedom but rather a renunciation of freedom.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
No More Statism
Not surprisingly, liberals are calling for tax hikes on the rich as their way to pay for the ever-burgeoning costs of the welfare-warfare state.
Conservatives pretend to oppose tax hikes. Their preferred method of funding the welfare-warfare state is through the Federal Reserve, whose job is to provide the money and credit needed to fund excess federal spending without the need to raise income taxes.
That’s what passes for philosophical debate between liberals and conservatives. The fight isn’t over the legitimacy of the welfare-warfare state way of life. They both agree on that. The fight is over how to fund it (and, of course, which side gets to run it).
The controversy perfectly reflects how different we libertarians are from statists. We libertarians don’t argue over whether the welfare-warfare state should be funded by income taxation or inflation. Our position is: Immediately repeal all welfare-state programs (beginning with the crown jewels of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid), repeal all interventionist and regulatory programs (beginning with the drug war), and dismantle the U.S. government’s military empire, close the bases, and discharge the troops into the private sector.
Oh, and abolish the IRS and the income tax, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid taxes, and the Federal Reserve.
In other words, leave people free to accumulate unlimited amounts of wealth, leave people free to do whatever they want with their own money, leave people free to make whatever choices they want in life so long as their conduct is peaceful, and depend on a well-armed, self-trained citizen soldiery that would be ready to voluntarily come to the defense of our country in the extremely unlikely event of an invasion.
With major exceptions like slavery and tariffs and many minor exceptions, the libertarian position was the position of America’s Founding Fathers. They abhorred the statist philosophy that has now held our nation in its grip for many decades.
With the exception of President Lincoln’s unconstitutional imposition of an income tax to fund his war against the seceding states, the United States had no income taxation or IRS from the nation’s founding in 1787 to the early part of the 20th century. Americans were free to keep everything they earned.
When the federal government didn’t tax income, lots of poor people became wealthy. Even more entered the ranks of the middle class.
For most of that entire time, there was no central bank, paper money, or legal-tender laws. (Again, Lincoln’s tenure was a big exception.) Americans used gold and silver coins as their official money, which is what the Constitution required. When government was unable to debase the currency, the result was the greatest buildup of productive capital that people had ever seen.
The massive buildup of capital, in turn, made workers more productive. More productivity meant higher revenues. Higher revenues brought higher wages for the workers.
For the first time in history, masses of poor people were breaking free of the chains of poverty, which is precisely why thousands of penniless immigrants were fleeing the European and Asian lands of statism to come to a land of no welfare-warfare state. (Did I mention that America had no immigration controls during most of that period as well?)
Our American ancestors also detested militarism, standing armies, conscription, and empires. After all, they had rebelled against an empire, together with the ever-burgeoning taxes, debt, and inflation needed to fund it. Many of them had immigrated to America to escape conscription and perpetual war.
Charity was entirely voluntary for more than 100 years. By and large, Americans were a religious people. The thought of using the power of Caesar to interfere with the exercise of God’s great gift of free will was anathema to our ancestors. People had the moral right to decide what to do with their own money, they firmly believed. That’s what freedom of choice is all about. They would never have tolerated mandatory government-enforced “charity” in the form of such things as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, grants, and subsidies.
Today, the federal government is mired in ever-increasing spending, debt, taxes, and inflation. How can that surprise anyone? Americans have abandoned the founding principles of their nation in favor of the statism from which our American ancestors rebelled or fled.
Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, subsidies, grants, income taxation, IRS, the drug war, the DEA, the Federal Reserve, a thousand foreign military bases, the CIA, the NSA, the TSA, occupations of foreign countries, undeclared wars of aggression, standby conscription, kidnapping, torture, Gitmo, secret prison camps, invasions of privacy, unreasonable searches and seizures, torture, and assassination.
It’s all part and parcel of the statism that now afflicts our land. That’s the root of America’s economic and social woes. There is only one way to restore freedom, peace, prosperity, and harmony to our land, and it lies not in figuring out how to fund the welfare-warfare state way of life. It lies in rejecting the welfare-warfare state way of life in favor of the libertarian principles that guided the founding of our nation — no income tax, no IRS, no Federal Reserve, no Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, or other welfare, no drug war, no militarism, no empire.
In other words, the key to our nation’s future well-being lies with no more statism.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Let’s Not Forget the Torture Partnership with Syria
Among the many Middle East dictatorships that are rounding up, incarcerating, torturing, and killing protestors and demonstrators is the one in Syria, which has long been recognized as one of the most brutal and oppressive regimes in the region. President Obama has condemned the “abhorrent violence committed against peaceful protesters by the Syrian government today and over the past few weeks.”
Unfortunately, however, Obama failed to condemn the violence that the Syrian regime inflicted some ten years ago against a Canadian man at the request of the U.S. government.
Thankfully, the Syrian dictatorship isn’t among the several Middle East dictatorships that the U.S. government has long funded, as it has with the brutal dictatorships in Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. However, in 2002 the U.S. government did partner with the Syrian dictatorship. The partnership involved the U.S. government’s use of the Syrian government’s torture talents, which were employed against an innocent Canadian man named Mahar Arar.
Arar, a a 32-year-old Canadian telecommunications engineer, was returning to Canada from a vacation in Tunisia. He was switching planes in New York when U.S. officials took him into custody and labeled him a terrorist.
Denying his request for an attorney (he was falsely told that only American citizens have a right to an attorney), U.S. officials held Arar in solitary confinement and interrogated him for almost two weeks. Unable to secure a confession from him, they decided to rendition him to Syria rather than charge him with a criminal offense. The hope was that the Syrian dictatorship would torture Arar into confessing to being a terrorist.
Why Syria? For the same reason that the U.S. government entered into a torture partnership with the military dictatorship in Egypt: U.S. officials knew that these two regimes were renowned for their expertise at torturing people. They were certain that their Syrian torture partner would be able to torture Arar into confessing the truth.
Arar was kept in the custody of the Syrian brutes for a year, during which time he was brutally tortured. Upon his release, the Canadian government, which had provided inaccurate information about Arar to U.S. officials, conducted an official investigation that exonerated him of any terrorism charges. The Canadian government paid him a settlement and apologized.
Not so with the U.S. government, however. It denied any wrongdoing. U.S. officials claimed that they weren’t really renditioning Arar to Syria for the purpose of torture. Instead, they claimed, they were simply deporting him to a country in which he held dual citizenship. Never mind that they could have deported him to nearby Canada, the other country in which he held dual citizenship, where he was headed when they intercepted him changing planes in New York.
Arar sued the U.S. government for what they did to him. Unfortunately, he was never able to take the testimony of U.S. officials under oath, under penalty of perjury, because the federal courts dismissed his suit. Their ground? The judicially created “state secret doctrine.” The prosecutors alleged that if people were to find out the details of what they did to Arar, the national security of the United States would be threatened. While that position obviously puts the lie to the deportation claim, the federal court of appeals upheld the district court’s summary dismissal of the case, and the Supreme Court refused to consider Arar’s appeal.
Moreover, Congress has never seen fit to hold an official investigation into what the executive branch did to Arar. No hearings. No subpoenas. No testimony.
Who negotiated the torture deal with Syria? What was the role of the CIA in all this? Was President Bush apprised of the deal? Did he sign off on it? Was the torture agreement put into writing and, if so, who were the signatories? Who else have they done this to?
We don’t know, and our government doesn’t want us to know. All they want us to know is that the U.S. government is an exceptional government, one that is kind, good, compassionate, caring, and benevolent, one that loves democracy. Any facts that contradict that fairy tale, such as support of brutal dictatorial regimes in the Middle East or entry into nasty little torture partnerships with brutal dictatorial Middle East regimes, are to be stricken from the mindsets of the American people.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Cuba, Statists, and America’s Economic Woes
The economic situation in Cuba goes a long way in explaining the economic woes of the American people as well as the response of American statists to such economic woes.
After Fidel Castro took power in 1959, his mindset was no different from the average American statist. Castro believed that the reason that most Cubans were poor was because so many Cubans were rich. The secret to making poor people wealthy, Castro thought, was to take the wealth and income of the rich and redistribute it to the poor.
That’s precisely what American statists believe. That’s why they’re always obsessed with raising taxes on the rich and giving the money to the poor. Like Castro, they honestly believe that by taxing the rich and distributing the money to the poor, America’s decades-long war on poverty will finally be won.
That was the idea of the welfare-state way of life that President Franklin Roosevelt foisted onto the American people during the 1930s. The primary purpose of the federal government became taking money from those who had it and giving it to those who supposedly needed it more. That was when the crown jewel of the welfare state — Social Security — got enacted.
Ever since, the welfare state has gotten larger and larger, along with the size of the federal government. Throughout the process, federal spending has soared, along with ever-rising taxes and debt needed to fund the welfare-state (and warfare-state) programs.
As the borrowing and the debt grew, the Federal Reserve came to the rescue, enabling federal politicians to avoid raising income taxes so high as to incur the ire of the taxpayers. The Fed simply printed the money needed to pay the ever-burgeoning debt and other excess expenses. That’s why the value of the dollar has continually plummeted since the 1930s.
Fidel Castro simply carried Roosevelt’s statist vision to its logical conclusion. What Castro did was take everything from the rich, not just a portion of their income and savings. He nationalized homes and businesses, redistributing housing to the poor and having the government run the businesses. Most everyone became an employee of the state — a guaranteed job. It was the role of government to take care of everyone, the dream of statists everywhere.
For decades, Cuba has been mired in economic despair, with people verging on starvation. Why? American statists would tell you it’s because of the 2 percent or so of the market that is still not under the Cuban government’s control. If only the government were able to gain control over that last 2 percent, American statists would say, economic prosperity would finally come to Cuba.
How do we know that American statists would say that? Because that’s what they say about America’s economic woes. Statists refuse to acknowledge that the root cause of America’s economic woes is the welfare-state (and warfare-state) way of life that FDR imported to America. The spending, the borrowing, the debt, the inflation. Instead, statists say, it’s all because of that part of people’s lives that is still not controlled or owned by the federal government.
Thus, statists blame America’s economic woes on the rich, greed, free markets, self-interest, or other such nonsense. Anything to avoid acknowledging that the welfare-state way of life has been one miserable and destructive failure.
Several months ago, the Cuban regime announced that it was going to lay off 500,000 federal employees. What would American statists say about that? They would say that that was the worst thing that Cuba could do. Laying off so many workers would interfere with the recovery. It would mean no more federal spending for salaries for those half-a-million people. It would mean that all those people wouldn’t be going to the mall, if Cuba had malls, to spend their money.
Isn’t that what American statists say about federal spending here in the United States? Wasn’t that their reaction to the possibility of a so-called shutdown of the federal government? Isn’t that the reason they give for advocating one more lifting of the debt ceiling rather than slashing welfare-state (and warfare-state) spending?
Cuba is the end of the road for the statist vision. That’s where American statists are bound and determined to take our country with their welfare-warfare state way of life, together with the soaring spending, debt, taxes, and inflation that come with it. One can only wonder why the American people continue to permit them to do so.
Monday, April 11, 2011
The Government-Shutdown Joke
What a joke that government-shutdown showdown turned out to be. Didn’t I tell you last week that neither the Republicans nor the Democrats would ever permit the federal government to “shut down” for any length of time? The reason: most Americans would realize how wonderful it is, and that’s the last thing any statist, Republican or Democrat, wants them to realize.
The big dispute was finally settled in dramatic, shutdown-eve fashion with a $40 billion cut in federal spending. Whoopdeedoo! That’s the funny part of all this. Both the Republicans and the Democrats are now exclaiming, “We’re no longer big spenders. We’ve reformed. This is an historic budget-cutting agreement.”
There’s one big problem with this story, however. The amount being cut — $40 billion — amounts to nothing compared to what they’re spending.
Right now, the amount these people are spending exceeds what is being collected by about $1.5 trillion. So, what’s the significance of that historic, budget-slashing agreement on the eve of the government “shutdown”? The amount they’re spending in excess of what they’re collecting is now going to be $1.5 trillion minus $40 billion.
Big deal. They’re still piling on massive debt to the tune of more than $1.4 trillion a year.
We’ve seen how much these people care about big spending with Obama’s undeclared, unconstitutional military adventure in Libya. Planes, bombs, bullets, oil. They all have to be paid for, replenished, and resupplied. How much is all that going to cost? No one knows and no one cares. It just doesn’t matter.
So, they cut a deal to “slash” federal spending by $40 billion while they wage an undeclared war of aggression whose cost no one knows or cares about.
To put this fiscal joke in some perspective, let’s assume that your family’s annual income is $50,000. For the past decade or so, you and your spouse have been spending $250,000 per year. You’ve been borrowing the difference from the bank and taking out lots of credit cards. Your debt is now in excess of $2 million.
The bank is threatening to call the note. The credit card companies refuse to issue you a new credit card. You say to your spouse, “We have a problem. If we continue spending $250,000 this year, that will add another $200,000 to our overall debt. We can barely pay the interest on our current debt. We need to cut spending.”
Your spouse says, “I totally agree. I say we cut spending by $10,000. What do you say?” You respond, “No, that’s too extreme. I say we cut our spending by $5,000.”
So, the family enters into a dramatic discussion and debate over how much to cut spending. Finally, a deal is cut —family spending will be slashed by $8,000. So, instead of adding $200,000 to the overall debt, the family is going to add “only” $192,000 to the overall debt.
Do you see how ridiculous that is? The family needs to eliminate all its excess spending — $250,000 — plus more, in order to enable it to begin paying down the principal on the debt.
Mainstream commentators, most of whom are statists, exclaim, “If the government shuts down, the sky will fall, and the recovery will be impeded.”
More nonsense! The only sector that is affected by a shutdown is the parasitic sector — that is, the sector that receives, either directly or indirectly, a federal paycheck or largess, including government contractors.
The people who are having to pay for all this junk — that is, the private sector — would benefit enormously with no longer having to shoulder the taxes and debts to pay for the massive parasitic sector.
The best thing that could ever happen to our country is a dismantling — that is, a permanent shutdown — of all federal welfare-state, warfare-state departments, agencies, bureaucracies, and bureaucrats, as well as the agencies that fund them, i.e., the IRS and the Federal Reserve. Not only would the private sector be freed of the enormous debt, taxes, and inflation needed to sustain the parasitic sector’s massive spending, all those federal personnel would now be in the private sector producing wealth instead of parasitically sucking the lifeblood out of the private sector. That would produce a doubly positive economic effect.
Americans just need to ignore all the fear-mongering and fallacious economic thinking from the statists proclaiming that the sky is going to fall in if the welfare-warfare state is shut down and dismantled and a free-market, limited-government republic is restored to our land. God has created a consistent universe, one in which a good tree begets good fruit. We’ve seen the fruit of the statist tree, and it’s rotten.
Friday, April 8, 2011
The Pentagon’s Kangaroo System is Junk
Republicans are cheering while liberals are mute over another important cave-in by President Obama, this time over his flip-flop regarding the trial of accused terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, whom Obama initially intended to prosecute in federal district court in New York City but is now sending down the Pentagon’s kangaroo military-tribunal route.
Let’s make no bones about it: There is one big reason for prosecuting Mohammed in the military’s kangaroo system: to make certain that the defendant is convicted. In a federal-court jury trial, there is always the possibility of an acquittal. Juries composed of ordinary citizens are sometimes unconvinced that the feds have provided sufficient evidence of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and thus sometimes reject the government’s request for a conviction.
The possibility of an acquittal is non-existent in the Pentagon’s kangaroo system, at least if it’s clear that President Obama and Pentagon officials desire a conviction. The jury in the kangaroo system is composed of military officials, all of whom ultimately answer to the president. They’re not about to jeopardize their military careers by bucking the wishes of their commander in chief, especially by freeing a person whom the president and the Pentagon have publicly labeled a terrorist.
By the way, that’s also the reason that German Chancellor Adolf Hitler established his People’s Court. After the terrorist bombing of the Reichstag, the regularly constituted German courts acquitted some of the defendants who had been accused of participating in the bombing. For Hitler, that was unacceptable. He took the same position that Obama and the Pentagon take: A terrorist is a terrorist and should never be acquitted. To ensure that that never happened again, Hitler established the People’s Court, whose judges answered to Hitler.
If you’d like to get a good sense of how the People’s Court functioned — and how closely it resembles the proceedings in the Pentagon’s kangaroo court system, check out Sophie Scholl: The Final Days. It is an absolutely great movie.
The United States now has two competing judicial systems: the one established by the U.S. Constitution and the one established at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp by President Bush and the Pentagon after 9/11.
One of the fascinating aspects of the Pentagon’s kangaroo system is the fact that it rejects virtually all the rights and guarantees that are incorporated into the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments to the Constitution.
Keep in mind, after all, that Bush gave the Pentagon carte blanche to set up whatever kind of judicial system it wanted for trying terrorists. The Pentagon chose to reject the right of trial by jury, the right to speedy trial, the right to effective assistance of counsel, the right to due process of law, the right to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses, the right to bail, and the presumption of innocence. It accepted evidence acquired by torture, confessions acquired by torture, hearsay, and secret judicial proceedings.
Why did the Pentagon reject the rights and guarantees that are inherent to America’s constitutional federal-court system? Because it doesn’t believe in those rights and guarantees. It rejects them. Instead, it embraces the principles and systems in those dictatorial regimes that it has long partnered with, cooperated with, and trained, such as Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan.
The reason the Pentagon has long partnered with dictatorships is because U.S. military officials believe in the “order and stability” that such dictatorial systems bring to their respective countries. That “order and stability” is provided by such things as indefinite incarceration, torture, denial of due process, and guaranteed verdicts in kangaroo judicial proceedings.
U.S. officials now wield the self-assumed authority to decide whether to send a person accused of the federal crime of terrorism into the Pentagon’s junky kangaroo system or into America’s federal-court system established by the Constitution. The choice is entirely up to federal officials. The decision is arbitrary and ad hoc. It’s made on a case-by-case basis. It would be difficult to find a better example of a violation of the “rule of law” and the principle of “equal application of law” to everyone.
The Pentagon’s judicial system, like those in those U.S.-supported Middle East dictatorships, is nothing but junk. No one, not even defendants who the government are 100 percent convinced are guilty, is deserving of being prosecuted in a junky judicial system, one in which a guilty verdict is preordained.
It was a day of shame when President Obama abandoned his principles and decided to relegate Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to the Pentagon’s junky judicial system. It was an even bigger day of shame when the Pentagon set up its junky judicial system in the first place.
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Shut It Down, Permanently
There is one big reason that neither the Republicans nor the Democrats will permit the federal government to remain “shut down” for too long: They’re both too afraid that the American people will discover what a wonderful thing it is that the federal government is “shut down.”
Let’s get one thing clear, however: When federal officials refer to a “shut down” of the government, they don’t really mean a total shut down. For example, they’re not about to shut down the shooting, killing, bombing, and assassinating in faraway places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Libya.
What they mean by a “shut down” is a suspension of what they call the “non-essential” functions and bureaucrats of the federal government.
Obviously what the federal government calls “non-essential” is very different from what libertarians call non-essential. Regardless, the point about non-essential highlights what we libertarians have been advocating for decades: a complete and permanent abolition of all non-essential departments and agencies of the federal government and a firing of all non-essential federal bureaucrats.
What do we libertarians call non-essential? For starters, all welfare-state and regulatory bureaucracies and bureaucrats; the drug war, together with the DEA; the Departments of Energy, Commerce, Education, Labor, Agriculture, and all the rest of the welfare-state, regulated-economy departments and agencies.
Also, all warfare-state functions, including the Department of Homeland Security. Close all the foreign bases and surrender the leasehold rights to the property. Bring all the troops home and discharge them into the private sector. Close domestic bases and dismantle the standing army, the CIA, and the military-industrial complex.
Abolish the IRS and fire all IRS personnel. Abolish the Federal Reserve and adopt a free-market monetary system.
As we libertarians have emphasized for decades, herein lies the key to a dynamic, prosperous, free-market economy, one that nurtures, but does not coerce, such values as voluntary charity and individual responsibility.
If all non-essential federal employees, including the military, were terminated, there would actually be a doubly positive economic effect. One, the American people would thereby be relieved of the tax burden needed to pay these people their salaries and fund their activities. Two, the government workers would now be in the private sector, no longer parasitically living off the fruits of others in the private sector but instead producing wealth themselves in the private sector. It would be a doubly positive economic bonanza.
Where the statists go wrong is that they honestly believe that an enormous, ever-burgeoning government sector is the key to economic prosperity. The bigger the government and the higher the government spending, they say, the more prosperity in society.
What horrible and destructive nonsense. The statists are unable to recognize that the government sector is the parasitic sector — the leach sector. It thrives off the wealth and income that is being produced by the private sector. If there were no private sector, there could be no government sector because the government sector sucks its lifeblood from the private sector.
It’s time to admit that it was a grave mistake for the American people to embrace welfarism and militarism. It was a mistake in a moral sense and in a pragmatic sense.
Using the state to take money from A to give it to B is morally wrong. Using the state to punish people for exercising free will in peaceful pursuits (e.g., the drug war) is morally wrong. Establishing a military empire under the euphemism of “defense” was horribly wrong and destructive.
It is not a coincidence that the U.S. government is now faced with ever-growing debt, taxes, spending, and inflation, not to mention financial bankruptcy on the horizon. This is what happens when a nation abandons its principles of liberty, free markets, and a constitutional republic in favor of socialism, interventionism, regulation, and empire.
The libertarians have it right: The best thing that could ever happen to our nation is if the non-essential functions of the federal government were shut down permanently. Alas, standing in the way are both Republicans and Democrats.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Obama’s Concern for Libyan Civilians Is a Lie
President Obama’s claim that his concern for Libyan civilians motivated him to wage his undeclared war of aggression on Libya has got to be one of the most laughable lies to come out of a president’s mouth since President Bush’s bogus WMD rationale that he used to scare the American people into supporting his undeclared war of aggression on Iraq.
Let’s get one thing straight: Neither Obama nor Bush nor any other statist U.S. official gives a hoot for civilians in Libya or, for that matter, in most other countries around the world.
What matters to the U.S. Empire — what has always mattered — is who runs the regimes in those countries. The goal of the Empire is to install U.S.-approved rulers to run countries around the world and to follow imperial orders when necessary — for example, to be amenable to letting the Empire install military bases within the country, to be willing to cast a favorable vote in the United Nations, or be an enthusiastic joiner in some “coalition of the willing.”
The civilians in such countries? They don’t matter. They never have. They’re the peons. Once a U.S.-approved ruler takes charge in a particular country, U.S. officials let him do whatever he wants to his own people in order to retain power. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the “order and stability” that comes with imperial rule across the globe.
Recall the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children that were being killed, year after year, by the cruel and brutal sanctions that the U.S. Empire was enforcing against the Iraqi people for more than 10 years. Year after year, those children were dying. They were civilians. It didn’t matter. U.S. officials didn’t care one whit for what was happening to them. What mattered was getting rid of Saddam Hussein and replacing him with a U.S.-approved ruler. See “America’s Peacetime Crimes against Iraq” by Anthony Gregory.
That’s what the Iraq sanctions were for — regime change. That’s what Obama’s Libyan intervention is all about too.
The infamous and supremely callous statement by Madeleine Albright perfectly expressed the mindset that U.S. officials have toward civilians in the Middle East. When asked by “Sixty Minutes” whether the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children (who were civilians) from the sanctions were worth it, Albright responded that such deaths were, in fact, worth it. By worth it, she meant the attempt to oust Saddam Hussein from power and replace him with a U.S.-supported ruler. The Iraqi children were expendable in the pursuit of that goal and no number of deaths to achieve that goal was considered too high.
What was Albright’s official position when she issued that statement? She was the U.S. government’s official ambassador to the United Nations. She was the Empire’s spokesman to that worldwide body. She was speaking on behalf of the U.S. government.
Think about all the dictators and dictatorships in the Middle East and elsewhere that the U.S. Empire has knowingly, intentionally, and deliberately supported. The Shah of Iran. Saddam Hussein. Hosni Mubarak. Tunisia. Yemen. Jordan. Saudi Arabia. Kuwait. Bahrain. Pakistan. Pinochet. Guatemala. Argentina. Nicaragua. The list goes on and on.
These have all been extremely brutal dictatorships, and U.S. officials have known that they were brutal dictatorships. That didn’t matter. Indeed, U.S.-supported dictators have long been considered good allies in the “war on terrorism,” especially with the “order and stability” that comes with dictatorship.
What all too many Americans do not want to face is that their very own government has been complicit in the evil that these dictatorships were inflicting on their own civilians in their respective counties. Through it all, the dictators and their loyal goons have been fully supported by U.S. officials. It was the U.S. government that was paying for the tyranny, torture, and oppression with hundreds of millions of dollars in IRS-collected tax money that was paid to the dictators in the form of foreign aid. It has been our government — the U.S. government — that has been funding the terror and torture centers and paying the salaries of the torturers for decades.
Obama’s supposed concern for Libyan civilians is a lie, one intended to make the American people feel good about another imperial regime-change operation. After all, if Obama and his statist cohorts in the federal government really cared about foreign civilians, why would they still be funding and cooperating with U.S. supported dictators in the Middle East and elsewhere around the globe?
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Obama: Our Benevolent Dictator
In my article of yesterday, “The Benefit of Obama’s War on Libya,” I pointed out how President Obama’s new war provides him with the justification to indefinitely maintain war-on-terrorism powers that are akin to those wielded by the U.S.-supported dictators in the Middle East.
American statists might respond, “But Jacob, President Obama isn’t like the Middle East dictators that the U.S. government has long supported. He is a kind and gentle man. He’s not using his war-on-terrorism powers to round up, incarcerate, torture, abuse, and execute American dissidents and critics, as the Middle East dictators have been doing. Obama is using his powers with restraint. Like George W. Bush before him, he is keeping us safe from the terrorists and the drug dealers.”
The statists, both liberals and conservatives, miss the point, one that libertarians are easily able to grasp: The test of a free society is not the extent to which a regime exercises dictatorial powers against its own people. The test of a free society is whether a regime has dictatorial powers at its disposal that it is able to exercise against its own people.
A kind, benevolent dictatorship — one that is mostly nice to its citizenry but which has dictatorial powers at its disposal — is a dictatorship nonetheless. People living under such a regime are not living in a free society, no matter how convinced they might be that they are doing so.
Don’t forget that immediately after the 9/11 emergency 10 years ago, U.S. officials fought vehemently and viciously for the authority to wield war-on-terrorism powers against all Americans. That’s what the Jose Padilla case was all about.
U.S. officials selected the most unsympathetic American they could find, a suspected terrorist named Jose Padilla, to make their test case that would apply to all Americans. The feds are not dumb. They knew that the average public-school-educated American would side with the government in its case against an accused terrorist, especially one that the feds said was planning on exploding a nuclear bomb in an American city. Deferring to authority, as they had been taught to do in the public schools they attended for 12 years, average Americans either paid the Padilla case no mind or enthusiastically supported the government in its case against this suspected terrorist.
But during the entire case, the feds knew what the average public-school-educated American did not know: that the feds were actually fighting for the authority to wield the same types of war-on-terrorism powers that the Middle East dictatorships they had been supporting had been wielding against their own people for decades.
The powers included: the power to conduct arbitrary and secret searches of suspected terrorists; the power to round up and take any number of suspected terrorists into military custody as enemy combatants; and the power to indefinitely incarcerate, torture, abuse, and humiliate suspected terrorists, all without due process of law, jury trials, and other rights and guarantees our American ancestors bequeathed to us in the Bill of Rights.
That’s what they did to Padilla. By virtue of their success in the courts in the Padilla case, that’s what they won the power to do to all Americans.
All that they need is a good emergency, enabling President Obama, together with the loyal support of his powerful military and paramilitary forces, to do everything those Middle East dictators have done to their citizenry.
What is necessary to restore a free society to our land? At a minimum, the restoration of a free society requires a total removal of the war-on-terrorism powers that the president now has his disposal. That means a total repudiation of the war-on-terrorism paradigm, along with the Patriot Act, the enemy-combatant doctrine, torture, secret prison camps, Gitmo, kangaroo tribunals, kidnapping, rendition, and support of dictatorships. It also means a dismantling of the U.S. government’s overseas military empire and its standing army, bringing an end to the invasions, occupations, bombings, attacks, sanctions, embargoes, kidnapping, renditions, torture, abuse, secret prison camps, kangaroo tribunals, and denigration of the Bill of Rights.
Latin Americans are fond of saying that every four years they have the privilege of electing their dictator. What they are referring to is the right to vote for the person who then has the authority to wield dictatorial powers over them for the next four years.
Thanks to the war-on-terrorism powers that the president and his federal forces now wield over the American people, unfortunately American citizens now fall into the same category as their Latin American counterparts.
Monday, April 4, 2011
The Benefit of Obama’s War on Libya
Lost within the “humanitarian” rationale that President Obama and his liberal cohorts have provided for the U.S. Empire’s war on Libya is one of the principal benefits of the Libyan War, at least from the standpoint of U.S. officials: the indefinite continuation of the U.S. government’s anti-terrorist powers that have accompanied its decade-long “war on terrorism.”
Such powers include the search and seizure provisions of the Patriot Act, the enemy- combatant doctrine, indefinite detention, kangaroo military tribunals, Gitmo, secret overseas prison camps, kidnapping, rendition, torture, denial of due process, and body groping and porn-scanning at the airports.
Just like the Middle East dictatorships, the U.S. government is not about to relinquish such powers willingly, even though they have been in existence for some 10 years. President Obama, with the full support of the U.S. military, the CIA, Homeland Security, and both liberals and conservatives in Congress, will come up with every possible rationale as to why it is necessary for federal officials to continue retaining such powers indefinitely into the future, perhaps even as long as the many decades that the Middle East dictatorships have wielded such powers.
Recall Hosni Mubarak, one of the many U.S.-supported dictators in the Middle East. His anti-terrorist powers included the power to arbitrarily search people’s homes and belongings, to arrest suspected terrorists without judicial process, to detain suspected terrorists indefinitely without a trial, to torture suspected terrorists for information or confession, and to even execute suspected terrorists without a trial.
It was Mubarak’s exercise of these anti-terrorist powers that was one of the critical reasons the Egyptian people finally decided to revolt against their own government. Over time, the Egyptian people came to realize what the Framers of the U.S. Constitution understood: such anti-terrorist powers are antithetical to a free society.
Egyptians began risking their lives by demanding an end to their own government’s decades-long anti-terrorist powers. After all, the people understood that the government could and would exercise such powers against those who were calling for the end of such powers.
The Mubarak regime took the position that the Obama administration now takes: No, it would not relinquish its anti-terrorist powers, and it cited two primary reasons for its need to continue exercising such powers indefinitely into the future: the war on terrorism and the war on drugs.
Never mind that the Egyptian government had assumed its anti-terrorism powers some 30 years before, when the president of Egypt had been assassinated. Mubarak, like Obama — and Bush before him — emphasized that the terrorist threat and the drug-dealer threat were still real, viable, ongoing threats that required the continuation of the government’s anti-terrorist powers.
Of course, it helps when government officials make such threats viable. In that way, the chances are improved that frightened citizens will exclaim, “Do whatever you have to do but just protect me from the terrorists and the drug dealers.”
That’s what the Libyan intervention accomplishes. It adds more people being killed by U.S. personnel to those in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere. More people being killed means a bigger threat of terrorist retaliation from friends, family, and countrymen of the dead.
Obama tells us that the purpose of bombing Libyan military forces is to protect Libyan civilians from Libyan soldiers. The idea is that killing Libyan troops is no big deal.
When a U.S. soldier is killed, is it no big deal for the American people, and specifically the family and friends of the soldier? On the contrary, it’s an enormous deal. Spouses, children, brothers, sisters, parents, and other family members grieve, along with friends, clergy, and countrymen. Americans get angry. Oftentimes, they want the government to wreak vengeance against “the Muslims” for the deaths of U.S. soldiers who are invading, attacking, or occupying Middle East countries.
Why should anyone expect the family, friends, and countrymen of Libyan soldiers who are killed by American bombs and missiles to react any differently? Do they not grieve? Do they not get angry? Do they not seek vengeance against those who did the killing?
And therein lies the threat of terrorist retaliation from the friends, family, and countrymen of the Libyan soldiers who are killed by U.S. bombs, missiles, or bullets — a threat that is then used, needless to say, to justify the continuation of the U.S. government’s anti-terrorist powers, and indefinitely into the future — to protect us from “the terrorists.”
The U.S. government has concocted the perfect scheme for the indefinite continuation of its anti-terrorism powers. It uses its IRS-collected tax money and its diplomatic forces, military, CIA, and DEA to intervene in the affairs of other countries — invading, occupying, attacking, bombing, and destroying countries and killing, torturing, incarcerating, abusing, provoking, and humiliating people in the process.
It’s all one great big destructive sham, one that conveniently provides federal officials with a justification for continuing to wield anti-terrorism powers that are inherent to dictatorships —powers that the Framers and our American ancestors understood were antithetical to a free society.