Hornberger's Blog

Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
Here's the RSS feed or subscribe to our FFF Email Update to receive Hornberger’s Blog daily.

Hornberger’s Blog, September 2011

by

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Nonsense Debate at the New York Times

The New York Times is hosting a online debate entitled “Should the School Day Be Longer?

Wow, how exciting is that? Not! Well, at least not for libertarians. It’s the same old statist nonsense over how to fix and reform a socialist program, one that has been a mess for decades.

That’s the trouble with people of the statist mindset — their minds are trapped within the statist box and are unable to break free of it. Ironically, it’s the government school system that inculcated that mindset in the first place — the same system that its graduates spend their lives trying to fix and reform.

Public schooling is just another form of central planning, one of the variations of socialism. The state plans, in a top-down, command-and-control manner, the educational decisions of hundreds, thousands, or millions of children.

Public schoolteachers are government employees. They use government-approved textbooks and teach from a government-approved curriculum.

Funding is assured no matter how bad the results because it’s done through taxation. Even people who don’t have children are forced to pay, on pain of liens and foreclosures on their property if they refuse to pay.

How can it be any wonder that public schooling is always in crisis? Socialism always produces crises. Duh! Just ask people living in North Korea or Cuba, both of which, needless to say, have public-schooling systems.

In fact, public schooling is such a mess that not even the president of the United States, Barack Obama, will entrust his own children to the system. Oh, sure, he’ll force other parents to send their children into the system but he’s not about to do that to his children. He places too high a value on them to subject them to such abuse.

The only real success of public schooling is the mindset of statism and deference to authority that is inculcated in most of the public-school graduates. How can that surprise anyone? The state has control over the mind of a child for 5-6 hours a day from the time he’s six years old until he reaches 18 years of age. That’s far more time than the standard few months it takes to inculcate that sort of mindset at army boot camp.

By the time most students graduate, they have been molded into “good, little citizens of the state,” trusting their government officials to do the right thing and deferring to their authority. Those who resist the conformity, regimentation, uniformity, and indoctrination are injected with such drugs as Ritalin or Adderall until their minds are permanently molded in the right way.

Best of all, as a result of the 12 years of state indoctrination, most public-school graduates are convinced that the statist system under which they are living is freedom. Indeed, hardly any public-school graduate even knows he’s the victim of indoctrination. Goethe’s words best describe the plight of the American people: “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” Of course, the same would apply to the North Korean and Cuban and North Korean people as well, thanks to the statist indoctrination they receive in their public schools.

That’s not to suggest, of course, that private schools are significantly better. Operating under the authority of a government-issued license, private schools are on a tight leash given that their licenses can be revoked at any time. Oftentimes staffed by public-school graduates who believe in state control over education, the teaching of statism under the pretense that it’s freedom is part and parcel of the private-school system too.

Notice that the New York Times doesn’t have any libertarians participating in its online debate. That’s because libertarians have broken free of the statist box. We’re not interested in participating in such silliness as, “Should the school day be longer?” or “Should students wear uniforms to school?” or “Should prayer be permitted in school?” or “Should creationism be taught in school” or “Should students be required to recite a pledge of allegiance that was composed by a socialist?” or any other silly debate over how the state should run its schools.

The libertarian mind asks: Why should there be government schools at all? Why not separate school and state, in the way that our ancestors separated church and state? Why not end all state involvement in education? Why not a total free market in education? Why not liberate American families and entrepreneurs to handle the education of people’s children?

Alas, those questions are so far off the radar screen of the average statist that his mind is not even able to comprehend them. In the minds of people who are unable to break free of the statist box, libertarians are extremists, out of the mainstream, irrelevant, or radical.

The ultimate success of public schooling is the ingrained mindset of statism that is inculcated in the student, a mindset that unfortunately oftentimes remains with that person until the day he dies. That’s why so many of them see nothing amiss about hosting and participating in perennial nonsensical debates over how to make statism work.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Another Official Enemy for the Empire

For statists who have been depressed over the killing of Osama bin Laden and the near-destruction of al-Qaeda, fear not: the U.S. Empire has come up with another new official enemy as part of its never-ending war on terrorism.

This time the official enemy is an Afghan group called the Haqqanis, who theNew York Times described in a front-page article on Sunday as a “brutal and growing crime clan bedeviling the U.S. in Afghanistan.”

The Times also described the Haqqanis as a “terrorist network” responsible for “widespread violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including recent attacks against the United States Embassy and NATO’s headquarters in Kabul.”

The Times also stated that the Haqqanis are “the Sopranos of the Afghanistan war, a ruthless crime family that built an empire out of kidnapping, extortion, smuggling, even trucking.”

In fact, U.S. officials are now charging Pakistan’s intelligence service of having conspired with the Haqqani network to recently bomb the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan. So far Americans are expected to continued treating Pakistan as an official friend, especially given that their tax monies are still helping to fund the Pakistani regime, but that could change on a moment’s notice. Tomorrow, Pakistan could easily be converted into another official enemy of the Empire, requiring Americans to quickly change Pakistan from friend to enemy within their hearts and minds, as they have done with Iran, Iraq, and others.

Indeed, according to that same Times’ article, that’s precisely what happened with the Haqqanis. Believe it or not, this brutal, ruthless, Soprano-like, terrorist crime family used to be a friend of the Empire, whom the American people were expected to embrace as an official friend of the Empire.

When was that? Well, when it was the Soviet Empire, rather than the U.S. Empire, that was doing the occupying of Afghanistan. The Times points out:

A quarter-century ago, the Haqqani fighters were not the targets of C.I.A. missiles. They were the ones shooting C.I.A.-supplied missiles, the shoulder-fired Stingers that would devastate Soviet air power over Afghanistan.

You see, when it was the Soviets occupying Afghanistan, it was okay for the U.S. Empire to conspire with the Haqqanis to help rid their country of a foreign occupier. Unlike today, when the Haqqanis are considered “bad guys” for trying to rid their country of a foreign occupier, back then they were considered to be “good guys” for trying to rid their country of a foreign occupier. And unlike today, when the Haqqanis are considered to be an official enemy, back then Americans were taught that they were an official friend of the U.S. Empire.

Yet, when one analyzes the situation, isn’t it the Haqqanis who are conducting themselves consistently? Like many other Afghans throughout history, they oppose the foreign occupation of their country, by the Soviets, the Americans, the British, or anyone else, just as many Americans would oppose a foreign occupation of the United States. Thus, how can it surprise anyone that these “good guys/bad guys” would take up arms against the U.S. Empire just as they took up arms against the Soviet Empire?

In fact, a separate paragraph in the Times article points that out:

For Americans who worked with them in the 1980s, the fact that the Haqqanis are now fighting their former American allies is no shock. The Russians were the foreign occupiers before; now the Americans are.

How long will be it before the American people see through all this Orwellian nonsense? How long will it be before Americans realize that it is their very own national-security state, which was founded to fight the Cold War against their old official friend and ally the Soviet Union, that is responsible for so many of the woes under which Americans are now suffering — from the never ending war on terrorism, to ever-growing infringements on civil liberties, to the threat of national bankruptcy owing to out-of-control federal spending and debt?

When will Americans realize the horrible damage that the Empire is doing to our culture, our spirit, and our way of life with its invasions, occupations, sanctions, embargoes, regime-change operations, foreign aid, support of dictatorships, coups, torture, kidnappings, assassinations, drug war, and never-ending war on terrorism?

What better time than now to dismantle the national-security state, including the CIA, the NSA, and the U.S. military Empire, and liberate the American people in the private sector to lead the world out of the statist morass? What better time than now to liberate the American people — the private sector — to befriend and interact with the people of the world? What better time than now for America to lead the world to peace, harmony, prosperity, and freedom?

POSTSCRIPT: I wrapped up my guest hosting for Brent Johnson’s Global Freedom Report last Friday with guests Laurence Vance and Lew Rockwell. You can listen to all my shows last week by clicking here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Legal Tender Cases

What a high I had last night! It was the first session of my informal seminar on law and economics at George Mason University. The seminar is being co-sponsored by FFF and the GMU Econ Society. The Econ Society is a student-run group composed of students who are interested in libertarianism and Austrian economics. That’s the group that cosponsors our monthly Economic Liberty Lecture Series.

Given that the seminar is just for intellectual fun, I was expecting two or three students to show up. Imagine my surprise when we had a full classroom of about 20 students. All of us were seated around a square set of tables, which helped induce lots of great discussion.

The seminar is going to be held once a month for an hour. This semester I’m orienting the sessions around an analysis of the 1870 Supreme Court decision in the Legal Tender Cases. In that way, the students will get a feel of both constitutional issues and monetary issues within the context of a real-life legal dispute.

Last night’s session set the background for the analysis and discussion of the majority opinion in the case. We first discussed the purpose of the Constitution: to call the federal government into existence but, at the same time, to limit its powers to those enumerated in the Constitution and to powers that were “necessary and proper” to carrying out the enumerated powers.

Why limit the powers? Because people were deeply concerned that this new government would end up infringing upon their freedom and their well-being.

What were the constitutional provisions regarding monetary issues? The federal government was given the power to coin money and regulate the value thereof. It was also given the power to tax and borrow. The list of enumerated powers did not include the power to issue paper money (“bills of credit”) or the power to enact legal-tender laws.

At the same time, the states were expressly restricted from making anything but gold and silver coins legal tender. They were also expressly restricted from issuing bills of credit (i.e., paper money).

Much of the discussion revolved around the concept of money and the gold standard in the 19th century. Like most everyone, the students have been taught to think that the gold standard meant some sort of “gold-backed” money — that is, paper money backed by gold.

But as I told the students, that’s a misconception. The 19th-century gold standard did not involve gold-backed money. The gold standard simply meant that the American people had chosen gold coins and silver coins (that is, precious metals) as their money — as their official medium of exchange. The money was the gold coins and silver coins (and nickel coins and copper coins).

At the same time, the federal government had the power to borrow money and would do so by issuing bonds, notes, and bills. But those were instruments of debt — they promised to pay money. And the money they promised to pay was gold and silver.

Thus, the money was the gold and silver coins. The debt instruments were promises to pay money (that is, gold and silver coins), not money themselves. While it was certainly possible for people to begin using such bills and notes as a convenient money-substitute, it’s important to keep in mind that they remain promises to pay money.

Keep in mind that while the federal government was authorized to borrow money (and issue instruments of indebtedness), it was not authorized by the Constitution to issue debt instruments as money — i.e, paper money or “bills of credit.”

Along comes the Civil War and President Lincoln’s treasury runs out of money (sound familiar?) — that is, out of gold and silver. Lincoln is reluctant to raise taxes owing to the threat of tax revolts. Yet he desperately needs money to pay for his war on the South.

So, what does he do? He begins issuing debt instruments — promises to pay money, which begin selling at a discount owing to the possibility of default.

For example, suppose the federal government has issued a bill of credit promising to pay $20 in gold on demand. Suppose also that people lack confidence in the ability of the federal government to pay off when people come demanding payment.

The result is that the bills start trading at a discount. Suppose, for example, someone walks into a hardware store and purchases $20 in supplies. He gives the clerk a federal $20 bill. The clerk responds, “I’m sorry, sir, but if you’re going to pay in bills you’re going to have to pay $30 in bills. If you’d like to pay in gold, it will still be $20.”

So, the bills are now trading at a reduced value compared to their face value. That did not sit well with Lincoln. That set the stage for the enactment of the first legal-tender law in American history, one whose constitutionality would be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1869 in the case of Hepburn v. Griswoldand then again in 1870 in the Legal Tender Cases.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Why Save an Immoral, Illegal, Fraudulent Program?

GOP president candidate Rick Perry says that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, a monstrous lie, and unconstitutional. His GOP opponent, an ardent supporter of Social Security and, for that matter, socialized medicine, Mitt Romney, says that Perry can’t be trusted because he wants to kill Social Security.

Kill Social Security? Where did Romney get that? Perry has made it quite clear that, like every other conservative, he wants to save and fix Social Security. It’s only libertarians who want to kill Social Security and now rather than later.

In fact, Perry’s position is very strange, especially given that he’s a devout Christian. Here is man who clearly recognizes that Social Security is an immoral, fraudulent program. After all, what does a Ponzi scheme connote if not fraud? And wouldn’t a fraudulent scheme be considered something immoral, especially one that is based on a monstrous lie?

Then, how can Perry, as a Christian, support the continuation of any such program? How does he reconcile that with his conscience and with God? Does he say to himself and to God, “Well, I know it’s immoral, fraudulent, unconstitutional, and based a monstrous lie but I have no choice but to support it because otherwise I’ll lose votes from seniors”?

What other reason would Perry have for supporting the continuation of what he himself acknowledges is an immoral program? Isn’t his fear of losing votes the only reason for his wanting to continue such a program?

Romney is in a different position. As a conservative statist, he makes no bones about it: He believes in socialism and thus will do everything he can to make sure that such socialist programs as Social Security, Medicare, education grants, farm subsidies, and, well, the entire welfare state will be continued under his administration.

In other words, the same old statist junk that we’ve been having to endure for almost a century. A Romney administration would essentially be Barack Obama’s second term, just as the Obama administration has been George W. Bush’s third term. Not a dime’s worth of difference, given the joint allegiance that Republicans and Democrats have to the welfare state (and the warfare state).

During the last presidential debate, GOP candidate Rick Santorum said that he trusts the American people.

Oh?

Well, I didn’t hear him calling for the immediate repeal of Social Security. I guess what he meant to say was, “I trust the American people … but not when it comes to managing their own retirement and to deciding whether to honor their mother and father on a voluntary basis.”

This is where the socialism of public schooling meets the socialism of Social Security. I’d estimate that at least 80 percent of Americans attend public schools. So, here you have 3 generations of Americans, most of whom have spent 12 years under government control, who cannot be trusted to handle their own retirement and to make their own choices with respect to charity. Some success story!

In fact, not to digress too much, but isn’t it interesting that notwithstanding all those public school graduates, there are so many adults on drugs that the 40-year drug war must continue to be waged. I can’t help but wonder whether we have causation, not coincidence, here. In any event, some success story!

Indeed, whenever libertarians call for the separation of school and state, statists respond by saying that parents can’t be trusted with the educational decisions of their children. I ask: Why not? Aren’t most of them graduates of public schools? Some success story!

Anyway, back to Social Security. From a technical standpoint, there really isn’t any fraud involved. FDR and his statist cronies were very careful in how they phrased the Social Security law. They made sure that the law, as crafted, wasn’t creating a retirement program, an insurance program, or a contractual relationship.

The Social Security law created a welfare program. That’s it. Just a welfare program, just like food stamps, farm subsides, or foreign aid to dictators.

To fund it, the government could have cut spending elsewhere, or raised income taxes, or imposed some sort of consumption tax. Instead, it created a tax on payroll and called it a Social Security tax. But the tax was never part and parcel of the program. It was simply a way to raise taxes. The Social Security tax could be repealed today and the Social Security welfare program would remain intact.

What the feds then did was to create the illusion of a trust fund. As the government was spending the Social Security tax revenue on welfare spending and military spending, it was writing IOU’s to itself saying, in effect, “We owe the Social Security trust fund the sum of $1,000,000.”

Imagine if Bernie Madoff had announced after getting caught defrauding customers with his Ponzi scheme, “I haven’t defrauded anyone. Go look in my safe and you’ll find millions of dollars in IOUs in which I promise to pay back the money.”

Well, that’s what the feds have been doing — and with the intention of misleading people into thinking that they have been “putting their money into the fund, year after year.”

And sure enough, it’s worked. To this day, countless seniors exclaim, “I put it in and have a right to get it back.” They simply block out of their minds that they haven’t put any money into anything. They were taxed and the tax monies were spent. If they had read the law or consulted with a lawyer, they would have seen that Social Security was nothing more than a welfare program, one that future generations have the right to repeal whenever they want. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Rick Perry is right: Social Security is an immoral, illegal, fraudulent Ponzi scheme, one that places no trust in the American people. But Perry is also wrong. The only right approach, especially for a Christian, to such a program, is to end it without delay, not save, reform, or continue it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Blaming America

One of the most fascinating aspects of the post-9/11 debate has been the “Blame America” phenomenon. Whenever libertarians have pointed to the role that U.S. foreign policy played in producing the anger and rage that ultimately manifested itself with terrorist retaliation on 9/11, statists have responded, “Oh, so you’re blaming America for the attacks.”

Here at The Future of Freedom Foundation, we experienced this phenomenon first-hand immediately after the 9/11 attacks. A couple of weeks after 9/11, I wrote an article entitled, “Is This the Wrong Time to Question Foreign Policy?” We have never been inundated with more nasty emails as we were then, with virtually all of them attacking us for “blaming America” for the attacks.

The phenomenon manifested itself 4 years ago during the first GOP presidential debate. Ron Paul pointed out that the 9/11 terrorists came over here to kill us because the U.S. government was over there killing them. Immediately, Rudy Guliani pounced, criticizing Paul for blaming America for the attacks.

Most recently, Rick Santorum issued the same sort of attack against Paul based on Paul’s contention in his weekly column that the 10-year deadly occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan were leaving America vulnerable to a permanent threat of terrorist retaliation. Santorum suggested that Paul was blaming America.

It’s hard to imagine anything so ridiculous. Why is it that these people automatically jump to the conclusion that when one blames the federal government for the consequences resulting from its bad policies, he is, automatically, blaming America for such consequences?

One reason is the collectivist mindset of statists. In their minds, the federal government and the country are conflated into one big entity. Imagine a great big bee hive. The hive is the federal government, with the structure of the hive consisting of the military and the CIA. All of us in the private sector are the drones, who exist to serve the government — the greater good — society — the collective.

So, given that mindset of the statist, it makes sense that he would conclude that a person who condemns the wrongful actions of the government is condemning his country. For him, it’s just one big hive, with the national-security state providing the framework and with the maintenance of the welfare state being the goal of the hive.

Another factor here is that statists view the federal government as a daddy or a god, one that provides them with retirement, healthcare, education, food, jobs, training, and all sorts of grants, not to mention protecting them from drug dealers, profit-seekers, entrepreneurs, the rich, speculators, big oil, corporations, greed, illegal aliens, communists, terrorists, and other such dangers.

Therefore, statists really resent it when someone criticizes their daddy or their god, much as a child resents it when one of his friends criticizes the child’s daddy. “You can’t say that about my daddy! Take it back!” is the standard reaction among the statist child-adult upon hearing libertarian criticism of the federal government.

Finally, there’s the patriotism factor. Statists have the warped concept of patriotism that has long characterized European countries — the one in which the citizen is expected to support his government, especially in time of crisis or war, regardless of whether the government is in the right or not. In fact, during such times the citizen is not even expected to make that determination, according to the statist concept of patriotism. His mindset is expected to be, “My government, right or wrong” or, even better, “My government, never wrong, at least not in foreign affairs.”

A good example, of course, is World War II, when German citizens came to the support of their government even though their government was in the wrong. Like statists here, most German citizens didn’t bother making that determination. It had been inculcated in them, especially in German public schools, that the good citizen and the good patriot come to the support of their government, especially during crisis or war.

That’s why some statists have no reservations is saying that the German people who supported their government during World War II were genuine patriots and that the White Rose Germans were bad people for taking a principled stand against their government in the midst of war.

Thus, libertarians, needless to say, view patriotism in an entirely different way from statists. We view patriotism in the way that the signers of the Declaration of Independence viewed it. Contrary to popular opinion, those signers were not great Americans but rather great Englishmen. They were as much English citizens as you and I are American citizens.

The revolutionaries in 1776 were willing to stand up against their own government because their government was doing bad things and refused to stop doing such bad things. Libertarians consider those revolutionaries to have been the real patriots because they had the courage to take a stand against the wrongdoing of their own government. Statists, on the other hand, side with those who considered Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and the others as traitors or bad people for refusing to support their government in time of crisis or war.

An interesting question is whether American statists are inherently incapable of recognizing that the federal government and the private sector are not one and the same thing and that the real patriot is the person who is unafraid to take a principled stand against the wrongdoing of his government. My feeling is that many of them are incorrigible but that some of them are still able to break free of the statist mindset that holds them in its grip.

We libertarians must just continue doing what we’re doing — standing against government wrongdoing, not only because it’s the right thing to do but also because it’s the best chance we have to protect our country from the consequences of the federal government’s bad policies, both foreign and domestic.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Losing Liberty for Security with the Padilla Case

The Jose Padilla case is back in the news. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the 17-year sentence handed down by the presiding district judge was too lenient. The court has ordered the case remanded to the judge with instructions to consider a much higher sentence.

Although it might be little-known among the American people, the Jose Padilla case is quite possibly the most important legal case in our lifetime in terms of the freedom that Americans lost on 9/11.

The greatest power that any dictator can have is the power to seize a person, cart him away to a prison, concentration camp, or dungeon and keep him there for as long as the dictator wants and to torture, abuse, humiliate, or even execute him, perhaps after some sort of kangaroo trial. Of course, this is not to suggest that the dictator does these things himself. He has a powerful military, an intelligence force, or national police who loyally carry out his orders to do these things.

That’s the power that Middle East dictators have had for decades, justifying them under emergencies dealing with drugs and terrorists. In fact, Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, a longtime friend and ally of the U.S. government and whose military and the U.S. military worked closely together, wielded this emergency power for some 30 years, given that drugs and terrorism continued threatening the national security of Egypt during that period of time. It was that emergency power, among others, that the Egyptian protestors wanted eliminated. Even after Mubarak’s fall, the military regime in Egypt refuses to relinquish this extraordinary dictatorial power over the citizenry. .

That is the power that the president of the United States now wields — the same power that the U.S.-supported dictator Hosni Mubarak wielded — the same power that dictators have wielded throughout history. President Obama, like President Bush before him, now wields the emergency, post-9/11 power to use U.S. military forces to take any American into custody, hold him indefinitely, and torture and abuse him.

Are there any conditions on the exercise of such power? One — that the person be labeled a terrorist by the military, the CIA, or the president. Once that label is affixed onto the person, the dictatorial power is unleashed.

How did such extraordinary dictatorial power come to be acquired by the president of the United States in what purports to be a free country? No, not through legislative enactment, as Mubarak did it. And no, not through constitutional amendment, as our system requires. Bush simply decreed after 9/11 that he now wielded such power as a military commander in chief waging war — the “war on terrorism.” In such a war, the entire world is the battlefield and the enemy can consist of anyone, including American citizens, U.S. officials said.

Would the courts actually uphold the assumption of such extraordinary dictatorial power? They already have. That’s what the Padilla case was all about. That’s why statists have celebrated ever since that case was decided. They knew what many Americans do not know — that the ruling in Padilla didn’t just apply to him but rather to all Americans.

Jose Padilla is an American citizen. He was taken into custody and labeled a terrorist. The president removed him from the jurisdiction of the federal courts and placed him in the custody of military officials, who promptly placed him in isolation into a military dungeon, where they kept him for more than 3 years. As a result of the torture, the likelihood is that Padilla has suffered permanent mental damage.

At no time did any military officials refuse to participate in the arrest, incarceration, and torture of Jose Padilla. Like in Egypt under Mubarak, the military loyally followed orders to treat this American citizen in that way. In their minds, the troops were “defending our freedoms” when they loyally obeyed the orders of the president to do this to Padilla.

As Padilla’s petition for writ of habeas corpus was working its way through the federal courts, government lawyers were telling federal judges that national security turned on treating Padilla as an enemy combatant rather than a criminal defendant.

But it was all a lie. As soon as the government received a favorable ruling from the court of appeals, the government immediately converted Padilla to criminal defendant status. The military, after loyally following orders to treat Padilla as an enemy combatant, loyally followed orders to release him to the jurisdiction of the federal courts.

What was the benefit to the government of doing this shifting and maneuvering? U.S. officials knew that they now had a federal appellate court holding saying that the president of the United States, together with his military forces, now wields this extraordinary power. Since Padilla was appealing that holding to the Supreme Court, there was the possibility that the Supreme Court could overturn the ruling. By quickly converting Padilla to criminal-defendant status, the Supreme Court was denied jurisdiction to consider the case. That left the Court of Appeals decision intact.

That means that the government now wields the legal authority under the Padilla decision to do to Americans what they did to Padilla. All they need is the right “crisis” and they’ll have the same power that Mubarak had — the power that dictators throughout history have wielded.

Sure, the Supreme Court could ultimately overturn that ruling but that would take a long time, most like more than a year — plenty of time to brutally torture and abuse people labeled as “terrorists.”

It’s been said that 9/11 changed the world. That is most definitely true when it came to the president’s dictatorial power to arrest, incarcerate, torture, and abuse Americans. Just ask Jose Padilla, who was treated as an “enemy combatant, where he was subjected to indefinite incarceration and torture by the military, and ended up as a criminal defendant with a 17-year sentence that has now been adjudged as too lenient.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The LPAC Conference

We had a great time at the Liberty Political Action Conference in Reno sponsored by the Campaign for Liberty. About 500-600 people attended the event, which featured many speakers, including both Ron Paul and Rand Paul. Ron created a bit of a stir when he walked into Rand’s book-signing session accompanied by the actor Vince Vaughn who obviously is a Ron Paul supporter.

My talk was on foreign policy and civil liberties. It was videotaped and so if they post it online, we’ll link to it in FFF Email Update. I focused on how the threat of terrorism against the United States is a direct consequence of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.

I cited the debate exchanges between Ron Paul and Rick Santorum on the bad relations between the Iranian government and the U.S. government as an example of the problem we face. Santorum alleged that the root cause of the bad relationship was the 1979 Iranian revolution, when the revolutionaries took American diplomats hostage.

Not so, as Ron pointed out in the debate. The reason that the revolutionaries were so angry in 1979 was because of what the U.S. government had done to the Iranian people 25 years earlier. In 1953 the CIA ousted the democratically elected prime minister of Iran from power and replaced him with a brutal unelected dictator. Then, the CIA trained the dictator’s version of the CIA, the Savak, on how to torture and oppress the Iranian people. After 25 years of U.S.-installed and -supported tyranny, the Iranian people revolted, manifesting their anger at the United States by taking the U.S. diplomats hostage.

It’s the same phenomenon with respect to the constant threat of terrorism against the United States, especially with respect to the 10-year brutal occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. The problem, however, is that statists simply cannot bring themselves to admit that the U.S. government is ever in the wrong in foreign affairs or that it does bad things to foreigners.

Also, the statists view the government as their daddy, especially given that it provides their retirement, healthcare, food, education, and many other things. Therefore, they get angry when libertarians object to the bad things that the government does overseas.

The government then uses the threat of terrorism that its own policies produce as the excuse for taking away our freedoms here at home, including the Patriot Act, the enemy combatant doctrine, the illegal NSA-telecom spying, torture, body-groping at the airports, assassination, etc.

Then, we had a panel sponsored by The Future of Freedom Foundation entitled “The War on Terrorism, the Constitution, and Civil Liberties,” featuring Bruce Fein and me and moderated by Jack Hunter. It was fantastic. Bruce and I explained the legal ramifications of the war on terrorism. I focused primarily on the Jose Padilla case and why that case is so important insofar as the freedom of the American people are concerned. Bruce focused on the importance of due process of law and on the extent to which Americans have lost their civil liberties in the war on terrorism.

FFF’s program director Bart Frazier and I manned the FFF booth in the exhibit area, where we made lots of new friends and reconnected with old friends. All in all, it was a great conference.

I’ve been invited to guest host this week on an international radio show that airs on the Micro Effect Broadcast Network. The show is entitled “The Global Freedom Report” and is hosted by Brent Johnson, who asked me to guest host for him this week. I’ll be hosting the show today (Monday), Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 5-7 p.m. ET. To listen in, just go to this website.

To call in, telephone 888-747-1968 for callers in the United States and Canada and 001-208-935-0094 for other countries.

This week we start a new FFF program in conjunction with the George Mason University Econ Society, a student-run group whose focus is primarily on economic liberty and Austrian economics. I’ll be conducting an informal law and economics seminar that will initially revolve around an analysis of the Legal Tender Cases in the context of monetary policy. It should be fun and I’m hoping the students find it rewarding.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Iran and America’s 9/11 Judicial Revolution

The news media is reporting the possibility of an imminent release of the two American hikers who have been jailed in Iran since July 31, 2009. Shane Bauer, his fiancée Sarah Shourd, and their close friend Josh Fattal were arrested by Iranian authorities after allegedly crossing into Iran while hiking in Iraq’s Kurdistan region.

Shourd was released on bail, and she returned to the United States, refusing to return to Iran to stand trial. Bauer and Fattal were tried and convicted of illegal entry and spying and each was sentenced to a total of eight years in jail.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has announced that the two men will soon be released under bail, although the Iranian judiciary, which is at odds with Ahmadinejad, has replied that the case is still under review.

U.S. officials say that the case is a travesty of justice. The hikers inadvertently strayed into Iranian territory, they say, and were not spying for the U.S. government.

Yet, the hikers were given a trial, right? After hearing the evidence in the trial, the court found the hikers guilty, not only of illegal entry but also of spying.

U.S. officials would undoubtedly respond that the trial was a sham, a kangaroo proceeding whose guilty verdict was preordained.

Now, let’s consider a hypothetical situation. Suppose two Iranian men were caught by U.S. authorities illegally entering the United States from Mexico. What would be the likely response of U.S. officials?

The U.S. response would be precisely the same as that of Iran, especially given the way that U.S. officials feel about the Iranian regime. If the Iranians claimed that they were simply hiking along the border when they inadvertently strayed into the United States, U.S. officials would scoff. At the very least, the men would be charged with illegal entry, just as those American hikers were.

What would seem to be different, however, about Iran and the United States is the nature of the judiciary system in the two countries. Notwithstanding the fact that the two Iranians would be foreigners, under our system of justice they would be entitled to all the rights and guarantees to which Americans are entitled.

Right to counsel. The presumption of innocence. Right to call witnesses. Right to cross examine witnesses. Right to testify. Right to remain silent. No evidence based on torture. The right to speedy trial. Due process of law. Exclusion of illegally acquired evidence. And perhaps most important of all, trial by jury, a system by which ordinary citizens in the community, rather than the judge, decide the guilt or innocence of the accused and even the justice of the law itself.

It is those principles, some of which stretch all the way back to Magna Carta in 1215, that have long been the hallmark of America’s judicial system. It is those principles that have long distinguished our system from other judicial systems around the world.

Prior to 9/11, those hypothetical Iranian hikers would be entitled to all of them under the U.S. Constitution.

Not anymore, however, at least not since 9/11, when the Bush administration, together with the U.S. military, used the terrorist attacks on that day to revolutionize America’s judicial system to such an extent that a major part of it now mimics that of the judicial system in Iran.

Under our hypothetical, U.S. officials now have the optional authority to seize those two Iranian hikers, remove them from the jurisdiction of the federal courts, and deliver them into the clutches of the military. All they have to do is label them terrorists. Upon the issuance of that label, the two men could now be immediately whisked away to a military prison camp, including the one at Guantanamo Bay.

While the men would still be entitled to file a petition for writ of habeas corpus, all that U.S. officials would have to do is show a modicum of evidence establishing a link to terrorism, perhaps even the same type of evidence that Iranian prosecutors used to convict those American hikers of spying. It certainly wouldn’t be difficult for U.S. officials to link Iranian hikers to terrorism, especially given the fact that they’re from Iran, whose government U.S. officials consider to a terrorist regime and a member of the axis of evil.

Alternatively, under our post-9/11 system of justice, the CIA could whisk those Iranian hikers away to Syria, Egypt, Libya, or any other dictatorship in order to torture confessions out of them, as the CIA has done to numerous suspects since 9/11.

The Iranian hikers could be held in jail for the rest of their lives without a trial. If they were ultimately accorded a trial, a jury would not decide their fate. Instead, U.S. military officials, who answer to the president, would be making that determination. The proceeding would be as kangaroo in nature as judicial proceedings in Iran.

The revolutionary transformation of America’s judicial system is just another part of the post-9/11 legacy, along with the invasions, occupations, kidnappings, renditions, torture, torture partnerships with dictatorial regimes, Patriot Act, enemy-combatant doctrine, NSA-telecom spying, body-groping at the airports, and, of course, the out-of-control federal spending and debt that is hurtling our nation toward bankruptcy.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Déjà vu With Santorum’s Attack on Ron Paul

Well, shades of 2008 and former presidential candidate Rudolf Guliani! During last night’s Republican presidential debate, it was déjà vu, all over again.

Taking a page from Rudy Guliani’s now-famous attack against Ron Paul in one of the early Republican presidential debates four years ago, Santorum went on the attack last night against Paul’s libertarian foreign-policy views.

Specifically, Santorum attacked Paul for his column this week entitled “Foreign Occupation Leads to More Terror.” In the column, Paul made the point that he made in his exchange with Guliani four years ago, a point that he has consistently made ever since and that libertarians have been making even before 9/11: that U.S. foreign policy is at the root of the anger and rage in the Middle East that produces the threat of terrorist retaliation.

Well, that concept set off Santorum, just like it did Guliani four years ago. Their attacks were essentially the same — that the terrorists just hate America for its freedom and values and that Paul was “blaming America” for the attacks.

Yawn. Isn’t it amazing that after 10 years, there are still people who believe such nonsense?

By the way, Santorum did much the same thing in the last presidential debate. He suggested that the bad relationship between the United States and Iran originated with the Iranian revolution in 1979, when the revolutionaries took U.S. diplomats hostage. Santorum was suggesting that the revolutionaries just hate America for its’ freedom and values, just like the terrorists.

In that debate, Paul informed Santorum that actually the history of bad relations between Iran and the United States was rooted in what happened in 1953. That was the year that the CIA instigated a regime-change coup that ousted Iraq’s democratically elected prime minister from power and installed in his stead a brutal unelected dictator. Then, for the next 25 years, that dictator brutalized the Iranian people, with the support of the U.S. government, to such an extent that they finally revolted in 1979. Filled with anger and rage over what the U.S. government had done to them and their country, they retaliated by taking U.S. diplomats hostage. U.S.-Iran relations have been bad ever since. (See my article, “Ron Paul’s Exchange with Santorum Says It All.”

After the end of the Cold War, the U.S. government embarked on a campaign of actively and aggressively poking hornets’ nests in the Middle East, perhaps the most volatile region in the world:

(1) The Persian Gulf intervention, which killed countless Iraqis;

(2) The intentional destruction of Iraq’s water and sewage treatment plants, with the specific intent of spreading infectious illnesses among the Iraqi people;

(3) Eleven years of brutal sanctions, which prevented the water and sewage treatment plants from being repaired, contributing to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children;

(4) UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright’s infamous declaration that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions were “worth it,” which expressed the sentiment of the U.S. government;

(5) The intentional stationing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, near Islamic holy lands, knowing the effect that would have on Muslims in the Middle East;

(6) The illegal and deadly no-fly zones over Iraq, which killed more Iraqis;

(7) The financial and military support of brutal Middle East dictators, including those in Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, Yemen, and others.

(8) The unconditional financial and military support of the Israeli government.

How could all that not produce anger and rage within Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East? It would be difficult to come up with a better formula for producing such anger and rage … well, except for invasions, occupations, torture, indefinite detentions without trial, kangaroo tribunals, and assassinations—the things that the U.S. government did after 9/11.

So, what does Santorum say about such things? Does he say that people in the Middle East love it when their loved ones are killed, maimed, abused, kidnapped, tortured, and humiliated? We don’t know what he thinks about such things because he simply does not mention them or probably even think about them. Why think about such unpleasant things, especially when one’s mindset is “My federal government, never wrong, at least not in foreign affairs”?

We often hear that 9/11 changed the world. But actually it didn’t change anything the U.S. government was doing before 9/11. In fact, the U.S. government used 9/11 as an excuse to continue doing more of the same, only on a bigger, more deadly and destructive level. The invasions, occupations, kidnappings, indefinite incarcerations, torture, and assassinations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan have produced much more death and destruction — and much more anger and rage within people in the Middle East, along with the constant threat of terrorist retaliation, which has then been used to take away our freedoms here at home through such things as the Patriot Act, the enemy-combatant doctrine, the power to incarcerate without trial, torture, and assassinate Americans, and the authority to grope the bodies of the American people at airports, including those of children.

Why can’t people like Santorum and Guliani see all this? Because they don’t want to see it. They avoid seeing it by making the common mistake in conflating the U.S. government and our country. That conflation is manifested when they accuse libertarians of “blaming America” for the blowback from U.S. government foreign policy. Thus, since Santorum and Guliani think that the government and the country are one and the same thing, when a libertarian opposes the wrongdoing of their government, they perceive it as “blaming America” for the horrific consequences of the wrongdoing.

But the reality is that the federal government and the country are two separate and distinct entities, a phenomenon that is reflected in the Bill of Rights, which expressly protects the country from the federal government. In fact, when one confronts people like Santorum and Guliani with the fact that the Bill of Rights protects the American people from the federal government, they look stunned because for them the American people and the federal government are one great big entity.

One of the things that distinguish libertarians from statists is that we libertarians have a certain set of principles when it comes to liberty and the role of government in a free society. When government violates such principles of freedom, our position is that it is the duty of the citizenry to take a stand against such wrongdoing and to do our best to set the government back on the right track. To remain silent in the face of such wrongdoing, or, even worse, to support it out of fear of losing popularity, money, or credibility, is cowardice.

The irony is that four years ago, Ron Paul’s willingness to speak the truth about U.S. foreign policy — in the face of Guliani’s attack and even some booing among Republicans in the audience, just like what happened last night — was what launched his presidential campaign, attracted multitudes of young people, and generated the now-famous Internet money bombs.

It will be interesting to see if history repeats itself.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Yearning for the Iron Fist

Last Friday’s New York Times carried a front-page article entitled “Desperate Guatemalans Embrace an ‘Iron Fist,’” which showed how the failures of government interventionism inevitably lead toward calls for dictatorship to bring “order and stability” to society.

The article is about the drug war, perhaps the most failed interventionist program in history. Like Mexico and other Latin American countries, Guatemala is besieged by drug-war violence. Drug gangs, cartels, drug lords, murders, and corruption have become an established part of Guatemalan society.

Not surprisingly, people are sick and tired of drug-war violence. Their answer? They want the military to enter the fray — to crack down brutally in the war on drugs — just like Mexico has done.

The frontrunner in the country’s presidential campaign, Otto Perez Molina, is “a former military general whose campaign symbol is an iron fist. Reserved and intellectual, he both commanded troops during the worst atrocities of the war and negotiated the 1996 peace accords that ended it.”

What war? You’ll recall that in 1954 the CIA, one of the premier agencies of the U.S. government, ousted the democratically elected president of Guatemala, Jacobo Arbenz, in a coup. In this early regime-change operation, the CIA installed in his stead a series of unelected military generals who proceeded to establish order and stability within Guatemalan society, with the full support of the U.S. government whose coup installed them into power.

Since a large portion of the Guatemalan population opposed the CIA’s regime-change operation, especially given that it favored unelected military dictatorship over democracy, the country was thrown into a 30-year civil war, one that ended up killing more than a million people. Needless to say, the CIA-installed military dictatorship considered the opponents to be communists and terrorists.

As part of their goal to establish “order and stability,” the Guatemalan military “burned villages, killed children, and, just a winding road away from here [Coban, Guatemala] also massacred hundreds of Mayan peasants, and after torturing old men and raping young women.”

So, as the Times points out, the fact that the Guatemalan people are now hoping that the military will solve the drug-war violence just shows how desperate the drug-war violence has made them.

Unfortunately, however, they’re moving in a totally wrong direction. All they have to do is look at Mexico to see what happens when the military cracks down in the war on drugs. In the last five years, the death toll in Mexico is around 30,000 people. Moreover, many Mexicans are even demanding that the military exit their regions, owing to the horrible human-rights abuses that inevitably come with using the military for law-enforcement purposes (which is why the Posse Comitatus law in the United States prohibits the military from doing domestic law enforcement).

If only the Guatemalan people were to figure out that it is the drug war itself that is at the root of the violence. Making drugs illegal is what gives rise to the drug cartels, drug gangs, drug lords, murders, burglaries, muggings, bribes, and corruption.

Legalizing drugs — ending the drug war — would extinguish the violence immediately, just as the repeal of Prohibition did with alcohol. That’s the only way to restore peace and normality to Guatemalan society. Employing the military to crack down in the drug war is only going to make life worse for the Guatemalan people.

Friday, September 9, 2011

9/11 and the Degradation of Liberty and Conscience

Statists love to say that 9/11 changed the world. Actually, it didn’t change anything insofar as the federal government is concerned. It continued doing the same things it was doing prior to 9/11 and even expanded them. 9/11 did change our country though, especially with respect to the degradation of liberty and conscience.

Prior to 9/11 and especially after the dismantling of the Soviet Union, when the U.S. national-security state lost its big official enemy, the U.S. Empire went into the Middle East in search of targets of interventionist opportunities. These included: (1) the Persian Gulf intervention; (2) The intentional destruction of Iraq’s water-and-sewage treatment plants with the intent of spreading infectious illnesses among the Iraqi people; (3) the brutal sanctions that contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children; (4) the intentional stationing of U.S. troops near Islamic holy lands; (5) the deadly no-fly zones over Iraq; (6) the financial and military support provided Middle East dictatorships; and (6) the unconditional military and financial aid provided the Israeli government.

Not surprisingly — and as Chalmers Johnson, FFF writers, and others predicted — those interventionist activities succeeded in generating the rage that led to terrorist retaliation, including (1) the 1993 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center; (2) the terrorist attack on the USS Cole; (3) the terrorist attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; and, of course, (4) the 9/11 attacks.

So, what did the U.S. government do after 9/11? It simply engaged in more of the same interventionist activity that it was doing prior to 9/11.

First, it invaded Afghanistan and effected regime change there by ousting the Afghan government and installing a crooked, corrupt, fraudulent, brutal dictatorial regime that would do the bidding of the U.S. Empire.

Second, it invaded Iraq for the purpose of effecting the regime change there that the 11 years of deadly sanctions had failed to accomplish.

Third, it instituted a program of torture, assassination, indefinite detention, abuse, and humiliation of people from the Middle East.

Fourth, it embarked on a spending and borrowing spree that now threatens the government with bankruptcy. ?What changed was the nature of freedom in America. The U.S. government used the attacks to assume the same types of emergency powers that U.S.-supported dictators in the Middle East had been exercising for decades against their own people.

The military power to seize Americans and incarcerate, torture, and detain them indefinitely as “enemy combatants” in the war on terrorism. The power to spy on and monitor people’s email and telephone calls. The power to search people’s homes and financial institutions in secret. The power to grope people’s private parts at airports, including those of children. The Patriot Act. Guantanamo Bay. Kangaroo tribunals. Denial of due process.

The worst part of all this was that the statists and neo-cons sold it as “freedom.” The more the government clamped down, the freer Americans were considered to be. In fact, the most ominous part of the last 10 years is that many of the statists honestly believe that Americans are free precisely because the government is wielding these emergency powers.

Of course, that’s not surprising given the fact that such statists honestly believe that the Iraqi people and the Afghan people are now free, thanks to the U.S. invasions and occupations of their countries. In both nations, the regimes are crooked, corrupt, fraudulent ones that exercise total dictatorial powers over their citizenry. With the assistance of the U.S. military and the CIA, they arrest people arbitrarily, they detain them indefinitely without trial, they raid their homes and search their persons and belongings, and they torture them. And U.S. statists honestly believe that this is all freedom — that the troops have brought freedom to Iraq and Afghanistan.

And so you have the bizarre spectacle of statists exclaiming, “Thank God I’m an American because at least I know I’m free” or “Thank the troops for defending our freedom here at home,” notwithstanding the fact that the U.S. government now wields the same emergency powers as the U.S.-supported dictatorships in the Middle East.

Perhaps worst of all has been the denigration of conscience within the American people. Consider, for example, torture. Whenever the subject arises, so many people react nonchalantly or, even worse, actually defend it.

That’s astonishing to me. I was raised with the notion that people like the Nazis, the communists, the barbarians tortured people. I’ve been in a torture museum in Europe, and I was absolutely shocked at what I saw. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that my own government would become the world’s biggest torturer and that there would actually be people supporting it.

Where’s the shock, the outrage, the moral indignation among the people of a nation that prides itself on Judeo-Christian values?

It’s the same with U.S. support of dictatorships and the U.S. government’s torture partnerships with dictatorships, partnerships in which the U.S. government delivers a person it has kidnapped into the clutches of the dictatorships for torture. It’s all now accepted as a normal way of life.

To me, that is so utterly bizarre.

It’s no different with America’s assassination program. Did you ever think that our government would implement the biggest assassination program in history? Did you ever think you’d see the day when our government was roaming the world assassinating people without even providing them a trial to determine guilt?

The degradation of conscience is also reflected in the so-called humanitarian interventions. All too many Americans place no value on the lives of foreigners. We’ve seen this in Iraq and Libya. The statists say, these interventions have been worth it because we’ve ousted a tyrant from power.

But they never mention the price — the dead people who they killed in the process of ousting the dictator. You see, it’s never just ousting the dictator — it’s killing countless people in the process of ousting the dictator. Statists say, the deaths of those people are worth it. It’s the same mindset that U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright had when “Sixty Minutes” asked her if the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions were worth it. She responded that yes, they were “worth it.”

How cavalier. How gentlemanly. How ladylike. To be willing to sacrifice any number of foreigners for the sake of regime change. The irony is that if you asked any American statist whether he’d be willing to sacrifice his parents, spouse, or children for the sake of regime change in Iraq or Libya, he’d say, “Are you crazy? My family’s lives are more valuable than that.” But he doesn’t feel the same about the lives of Iraqis or Libyans. There was never an upward limit on the number of their lives that could be sacrificed for the greater good of regime change. Any number of deaths of Iraqis and Libyans was considered “worth it.”

That’s what 9/11 did to freedom and conscience in America. In the insatiable quest to be kept safe — safe from the dangers that the U.S. government itself has produced with its interventionist policies — the American people have paid an enormous price — in treasure, freedom, and conscience.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Libya and Mainstream Pundits, Part 3

Last Friday and last Tuesday, I wrote about New York Times’ columnist Nicholas Kristof’s paeans to the U.S. government’s intervention in Libya, paeans that contained no reference to the U.S. government’s torture partnership with Libya’s dictator, Muammar Gaddafi. I indicated that Kristof, like most other mainstream journalists, lives in a universe in which the U.S. government roams the world bringing peace and harmony to foreigners and that he pays no mind to an alternative universe of darkness in which the U.S. government is supporting foreign dictatorships, entering into torture partnerships with brutal dictators, invading and occupying countries, imposing embargoes and sanctions, assassinating, and killing and maiming countless people in the process.

Well, lo and behold, you’ll never guess what happened today. In a new articleabout Libya, Kristof actually mentions CIA torture. Interestingly, the manner in which he sticks his toe in the alternative universe speaks volumes about him and the mainstream press.

Permit me to explain why I’m focusing on Kristof given that there are countless other mainstream pundits whose mindset is the same as his. The reason is because his mindset is a perfect exemplar of the mainstream mindset. Analyzing how Kristof sees the world helps to explain how most mainstream commentators view the world.

Here’s what Kristof says in part in today’s piece:

Some Americans have fretted that Islamic extremists will take over Libya, but very few of the rebel leaders have been associated with Islamic fundamentalism. One exception is Abdel Hakim Belhaj, a military commander in Tripoli, who says he was tortured by the C.I.A. in 2004. Yet HYPERLINK “http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/02/world/africa/02islamist.html” \o “The Times article” he told my Times colleague Rod Nordland that all is forgiven and that he appreciates the American role in the Libyan revolution.

That’s it? That’s all that you have to say about this subject, Mr. Kristof? My gosh, the man has been tortured, brutally, by your very own government. Yes, Mr. Kristof, the reality is that the CIA is the U.S. government. When the CIA tortured this man, the U.S.government tortured him — your government—the government whose praises you are singing in your articles for the government that has “freed” the Libyan people from the tyranny of a brutal dictator. Is all you can say about this that the torture victim has forgiven his torturers and is now grateful for the U.S. intervention in Libya (an intervention that has ended the lives of countless other people in the process)?

Among all the bad things that came in the wake of 9/11 — the out-of-control federal spending, the wild borrowing from the Chinese communists, the Patriot Act, the illegal NSA spying, Gitmo, torture, kangaroo tribunals, assassination, the enemy-combatant doctrine, illegal searches, spying and monitoring, indefinite detention, militarism, and much more — I think the very worst might well be the degradation of conscience among the American people.

What better example of that phenomenon than Kristof’s blithe reaction to what the CIA did to that man and to so many others? It’s absolutely amazing. I find it astonishing that Kristof can just mention what the U.S. government did to that man without any sense of moral outrage and indignation.

Your government has tortured the man, Mr. Kristof. Your government cut a deal with Muammar Gaddafi — the brutal dictator whose ouster from power you are celebrating — to torture the man.

Of all the things that distinguish libertarians from statists — e.g., the fact that we favor economic liberty over socialism, and free markets over regulation, and republic over empire — I believe the biggest distinguishing characteristic might well be that our conscience seems to operate at a different level from that of statists.

Statists look at the CIA’s torture partnership with brutal dictators and seem so blasŽ about it. Libertarians, on the other hand, are deeply shocked and morally outraged that our very own government would do such a thing; and we want it fully investigated and stopped.

In describing the Libyan rebels, Kristof writes, “Are they just goons who will create their own tyranny or chaos?”

In Kristof’s universe, it’s only foreigners who are capable of being considered “goons.” What does he think those CIA agents who tortured Abdel Hakim Belhaj are? Oh, they’re not goons, he would say. They are honorable officials of the U.S. Empire defending the rights and freedoms of those of us here at home.

And it’s not as if Kristof is unaware of what these CIA goons did. In that excerpt from his article that I quoted above, Kristof links to a New York Timesnews article that describes what happened to Belhaj. It states in part:

In Bangkok, Mr. Belhaj said, he was tortured for a few days by two people he said were C.I.A. agents, and then, worse, they repatriated him to Libya, where he was thrown into solitary confinement for six years, three of them without a shower, one without a glimpse of the sun.

Tortured for two complete days by our very own government — the U.S. government. Solitary confinement for six years! Yes, six years! Not six days, not six months. Six long years without seeing anyone or anything except the inside of some small dark cell.

To libertarians, that’s astonishing. And although Kristof mentions only Belhaj’s torture, he’s not the only one who suffered torture as part of the torture partnership between the U.S. government and Libya’s brutal dictatorship. As I pointed out in Part 2, secret files recently seized in Libya indicate that the U.S. government — the same government whose praises Kristof is singing — delivered at least seven other people into the clutches of Libya’s dictator pursuant to the torture partnership between the CIA and Gaddafi’s torture team. And of course, there are the torture partnerships between the U.S. government and the brutal dictatorships in Egypt, Syria, and who knows where else.

How did all this happen? Who negotiated the deals? Why were the deals entered into? Did the president approve them? Did Congress approve them? Was the deals put into writing? How many torture victims have there been?

What else did the U.S. government do to support the Gaddafi regime? Why was the torture partnership terminated? What caused the Empire to turn on their partner? Why is the Empire continuing to support other dictatorships? What other torture contracts have been entered into with other dictatorships?

Does Kristof ask any of those questions? Does he call for a congressional investigation into the matter? Alas, he does not. Like so many other mainstream commentators, he continues to operating within his own little universe, sometimes peeking into the alternative universe of darkness, but then quickly pulling back into his universe of sweetness and innocence.

In his concluding paragraph, Kristof writes: “Countries like the United States, France, Britain and Qatar did something historic in supporting a military operation that was largely about preserving lives, not national interests.”

The late psychiatrist M. Scott Peck wrote, “Mental health is a commitment to reality at any cost.” It’s that commitment that our nation needs most of all.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Conservative Support of Socialism and Fascism

Tonight’s Republican presidential debate might well witness the surrender of Texas Gov. Rick Perry. I don’t mean his dropping out of the race but rather the almost-certain abandonment of his principles, in the hopes of being taken seriously by the mainstream press and public.

In an article last Friday, Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson wrote an interesting article entitled “Rick Perry’s Campaign Against the New Deal,” in which Gerson pointed out several radical things that Perry has stated in the past about Franklin Roosevelt’s famous program.

According to Gerson, Perry told Newsweek last fall, “I happen to think that the Progressive movement was the beginning of the deterioration of our Constitution from the standpoint of it being abused and misused to do things that Congress wanted to do, and/or the Supreme Court wanted to implement. The New Deal was the launching pad for the Washington largess as we know it today.”

Gerson also observes that Perry has pointed out that Social Security, which is the crown jewel of the New Deal and the modern-day welfare state, is a “Ponzi scheme,” a “monstrous lie,” and a “failure” that “we have been forced to accept for more than 70 years now.”

That’s not exactly the kind of rhetoric that is common to conservatives — well, at least not for the past several decades. That’s the way libertarians talk! For years, we’ve been pointing out that Roosevelt’s new-fangled program that he foisted on the American people was nothing more than a socialist-fascist system, one that rejected the principles of economic liberty, private property, and limited government on which America was founded.

Consider, for example, Roosevelt’s National Industrial Recovery Act, which established cartels for American businesses and industries, cartels that would work in partnership with the federal government to set prices, wages, production, and working conditions.

How could such a system not be considered fascist? It’s precisely the type of program that Benito Mussolini was establishing in fascist Italy.

Moreover, Roosevelt’s infamous Blue Eagle campaign, with its program of threats and intimidation against businessmen who refused to participate, was straight out of Mussolini’s playbook.

For an excellent analysis of Roosevelt’s socialist-fascist program, I recommend the book Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany, 1933-1939 by Wolfgang Schivelbusch.

Here’s a review of the book by David Boaz of the Cato Institute entitled “Hitler, Mussolini, Roosevelt.

Hitler? Yes Hitler, whose program of National Socialism included Social Security, public works, a military-industrial complex, government health care, public schooling, and government-business partnerships. Why wouldn’t he love Roosevelt’s new-fangled program for America? Consider this passage from John Toland’s biography of Hitler:

Hitler had genuine admiration for the decisive manner in which the President had taken over the reins of government. “I have sympathy for Mr. Roosevelt,” he told a correspondent for the New York Times two months later, “because he marches straight toward his objectives over Congress, lobbies and bureaucracy.” Hitler went on to note that he was the sole leader in Europe who expressed “understanding of the methods and motives of President Roosevelt.”

Consider this personal note that Hitler sent Roosevelt through U.S. Ambassador Thomas Dodd on March 14, 1934, reflecting the economic philosophy shared in common by Hitler and Roosevelt:

The Reich chancellor requests Mr. Dodd to present his greetings to President Roosevelt. He congratulates the president upon his heroic effort in the interest of the American people. The president’s successful struggle against economic distress is being followed by the entire German people with interest and admiration. The Reich chancellor is in accord with the president that the virtues of sense of duty, readiness for sacrifice, and discipline must be the supreme rule of the whole nation. This moral demand, which the president is addressing to every single citizen, is only the quintessence of German philosophy of the state, expressed in the motto “The public weal before the private gain.”

So, what will Perry do now? Will he call for the immediate dismantling of a system that he himself knows is immoral and destructive? Or will he do what most every conservative has done since the 1930s — abandon his principles and meekly support Social Security, Medicare, and the entire welfare state he himself condemns?

My hunch: He’ll throw in the towel, in order to appear more mainstream, more credible.

Why do I say that? Because ever since the New Deal, conservatives have always caved. That’s been their modus. In the 1930s and 1940s, there were still conservatives who talked like we libertarians talk today, but as the years went by they realized that to speak the truth about the New Deal and, later, the Great Society, might well cost them votes, influence, money, and political power.

Thus, conservatives learned to seal their lips and, even worse, began promoting the idea to their children and others that Roosevelt’s socialist-fascist program was actually a much-needed reform that saved America’s free enterprise system.

Gerson gives two examples of conservative cave-ins.

In his 1976 presidential campaign. Ronald Reagan stated, “Fascism was really the basis for the New Deal.” But his presidency, Gerson points out, was “an extended accommodation with the New Deal…. Social Security spending rose dramatically during the Reagan years.”

In his 1964 campaign, Barry Goldwater stated, “I think Social Security ought to be voluntary.” But when challenged, Goldwater answered, “I don’t know where you ever got the idea.”

What’s interesting is that Perry is a devout Christian. Why, just recently he hosted a national prayer session in Houston in which thousands attended. If he caves, which is likely, how is he going to reconcile his religious devotion with his support of a program that he himself knows is immoral and destructive? How does he resolve it within his own conscience? How does he explain his abandonment to God?

The amusing part of this controversy is that for years the mainstream has marginalized libertarians for speaking the truth about what Roosevelt did to our nation with his socialist-fascist program, and yet here is a mainstream presidential candidate leading the polls in the Republican Party spouting the same things we libertarians have been saying for decades. How’s that for funny?

I’d like to think that this time things will be different. I’d like to hope that Perry will be one conservative who won’t surrender, who won’t reject his own beliefs, who won’t trade himself for a mess of pottage, one who will call for the immediate dismantling of Social Security, Medicare, and the rest of the socialist-fascist scheme that Roosevelt foisted upon our nation.

I’m not holding my breath.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Libya and Mainstream Pundits, Part 2

Last Friday, I commented about how mainstream journalists seem to live in a universe in which they view the U.S. government as a glorious, saintly entity that roams the world helping the poor and oppressed, as exemplified most recently by the U.S. intervention in Libya. I pointed to a column last week byNew York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof that praised the U.S. intervention in Libya. The title of the column was “Thank You, America!

I compared Kristof’s commentary with a commentary by former Human Rights Watch attorney Joanne Mariner, which focused on the CIA’s partnership with Libya’s dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, to torture people on behalf of the U.S. government.

It’s as if we live in two simultaneous universes. The mainstream pundits live in the universe in which the U.S. government is perceived as a saintly organization that makes great sacrifices for the benefit of the world — bringing people food, helping them in earthquakes, tsunamis, and other emergencies, and freeing them from dictatorships.

The other universe — the one in which the U.S. government is sending billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer money to dictators, entering into torture-partnerships with dictators, torturing people, invading and occupying countries, waging undeclared wars of aggression — is ignored because, as an alternative universe, it’s simply irrelevant.

Well, you’ll never believe what happened. On Saturday, Kristof’s newspaper, the New York Times, carried a front-page article detailing the torture partnership between the CIA (which is a core agency within the U.S. government) and Gaddafi.

Talk about being mugged by reality!

Why was this suddenly news? Because attorneys for Human Rights Watch in Libya beat the CIA to Gaddafi’s secret files. Among the files the attorneys uncovered was one on the CIA rendition-torture partnership between the CIA and Gaddafi.

According to the Times, the secret files reveal “that the cooperation was much more extensive than generally known with both the C.I.A. and its British equivalent, MI-6.” In fact — get this — the British spy agency even helped the tyrant Gaddafi spy on his own people, tracing phone numbers for him.

It gets better. The CIA actually was drafting speeches for Gaddafi. Here’s a one-page speech that the CIA drafted for the tyrant around Christmastime in 2003:

At a time when the world is celebrating the birth of Jesus, and as a token of our contributions towards a world full of peace, security, stability and compassion, the Great Jamhariya presents its honest call for a W.M.D.-free zone in the Middle East,” referring to weapons of mass destruction.

The “Great Jamhariya” was the name for Gaddafi’s revolutionary regime.

When Libyans requested that a certain suspect be renditioned to them, the CIA responded that “we are committed to developing this relationship for the benefit of both our services” and promised to do its best to find the guy.

Reality check: The CIA is the U.S. government. When the CIA does things, the U.S. government — our government — is doing them. They are not two separate and distinct universes.

What was the CIA’s response to the disclosures? Reflecting the deep moral debauchery into which the U.S. government has plunged our nation, especially since 9/11, CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood commented, “It can’t come as a surprise that the Central Intelligence Agency works with foreign governments to help protect our country from terrorism and other deadly threats.”

Ms. Youngblood, with all due respect, while this news certainly doesn’t surprise us libertarians, take my word for it: It undoubtedly comes as a horrible shock to many Americans, including mainstream journalists, who simply cannot bring themselves to confront the fact that their government does these sorts of things.

After reading that article on Saturday, which has now spread to newspapers all over the world and all over the Internet, I asked myself: What does Kristof do now? This is the newspaper he writes for, and it’s on the front page. How can he just ignore the reality of the U.S. government’s torture relationship with this cruel and brutal dictator? Would he now confront the reality of U.S. foreign policy? Would he now use his column in the New York Times to call for a full investigation into the U.S. government’s torture relationship with Gaddafi? After all, the Britsh government has just announced that it will conduct a formal investigation into the matter.

It didn’t take long for my questions to be answered. On Sunday, Kristof published a new article entitled, “The Fuller Story from Libya.” I thought to myself, “Yeah! Here it is! The fuller story! The other side of the story! The U.S. government’s torture partnership with the dictator that it has now ousted from power — and possibly a call for a full congressional investigation into the matter.

Alas, it was not to be. Not one single mention of the CIA’s torture partnership with Gaddafi. Not one. Kristoff’s “fuller story” involved more examples of heroic resistance against the tyrant.

But I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. The U.S. government’s support of heroic resistance to tyrants is in one universe. The U.S. government partnership’s with such tyrants is in another.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Libya and Mainstream Pundits

A fascinating example of the mindset of American mainstream journalists is provided by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who wrote a glowing piece this week praising the U.S. government’s humanitarian intervention in Libya. It’s entitled “Thank You, America!

Kristof’s article comes across as a glorious paean to the U.S. government — how good and wonderful the government is — how it has made tremendous sacrifices to bring freedom to this one small part of the world. And how the Libyan people are so ecstatic and grateful for the intervention — well, at least those who weren’t killed in the operation.

Kristof’s mainstream mindset is absolutely astonishing. It’s as if he lives in a self-contained universe that views the federal government as all-good, all-caring, all-knowing, and all-powerful, a government that exists to spread freedom, peace, and harmony around the world through its military empire. Oh, sure, sometimes it runs into obstacles in spreading its good will around the world but now is not the time for dwelling on such things. According to Kristof, now is time to celebrate the government’s great humanitarian success in Libya.

Now, consider this article by former Human Rights Watch attorney Joanne Mariner, which appeared on the Internet on a website called justia.com. The title of her piece is “When Gaddafi Was Our Friend.”

Mariner’s article details how the CIA rendered at least six prisoners to Libya for purposes of torture between 2004 and 2006. Yes, the same Libya that was ruled by Gaddafi, the dictator who was just ousted from power.

The CIA is a principal agency of the U.S. government. When the CIA does things, the U.S. government is doing them. When the CIA renditioned people to Libya for purpose of torture, it was the U.S. government doing it — yes, the same U.S. government that Kristof glorifies for its wonderful, selfless sacrifice in ousting Gaddafi from power.

Now consider this Internet piece by Salon.com commentator Glenn Greenwald, which critically analyzes the Kristof article, along with those of other mainstream commentators praising the “success” of the Libyan intervention.

Does there not seem to be a disconnect here? When you read Kristof’s piece and then Mariner’s and Greenwald’s articles, you almost get a sense that we’re living in two simultaneous, completely different universes.

Mr. Kristof, the U.S. government — the same government to whom you’re singing your praises — cut a deal with the dictator Gaddafi to torture people!

How was that deal negotiated? We don’t know. Who negotiated the deal? We don’t know. Did President Bush approve the deal? We don’t know.

In fact, we still don’t know the answer of any of those questions with respect to the CIA’s torture deal with Egypt’s dictatorship and the CIA’s torture deal with Syria’s dictatorship.

Why don’t we have answers to such questions? Well, one reason is because of the mainstream press. They just don’t like asking those questions. The questions either don’t occur to them or they make the mainstream commentators uncomfortable.

Think how great it would have been if Kristof had used his column to at least ask, “President Obama, can you please order the CIA to reveal all the facts and circumstances behind the U.S. government’s torture partnership with the brutal dictatorships in Libya, Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere?”

What’s amazing is how Kristof can write such an article without being at least a bit suspicious of the motives of U.S. officials in effecting a regime-change operation in Libya. Did the U.S. government have a road-to-Damascus experience on the way to Tripoli? Did U.S. officials recently wake up and exclaim, “Golly, we’ve shouldn’t have been partnering with that dictator. We shouldn’t have gotten him to torture people on our behalf. We’ve got to help the Libyan people to oust him”?

It doesn’t seem that such questions even enter the minds of mainstream journalists. They just continue in their little bubble of innocence, one that views the federal government as a good, grand, and glorious god, one that does no wrong, not even when its CIA is entering into agreements with dictators to torture people.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Liberals Hate the Poor

Liberals love to portray themselves as lovers of the poor. Their “proof,” they say, is their ardent support of the welfare state. In fact, liberals oftentimes go on the attack against us libertarians for our call to dismantle welfare-state programs and the 60-year-old failed “war on poverty.”

Actually, however, the love that liberals profess to have for the poor is a crock, and their love of the welfare state is actually a love of the power, influence, and money that comes with the welfare state.

Liberals know that the more people they get on welfare, the more people will be dependent on the government. Those dole recipients can then be threatened with, “Elect us liberals to power because conservative Republicans will cut off your dole, and you will die. Vote for us. Give us the political power so that we can continue your dole.”

As everyone knows, with the welfare state comes trillions of dollars to hand out to grateful people. With that largess comes wealth, power, influence, adulation, and control.

So, how do we know that liberals don’t give a whit for the poor? We have irrefutable proof: their horrible mistreatment of illegal immigrants. In fact, liberal icon Barack Obama now has the record for the president who has deported more illegal immigrants than any other president in U.S. history.

Think about it. Where could you find poorer people in the United States than illegal immigrants? That’s why they come here — because they’re desperately poor and see the United States as a way to make a bit of money to send back to their families in their home countries. Their spouses, parents, and children are back at home, mired in even more desperate poverty, and depending on the money that the illegal immigrants are sending to them.

In fact, I would say that, generally speaking, illegal immigrants have to be the poorest economic strata in American society. And even if they’re not at the very bottom, they’re certainly close to it.

Yet, look at how liberals mistreat them. They raid businesses in which illegal immigrants are suspected of working — yes, working in an attempt to sustain their lives through labor. They bust them, cart them off to jail, put them on a plane, and forcibly take them back to their home countries, knowing full well that they are dooming them and their families to desperate poverty, possibly even starvation.

And they just don’t care. They don’t give one whit as to what happens to these poor people once they’re forcibly repatriated to their home countries.

Let’s face reality: liberals hate these people. They hate them for daring to come to America without official permission, for not standing in line and complying with the myriad rules and regulations of the regulated society. They hate them for being poor, uneducated, unable to speak English, and trying to take jobs that liberals feel rightfully belong to well-to-do, educated Americans.

The truth is that liberals hate the poor as much as conservatives do. Sure, liberals will exclaim against Alabama’s cruel anti-immigrant law, but at the same time, liberals remain silent as their man, Barack Obama, uses the force of the federal government to raid businesses, bust workers, and forcibly deport them to lives of desperation and possibly even death.

Needless to say, libertarians are different from statists, both conservatives and liberals. We do care about the poor, including those who are unable to vote. We’d open the borders to the free flow of people, including the poorest people in the world. We love the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of the teeming shore, the homeless, the temptest-tost. We say: Let them come, let them try to survive, let them prosper, let them in.

We libertarians would reopen the Statue of Liberty, and we’d uncover Emma Lazarus’s famous sonnet. We’d open the borders not just to the rich, educated, and well-to-do. We’d open the borders to everyone, including the poor.

Sure, it’s true that we would terminate welfare, not just for the poor but also for the middle class and wealthy. That’s because socialism is an immoral, destructive system that destroys the spirit of independence, self-reliance, can-do, and voluntary charity that exists within people. Unlike statists, who place their faith in force and coercion, we libertarians have an unwavering faith in freedom, free markets, voluntary charity, ourselves, and others.

We believe that it’s better when people are sustaining their lives through labor rather than becoming dependent wards of the state. That’s one reason we libertarians oppose those cruel immigration raids on businesses that both conservatives and liberals are so proud of.

Wouldn’t it be nice if liberals were just honest with themselves and with others? Wouldn’t it be nice if they were simply to say, “We hate the poor, which is why we love mistreating illegal immigrants. We just love welfare because it gives us money, power, influence, and control over the lives of other human beings.”

This post was written by:

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