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An Example of Deference to Authority

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In yesterday’s blog post, I pointed out that the real purpose of public (i.e., government) schooling is to produce good little citizens who defer to the authority of the federal government. Through 12 years of regimentation within an army-lite structure, the minds of people are gradually molded from childhood to trustingly defer to the judgment of federal officials, especially when it comes to things like “national security.”

One might say, “Jacob, give us an example of what you’re talking about.”

Okay, let’s consider the U.S. government’s half-century-old economic embargo against Cuba. Here is a perfect example of how Americans have been molded into good little citizens who place their unwavering faith in the judgment of the federal government, loyally deferring to its authority. The last thing most Americans would ever think of doing is questioning or challenging the Cuban embargo.

Let’s first examine the reality of the situation. The Cuban embargo is a direct attack on the freedom of the American people at the hands of their own government. The federal government has made it a severe federal criminal offense for Americans to travel to Cuba and spend money there. If an American does this, upon his return to the United States he will be arrested, charged, prosecuted, convicted, sentenced to jail, and fined.

It would be difficult to find a more direct assault on the principles of freedom of travel and the principles of economic liberty than that, even in Cuba. Fundamental principles of freedom entail the right to freely travel wherever a person wants and the right to spend one’s money anywhere and any way a person desires.

Yet, how many Americans are outraged over such a clear violation of these two fundamental, God-given rights? Not many. The only ones who are outraged are libertarians, along with a very tiny number of liberals and conservatives.

Most Americans don’t question these infringements on their freedom. In fact, it doesn’t even occur to them that the embargo constitutes an infringement on their freedom. In their minds, they’re convinced they’re free and that it’s only people like Cubans who are unfree. It never occurs to the average American that the embargo is no different in principle from the types of economic controls that the communist regime in Cuba imposes on Cubans.

The mindset of the average American is: If the U.S. government feels that the embargo is necessary, then who are we to question such a policy? His mindset is one of total deference to authority. It is a mindset that trusts the judgment of federal officials. In his mind, it is not the job of the citizen to question or challenge such things.

Whatever the federal government cites as a rationale for embargo is automatically accepted as gospel. When U.S. officials proclaim that the embargo is necessary because Cuba has a communist regime, the average American just nods his head and thinks, “Yep, that’s right. The government is correct. Cuba is headed by those no good commies.”

It never occurs to him to think: “So what? So what if Cuba is headed by communists. Why should that entitle the U.S. government to suspend my rights and liberty?” Asking questions like that requires critical thinking and could lead to disagreement with federal officials, including those in the military and the CIA. That’s not what public schooling teaches, and it’s a frightening notion to people who have learned to defer to authority.

Let’s not forget, after all, that Vietnam is also headed by a communist regime, one that killed some 58,000 American soldiers during the Vietnam War. Yet, is there a U.S. embargo against Vietnam? No one (except libertarians and a few others) says: “Wait a minute. If there isn’t an embargo against Vietnam, why is there an embargo against Cuba?” That thought doesn’t even enter the mind of the indoctrinated person. He just passively accepts the decision of his national-security state.

Don’t forget that Cuba has never attacked or invaded the United States, committed terrorist attacks against the United States, or tried to assassinate any U.S. officials. In fact, it’s been the U.S. national-security state—specifically the Pentagon and the CIA—that has done to those things to Cuba.

But try to find an American who asks: “Why in the world is the U.S. government aggressing against Cuba and infringing on my economic liberty?” The mindsets of the American people have been molded since childhood to passively accept and even support anything their federal government does with respect to Cuba, especially when U.S. officials use such terms as “communism” and “national security” to justify their actions.

Among all the horrible consequences of public schooling has been the production of good little citizens whose mindsets lead them to defer to the authority of their federal officials. The success of the indoctrination is reflected by the fact that not only do those who have been indoctrinated believe that what was done to them was good and beneficial but also by the fact that they don’t even realize that they are the victims of indoctrination. This phenomenon, of course, exists not only here in the United States but also in the country targeted by the U.S. embargo. Like the United States, Cuba also has a very strong public-schooling system, one that molds the minds of its citizens to defer to authority as well.

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.