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A Response to Michael Lind

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One of the country’s major welfare-statists, Michael Lind, stirred up an interesting discussion when he asked the following question: If libertarianism is so great, why aren’t there any countries that have adopted it? Here is some of the discussion:

The Question Libertarians Just Can’t Answer by Michael Lind

Grow Up, Libertarians by Michael Lind

Tom Woods Reply Number 1

Tom Woods Reply Number 2

Michael Lind’s Obtuse Attack on Liberty and Libertarianism by Ronald Bailey

Michael Lind’s Bad Argument Against Everything by W.W. Houston

Michael Lind’s Revisionist Libertarian Smear by Ben Domenech

More discussion is here.

Here’s my answer to Lind’s question:

Many, if not most, people don’t want to be free to manage their own lives, make their own decisions, and take responsibility for their choices. They want to be taken care of by the government, much as a child wants to be taken care of by his parents. We call these people statists.

Thus, statists want the government to use its power to take money from those to whom it belongs and give it to those whom the government feels need it more. Statists don’t see anything morally wrong with that process, so long as the government is the one doing the taking and giving. That’s where welfare-state programs come into play.

In fact, statists consider themselves to be good, compassionate, caring people owing to the fact that they live in a welfare state, that is, in a country in which the IRS is taxing people and in which the Congress and welfare agencies are distributing the money to those whom the government feels deserve it.

Statists also want the government to punish them and others in society for engaging in peaceful behavior that the government feels is irresponsible, dangerous, self-destructive, or immoral. That’s where such things as drug laws come into play.

Not only do statists want the government to take care of them, they also want the government to keep them safe and secure and are willing to permit government to do anything to achieve that end. Statists live their lives filled with fear, not only of starving to death but also fearful that communists, terrorists, illegal aliens, drug dealers, and other boogeymen are coming to get them and do bad things to them. That’s why statists readily support the adoption of dictatorial powers by the federal government, such as massive surveillance schemes, assassination, torture, indefinite detention, secret prisons, foreign aid to dictatorships, and other things that are the hallmarks of a non-free society.

Indeed, statists have come to embrace the entire national-security state, i.e., the Pentagon, the standing army, the military-industrial complex, the CIA, and the NSA, as a necessary part of American life. Convinced that their economic security depends on the continuation of the government’s welfare-state “safety net,” the statist becomes what I call a “deferential”—a person who willingly, enthusiastically, and unconditionally defers to the authority of the national-security state.

Along come libertarians and say: The welfare-warfare state is an immoral system. It’s wrong to forcibly take what doesn’t belong to you, even when the government is doing the taking and giving. It also ultimately leads to lower standards of living, especially for the poor, by confiscating ever-increasing amounts of wealth and capital from the private, producing sector of society.

Libertarians also say: It’s wrong for the government to be invading and occupying other countries, waging wars of aggression, torturing, engaging in LSD experiments on people, doing regime-change operations, interfering with the political processes of other countries, installing and supporting dictatorships, kidnapping people, detaining people without due process and trial by jury, and other such things. Such policies inevitably result in the threat of terrorist retaliation, which is then used as the excuse for government to impose more controls on the citizenry, with the purported aim of keeping them safe from the threat that the government has produced.

What is the statist response when libertarians say such things? Statists go ballistic. They can’t imagine life without the dole and without a giant government watching over them and monitoring their every move. They want to be cuddled and taken care of, even if they are in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. That’s the way they perceive government—as their daddy or mommy or, worse, their god.

What people ultimately come to realize, sometimes to their dismay, is that when societies do sacrifice freedom for security, they end up with neither freedom nor security. Socialism ultimately kills the goose that lays the golden eggs by squeezing wealth out of the private sector on an ever-increasing basis. Moreover, the state, with its ever-growing voracious thirst for more money and more power, ultimately takes total control over everyone and everything, with the purported aim of keeping people safe and secure. North Korea, the ultimate welfare-warfare state model, comes to mind.

Libertarianism is a good idea because it is founded on moral principles, individual freedom, free markets, and freedom of choice and because it produces ever-rising standards of living and nurtures, but does not force, such values as care, compassion, and responsibility.

But as the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. The fact that so many people still wish to continue feeding at the government welfare-state trough and continue trading liberty for the pretense of security with a warfare state is not the fault of libertarians.

One thing though that no one can deny is this: The ranks of libertarians are growing every day. That no doubt is a very frightening notion to Michael Lind.

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.