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Our “Conference within a Conference”

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I can’t begin to tell you how psyched we are about our “conference within a conference” that we are having at the 2014 Students for Liberty Conference in Washington, D.C. The entire conference goes from February 14-16 but all of FFF’s sessions occur on Saturday, February 15.

Keep in mind: While the conference is oriented toward students, it is not limited to students. Anyone can attend. The registration fee is only $50 for non-students. It’s the best deal you will ever get!

If you can make it, you will be treated to a fantastic overall libertarian conference, which includes many talks on economic issues.

FFF’s “conference within a conference” focuses on one general theme: “Civil Liberties and the National Security State.”

Why that particular theme?

I think it’s safe to say that most of us libertarians discovered libertarianism as a result of economic issues. That certainly applies to me. I discovered libertarianism in the late 1970s when I was practicing law in my hometown of Laredo, Texas. I started voraciously reading people like Leonard Read, Ludwig von Mises, Frederic Bastiat, Henry Hazlitt, Friedrich Hayek, Ayn Rand, and many others. I recognized that libertarian economic principles—or Austrian economics—were the key to economic prosperity and rising standards of living, especially for the poor.

But over the years, I began to suspect that the U.S. warfare state posed a much graver threat to the freedom and well-being of the American people than the welfare state. After 9/11, those suspicions were confirmed, big time. At that point, the dark side of the U.S. warfare state rose to the surface in all its ugliness, unfortunately to the acclaim of many American warfare statists.

America, of course, was founded as a limited-government, constitutional republic. Unfortunately, however, that principle was abandoned in the 20th century (or even by intervening in the Spanish American War in 1898). Over the decades, America moved in the direction of militarism and empire, especially with World Wars I and II. The wholesale transformation of American life came with the advent of the national-security state in the aftermath of World War II.

It is impossible to overstate the fundamental change that came over America. Our nation became a militarist and imperialist nation, one based on thousands of permanent military bases here in the United States and also in more than 100 foreign countries. A vast standing army became a permanent foundation of America’s governmental structure. Draft registration became normalized. Partnerships with brutal foreign dictatorships also became normal. The CIA and NSA, with all their nefarious activities, came into existence to “keep us safe.” For all practical purposes, the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA became the fourth branch of the U.S. government, and the most powerful branch at that.

The result was the Cold War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, regime change operations in Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia, Chile, and many others, installation or support of brutal dictatorships, foreign wars, foreign aid, foreign interventionism, and foreign alliances.

In the process came all sorts of sordid national security actions against regular citizens, such as Martin Luther King, Pete Seeger, Earnest Hemingway, and other Americans who were just doing what they believed would make America a better country. Such people were viewed as enemies of the national security state and, therefore, enemies of America, given that U.S. officials conflated our country with the national-security state apparatus that they had grafted onto our constitutional system.

There was COINTELPRO, secret surveillance of Americans, secret files on Americans, drug experiments on unsuspecting Americans, intimidation of Americans, and even assassination of Americans (e.g., Charles Horman and Frank Terrugi).

When the Cold War ended, unfortunately the sordidness did not. Once U.S. actions in the Middle East provoked terrorist retaliation, all the dark-side activities surfaced in their full national-state glory. Torture, assassination, lies, deceptions, invasions, indefinite detention, rendition, partnerships with dictatorships, and denial of trial by jury and due process of law are now established parts of America’s legal structure.

In opposing communism and terrorism, U.S. officials have effectively Sovietized America. Just like in the Soviet Union, Americans have been taught to glorify the military, CIA, and NSA. Even today, as people revel in those military “fly-overs” at big U.S. sports events, they fail to realize that they are simply a variation of the tanks that Soviet people used to go gaga-gaga over in Soviet parades.

Most important, the national security state has taken away our freedom and privacy. When a government wields the omnipotent power to take citizens into military custody, hold them indefinitely, torture them, monitor their telephone calls, emails, and Internet activity, and even assassinate them without having to answer to anyone, that’s about as far from a free society that anyone could ever get.

So, our mission at the Students for Liberty Conference is to raise the vision of the students to the critical importance of civil liberties to a free society and how the national security state had infringed upon our rights and freedom and what we must do to restore a free society to our land.

We have lined up some of the greatest proponents of civil liberties in the nation for our “conference within a conference.” Many of your will remember the all-star line-up we had at our two conferences in Reston, Virginia, in 2008 and 2009. This mini-conference is going to be just as good.

You’ll notice that our line-up of speakers includes liberals (progressives) and libertarians (just as our Reston conferences did and also our two College Civil Liberties tours we did last year with Glenn Greenwald). Needless to say, we have differences on economic issues. But on civil liberties, are on the same page.

In fact, you’ll be interested to know that we have sent promotional materials to the political science departments in most of the universities in the D.C. area, in the hopes of attracting a large number of progressive students to the conference. Wouldn’t it be great to have libertarian students, progressive students, and conservative students interacting with each other?

Our line-up: Jonathan Turley, one of the greatest lawyers in the country. Stephen Kinzer, whose book The Brothers is receiving widespread acclaim. Robert Higgs, one of the giants in the libertarian movement and one of my personal heroes in life. Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU, one of the progressive organizations that didn’t buckle when Obama was elected. John Glaser whose articles on foreign policy in the Washington Times and elsewhere are fantastic. Scott Horton, whose radio talk show has been absolutely phenomenal in terms of the guests and interviews he has conducted. Sheldon Richman, another of the giants in the libertarian movement. And me.

The featured presentation is our panel in the main ballroom. Imagine: a panel that has an academic award-winning director and a person who is nominated for an Academy Award this year. I’m referring to Oliver Stone and Jeremy Scahill. Also on the panel is Peter Kuznick, who was Oliver’s collaborator on their fantastic series “Untold History” that appeared on Showtime. Oliver and Peter are going to be at FFF’s booth after the panel to autograph copies of their book Untold History. I have a hunch that that panel presentation is going to be something that no one will ever forget.

If you can’t make it, don’t worry: We are recording all the talks and will be later posting them on our website. But there is no substitute for being around all the excitement, especially among some 1,600 young people who are infused with optimism and determination.

Can we move America in a different direction? You bet we can! That’s what ideas on liberty are all about. That’s why FFF is participating in the 2014 Students for Liberty Conference.

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.