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Crime in America

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As the English philosopher John Locke observed in his Two Treatises on Government, man’s life, liberty, and property are not privileges bestowed by government. They are inherent and basic rights that preexist government. Thus, individuals have the natural or God-given right to live their lives in any way they choose, as long as they do so peacefully.

Why was it necessary to institute government? Thomas Jefferson gave the answer in the Declaration of Independence: to secure the protection of these preexisting rights.

And why was a Constitution needed? To place strict limitations on the powers of governmental officials. The Constitution aimed to assure the government’s role as a protector, not a destroyer, of people’s rights.

The United States government, however, is now destructive of the very ends for which it was formed. For it no longer protects the lives, liberties, and properties of the American people. Instead, the chief ends of the U.S. government today are to direct and restrict the lives of the citizenry and to plunder and redistribute their property.

At the core of the problem are the income tax and the welfare state, both of which embody pure evil and immorality. Operating through the Internal Revenue Service, our government uses terror and force to take the property of those who produce it. And then it gives the loot to the politically privileged through such governmental departments as Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, and Education.

The 16th Amendment to the Constitution effectively nationalized the income and earnings of the American people. The income of every citizen is subject to the whims and caprices of the politicians and bureaucrats in Washington. Sometimes they permit us to keep more of our income and sometimes less. Yet make no mistake about it-they, not we, decide what shall be done with what we produce.

And then there is the American regulated economy. Virtually all peaceful activities now come under the ambit of the U.S. government through such departments and agencies as the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Securities Exchange Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Drug Administration, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Department of Labor, the Department of Energy, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. And the plethora of regulations and restrictions issued by the bureaucracies are brutally enforced by an army of federal agents, marshals, attorneys, and judges.

Look at the so-called war on drugs-an insane, inane, evil, immoral, and destructive activity of the U.S. government. The government has been fighting this war for decades-much longer than the war on (the drug) alcohol. Yet, what has it brought to our nation?-death, destruction, and corruption (including ever-increasing bribery engaged in by law-enforcement agents, prosecutors, and judges), not to mention an ever-growing drug problem. Yet, what is the increasingly popular plea of the drug warriors? “We are moral and righteous. Please, please, please judge our intentions, not the results.”

People often make peaceful choices in life with which the rest of us disagree. Yet we have the moral duty to protect each person’s right to choose. The belief that Caesar should punish those who fail to live their lives according to some political norm is morally despicable. Our ancestors understood this. That is why drug laws were not enacted in the United States until the 20th century.

The war on drugs has also resulted in a concerted assault against the Bill of Rights. From the first grade in the government-approved schools to which their parents are forced to send them, Americans are taught that the Bill of Rights are just “legal technicalities” to enable the guilty to go free. How many Americans know that the protections of the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th Amendments stretch far back into British history, to the times when the English people tried to protect themselves from governmental officials who sought omnipotent power to punish those who were accused of wrongdoing? Their courageous resistance to tyranny brought into existence trial by jury, the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses, prohibitions against warrantless searches and seizures, and the other procedural safeguards found in the Bill of Rights. Thousands of Englishmen suffered and died at the hands of their own government to secure the protections that Americans now enjoy.

Governmental agents today, increasingly freed by the judiciary from the strictures of the Bill of Rights, more and more arrest the innocent. And they invade our privacy through fiercely enforced financial-reporting requirements. Moreover, they seize our properties before trial (the presumption of innocence being considered one of those legal “technicalities” in the Constitution). And since these property seizures now fund drug-war operations, law-enforcement agencies are becoming independent self-funded, bureaucratic fiefdoms, no longer dependent on the legislative branch.

There are, of course, thousands of examples of innocent Americans having their lives destroyed by governmental agents. One example involves American coin dealers. They are being arrested, convicted, and incarcerated for committing one of history’s most absurd crimes: failing to report a cash sale of gold. Imagine that-what a grievous offense!

Actually, it is the United States government that is engaging in criminal conduct on a massive scale-against the American people. I couldn’t help but smile when I heard American politicians referring to the Soviet coup leaders as thugs. Now, that’s the pot calling the kettle black! Our government itself is a gang of thugs and thieves whose primary activity is the destruction of the lives, liberties, and properties of the American people.

Our government is among the most lawless governments in history. Year after year, it engages in massive tax theft for the benefit of the politically privileged. It wages terrifying and brutal wars against its own people. And it assumed these criminal activities (that is, changing from a private-property, market-economy system to a welfare-state, regulated-economy system) without even the semblance of the legally required constitutional amendment.

How do the American people feel about all of this? Unfortunately, the government-approved schoolteachers, relying on government-approved doctrine, have done their job well. Because most Americans naively believe that America of our time is a “free-enterprise” nation. They believe that our country operates on the same principles on which it was founded. They fail to realize that the welfare state and regulated economy violate every principle of liberty and property of our Founding Fathers. They do not know that our ancestors rejected the armies of governmental officials-IRS, SEC, DEA. HUD, HHS, FTC, FCC, INS, FDA, OSHA, Labor, Agriculture, Energy, Education (and all of their absurd, but vicious, regulations)-which now infect our national well-being like a deadly virus.

Moreover, most Americans now follow the official government line on the Bill of Rights: “It is a 19th-century, ‘horse-and-buggy’ anachronism that is inappropriate to the more complex society in which we live.”

The ever-increasing power of governmental officials and the ever-decreasing protections of the Bill of Rights have resulted in one of the world’s most severe reigns of terror. It is a reign of terror much more severe, for example, than that waged by King George against the American colonists. And the result is that fear and paranoia now consume the lives of most Americans. I see this periodically here at The Future of Freedom Foundation. One woman asked, “Will the government put my name in a file if I subscribe to your publication?” A man wrote, “I checked you out with my local FBI office before subscribing to your publication.” Who can doubt that Americans now have greater fear of their own government than the Soviet people have of theirs?

An evil tree can never bear good fruit. Political stealing through the welfare state only breeds contempt for morality in general. After all, why should the private thief feel remorse when his own government engages in the exact same conduct? And economic regulation through the controlled economy only breeds frustration and anger among the citizenry. The government “tightens the screws” through never-ending regulations, laws, and restrictions. And the citizenry become only more reactive and violent.

We will return to a peaceful society only when we recapture the principles and convictions of our ancestors. There is one-and only one-solution to America’s crime-ridden society: to dismantle, not reform, America’s welfare-state, regulated-economy way of life. Let us dedicate and rededicate ourselves to altering our form of government to assure the protection, not the destruction, of the lives, liberty, and property of the American people.

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    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.