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Dying for Freedom in Panama

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Many brave people died as a result of the recent invasion of Panama. The United States government claimed that these lives were lost in the defense of freedom. Unfortunately, this is untrue.

It is important first to observe that just as there have been two types of economic systems in the United States (free enterprise of the 1800s vs. the welfare state of the 1900s), there also have been two types of patriotism.

The 20th-century variety of patriotism is drilled into every American school child as soon as he reaches the age of six. This type of patriotism requires that every American support, and pledge his allegiance to, the national government regardless of whether the government is right or wrong.

The idea is that since the government supports the citizenry with housing, parks, grants, jobs, highways, subsidies, and so forth, the government is entitled to the support of the citizenry regardless of the circumstances.

The other type of patriotism in American history was that found in the late 1700s and in the 1800s. This type of patriotism held that the citizen should never trust his own government and that the greatest threat to his life, liberty and property was, in fact, his own government. Americans who subscribed to this type of patriotism believed that it was not the duty of government to support the people and that it was the duty of the citizenry to stand , against their own government when it was in the wrong. This was the patriotism exemplified by the lives of Jefferson, Washington, Madison, Thoreau, Crockett, Travis, and Bowie.

The first pronouncement made by the new ruler of Panama was that he was seeking a massive infusion of U.S. government aid to Panama, a la the Marshall Plan. Now, despite my reluctance to criticize someone as esteemed as General George C. Marshall (we graduated from the same college), the truth is that his plan for the recovery of Europe was based on plunder and redistribution of wealth. Through its tax system, the American government plundered the American people and sent the loot to the Europeans.

The new ruler of Panama proposes that, forty years later, the American politicians do the same thing for him and his fellow Panamanian politicians. His plea for U.S. government aid boils down to this: “I want the American politicians to take money from the American people which these people would otherwise use for their children’s education, a car, a suit, or a savings account. Once you have taken this money from them, you (the American politicians) may deduct a reasonable amount to cover your new pay raise.

Then, send the balance of the loot to us, the Panamanian politicians. We will then use it to line the pockets of our politicians and bureaucrats as we harass and plague the Panamanian people in the same way that American politicians and bureaucrats harass and plague the American people.”

The second pronouncement made by the new Panamanian ruler was that he intends to build a massive new public-housing project in Panama. Now, government has no money of its own to build housing. All government funds have been taken, in one way or another, from private individuals. Therefore, the new Panamanian ruler presumably intends to plunder the Panamanian people in order to get the money to pay for the public housing. Imagine — here are people who are suffering the deepest throes of poverty, and their new ruler claims that they must be plundered for their own good.

And what about people who will be moved into the public housing? They will become wards and dependencies of the state, just as so many blacks and Hispanics in the U.S. have become. The politicians will convince these people that they need government assistance. The result will be empty, lifeless souls who have had the marrow of self-reliance and independence sucked out of their being by the “benefits” of the welfare state.

The third pronouncement of the new Panamanian ruler was that he plans to implement a “New Deal” for Panama. No one can fault this new ruler for not knowing how to play to the sensibilities of the American people. After all, haven’t we all been taught in our government schools since the first grade that the New Deal saved free enterprise — that free enterprise failed with the Great Depression?

Unfortunately for the new Panamanian ruler, however, several of us have learned that these “facts” which were taught to us by our government officials in our government schools were absolutely, completely, and totally false.

The New Deal was the watershed period in American history during which the American people of this century abandoned all semblance of the principles of economic liberty which their predecessors in the previous century had so cherished. With the NRA, AAA, SEC, Social Security Administration, and all of the other new regulatory and redistributive agencies in the 1930s, Americans turned their backs on the fundamental God-given rights of life, liberty, property, and conscience, and unconditionally rendered these rights to Caesar to do with as he wished.

And, contrary to popular opinion and what they taught us in government schools, the Great Depression was not the failure of free enterprise. It was the direct consequence of the American people’s decision, in this century, to permit Caesar, through the Federal Reserve System, to take full and complete control over their monetary activities.

This is the way of life which the new Panamanian ruler now wishes to saddle upon the Panamanian people.

As Professor Ebeling so accurately points out in his accompanying article, the Panama Canal is the very embodiment of socialism. It is government ownership of the means of production and, therefore, is as socialistic as a Soviet-owned dam. The fact that this government-owned project has an American, rather than a Russian, flag flying over it does not convert it into capitalism. It remains socialism, American style.

Moreover, the essence of Karl Marx’s philosophy is that the political process should be used to take from those who have in order to give to those who need. The individual, and the interests of the individual, are sacrificed for the good of the collective. Society reigns supreme over the person.

The Panama Canal, the Marshall Plan, public housing, the New Deal, and all of the other political programs which own, plunder, and redistribute property, or regulate peaceful activities of people, are socialism, pure and simple. People died in Panama during the recent invasion not for freedom, but for socialism.

To promote freedom in Latin America, the American people must stop their own government from sending money, men, or arms to Latin America. (If American citizens wish to send private assistance to foreigners on a purely voluntary basis, they should be free to do so.) By the same token, the Latin American people must stop their rulers from accepting such foreign government aid. This will ensure that American government funds are not used to support political tyranny or economic socialism in Latin America.

Does this mean that freedom from oppressive political and economic systems in Latin America will be achieved overnight? Of course not. But as Thomas Jefferson observed in the American Declaration of Independence, historically people tolerate a lot of abuse before revolting against their own government. (Even in the American Revolution, most of the colonists chose either to side with Britain or stay neutral.)

In order for freedom to be meaningful, the people of a nation must achieve it on their own. If this means that their blood must be shed, then so be it. That price has been paid throughout history by people struggling for liberty. When a foreign government intervenes to achieve liberty for the people of a nation, it destroys the opportunity for these people to win freedom on their own. And worse, it creates the sense of dependency that causes the invaded people to believe that nothing meaningful can be achieved on their own and without the assistance of the invading and occupying nation.

It is imperative that Americans rediscover the heritage of patriotism, freedom, and limited government on which this nation was founded. Plunder is plunder, socialism is socialism, and interventionism is interventionism regardless of the particular government which is engaging in it. And when our own government is defending or maintaining this type of conduct, it is up to us, the American people, to put a stop to it. Otherwise, Americans continue to run the grave risk that their children and grandchildren will ultimately be required by their own government to die in some faraway land not for freedom, but for everything except freedom.

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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.