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Political killings of innocent people could never happen in America, our fellow citizens tell us. America is a democracy. But so was Nazi Germany. Hitler was popularly elected, and his economic policies were widely favored and acclaimed (by Germans and Americans!).
But there is another basic problem with that assertion: it is happening here in America. And like the German people of the 1930s, Americans either refuse to see it happening, or they rationalize what is happening so that they do not have to deal with it. Now, it is true that the killings do not number in the millions — but they certainly do number, so far, in the thousands.
Let’s take some examples. The Branch Davidians at Waco, Texas. U.S. Army tanks and gas used against peaceful, religious, well-armed people. Over 80 Americans, including children, gassed and burned. And is there any remorse — any regret — any independent governmental investigation into this massacre? Not on your life. The government officials, just like their Nazi counterparts, think they did “the right thing” in killing our fellow citizens. And for those of you who look to the judiciary for protection, you had better look elsewhere: the federal judge who presided over the trial of the Waco survivors declared that he would not permit the government to be “put on trial,” and then slapped 40-year sentences on the Branch Davidian survivors.
Or take Randy Weaver, his wife, and son, of Idaho. First, they were set up on an idiotic gun charge (Weaver sold a shotgun that was an inch too short, at the request of a U.S. government agent). Then, they sent Weaver a notice of a wrong trial date. When he failed to appear, they surrounded his house and attacked. A government sniper plugged his unarmed wife in the head with a bullet as she was holding her baby. And they shot Weaver’s son in the back. Then, at Weaver’s trial, they fabricated evidence and committed perjury. Fortunately, Weaver was acquitted. But have any criminal charges been brought against the government agents for the murder of Weaver’s wife and son? Did the federal judge in the case even cite the agents for contempt for their reprehensible conduct? Well, did the Nazi government ever bring charges against the SS? Did Nazi judges ever punish Nazi officials for killing Jews?
They killed Donald Scott, a millionaire rancher in California. They claimed that they needed to barge into his house in the middle of the night in order to look for marijuana. And when Scott obeyed their order to lay down the gun he had picked up in his fear of the intruders, they shot him dead. And it later turned out that they had hoped to find marijuana so that they could confiscate his land and convert it to a national park.
These kinds of killings are going on every single week. But Americans either look the other way, the way the Germans did, or they rationalize what is happening by saying, “The war on drugs has gotta be won.”
And it is not just killings. Just as the Nazis did, they are confiscating people’s money, land, boats, cars — anything they can get their hands on. No longer do they need to depend only on taxes for their revenues — they just go grab the money and property directly and keep it, regardless of the guilt or innocence of the victims. And, of course, it’s all rationalized because “the war on drugs has gotta be won.”
And it’s not just confiscations. It is also terror — the terror of Internal Revenue Service agents barging into people’s homes, “visiting” them at work, and levying liens on bank accounts and real estate without any notice, hearing, or other semblance of due process.
Yes, it’s true — we are not dealing with the killings and mass confiscations and infliction of terror on millions of people. It is happening only to several thousands. But that’s today. What happens in a crisis? Suppose an American ruler decides he is not going to get “pushed around” by the ruler of North Korea, Haiti, Panama, Iraq, or Japan? What happens if a war is not over in a few weeks, but instead drags out into months, even years, with higher taxes, more controls, and . . . conscription? What happens if Americans, who are already being taxed 50 percent of their incomes, now find taxes at 60 or 70 percent? What happens if there is a massive tax strike in which millions refuse to pay their taxes? What happens if hundreds of thousands of American students refuse to be drafted by a president who refused to be drafted?
Will the government meekly surrender? Will it simply agree to lose “international face”? Not on your life. The Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the army will simply turn their massive powers against the leaders of the tax revolt and as many of its followers as possible. And they will do whatever is necessary to teach those “draft-dodging cowards” a lesson. The American people will learn what the German people learned: that the omnipotent state that loves the poor and the needy will remove its velvet glove and use its iron fist to smash those who interfere with the “good of the nation.”
Let’s look at some more examples of the Nazi mind-set in America — this time in the Department of the Army. The army conducted nuclear radiation experiments on American soldiers. Why? Because the good of the nation required it. The army conducted drug experiments on American citizens. Why? Because the good of the nation required it. The army conducted disease experiments on the American people. Why? Because the good of the nation required it. The army herded innocent Americans of Japanese descent into American concentration camps. Why? Because the good of the nation required it. The army entered into joint ventures with German Nazis at the end of World War II. Why? Because the good of the nation required it.
In other words, in the past, U.S. government officials have engaged in evil, Nazi-like conduct for the “good of the nation.” Would they do so again? You can bet your life they would, if the good of the nation required it, and even if this entails the violation of every single restriction on governmental power set forth in the U.S. Constitution.
There is nothing inevitable in all of this. Through the power of ideas, we can reverse the trend. If ideas did not matter, governments would not try to suppress ideas. Ideas do matter; they do have consequences; they do influence people into acting, into changing, into reversing course.
But the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment — the right to speak, to write, to disseminate ideas — are not sufficient. The ultimate safeguard against the ultimate tyranny lies instead with the right to bear arms guaranteed by the Second Amendment. If this Amendment is destroyed or severely constricted, the rest of the Constitution becomes worthless. Because in a crisis in which their power base is threatened, and in which there are no means of forcible resistance, government officials will squash the things they view as “technicalities” — free speech, habeas corpus, trial by jury, and the other rights guaranteed in the Constitution.
Combine a crisis with a disarmed, discontented citizenry, and the concentration camp for hundreds of thousands becomes a real possibility. But when the citizenry, together with various patriotic sheriffs, police, and members of the armed forces, has the means to inflict severe casualties on their potential oppressors, tyrants think twice before they try to oppress their own citizens too heavily.
That is why every single effort to restrict or control or manage the ownership of guns must be resisted. The ultimate barrier to the ultimate tyranny lies not with the ballot box. It lies not with the soapbox. It lies not with the jury box. The ultimate barrier to the tyranny of one’s own government lies with the cartridge box.
Contrary to everything our rulers tell us, and everything that our schoolteachers are teaching the children of this nation, the biggest threat to the lives and well-being of the American people lies not with some foreign government. The biggest threat to the American people today lies with the United States government. And while gun ownership stands as a barrier to potential, Nazi-like behavior, the long-term solution is to dismantle, not reform, the iron fist of the welfare state and the controlled economy. This includes the end (not the reform) of the IRS, the DEA, the SEC, the FDA, the Departments of HUD, HHS, Labor, Agriculture, Energy, and every other agency that takes money from some and gives it to others or interferes with peaceful behavior. It entails the repeal of all laws that permit such conduct. And it means the privatization of most of the bureaucrats who work for the U.S. government.
But it also entails the end of potential oppressors who, in the past, have shown no reluctance to engage in evil, malicious, illegal, Nazi-like conduct against American citizens, such as the CIA and the standing army.
Would this mean that the U.S. government would not be permitted to act as the international Roman emperor? That is exactly what it would mean. But what about threats of invasion of the U.S.? Such threats are virtually nonexistent. But if every single citizen is free to arm himself to the teeth, any nation contemplating invasion would know that attacking the U.S. would be like swallowing a porcupine. What about a quick mobilization? There would be no reason why citizen-soldiers would not quickly mobilize in the event of an emergency. For example, suppose that the standing army is disbanded. The members of the 82nd Airborne Division would not simply disappear. They would become private, productive citizens, but ready in times of peril to answer the call. They could be, and probably would be more than willing to be, at any location in the country within 24 hours.
Moreover, there would be a doubly positive effect in terms of economic prosperity. No longer would taxes have to be sucked out of the pockets of private citizens to support the armed forces. And the members of the armed forces, now privatized, would now be economically productive members of society.
In his book The Road to Serfdom , Friedrich Hayek warned Americans in 1944 that despite their military war against the Nazis, Americans were traveling the philosophical and economic road that the Nazis and the communists were traveling. Our grandparents and parents ignored Hayek’s warning. Now, we are left with the consequences: a government of omnipotent size and power using its power to kill innocent, peaceful citizens and confiscate millions of dollars of property to feed its insatiable hunger for more power. Today, the number of victims is in the thousands. But at the end of this road lie the concentration camps for the multitudes.
Can the tide be reversed? Can the omnipotent state be dismantled, rather than simply reformed? Yes. It will take a return to first principles — the principles on which this nation, not Germany, were founded. Principles that hold that it is the individual, not the collective, that is supreme; that each individual has been endowed by his Creator with unalienable rights; that among these rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any government, including the American government, becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it and to institute new government; and that no individual — his life, liberty, or property — shall ever be sacrificed for the good of the nation. As Ayn Rand put it thirty years ago in her essay, “The Fascist New Frontier”:
If you wish to oppose [statism], you must challenge its basic premises. You must begin by realizing that there is no such thing as “the public interest” except as the sum of the interests of individual men. And the basic, common interest of all men — all rational men — is freedom. Freedom is the first requirement of “the public interest” — not what men do when they are free, but that they are free. All their achievements rest on that foundation — and cannot exist without it. The principles of a free, non-coercive social system are the only form of “the public interest.” Such principles did and do exist. Try to project such a system. In today’s cultural atmosphere, it might appear to you like a journey into the unknown. But — like Columbus — what you will discover is America.
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