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Ten Tenets of Freedom, Part 2

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This two-part essay discusses ten tenets of freedom toward which we must continue to strive in our efforts to restore freedom to our land. Part 1 of the essay discussed the first five tenets and this part covers the other five tenets.

6. Gun control

It would have been more appropriate to have made the Second Amendment the first amendment to the Constitution. Without the right of the citizenry to keep and bear arms, the fundamental rights enumerated in the First Amendment are worthless. When the citizenry are well-armed, government officials tend to exercise caution in infringing such fundamental rights.

Consider, for example, what took place in Iran after the recent presidential elections there. Iranian citizens were protesting the election results, claiming that the government had rigged the elections. Massive demonstrations involving hundreds of thousands of people broke out in protest.

What was the response of the government? It decreed the protests to be illegal and announced that anyone who questioned the legitimacy of the elections to be guilty of treason and subject to being executed.

In other words, the Iranian government did precisely what our American ancestors were certain that the U.S. government would do to them under similar circumstances. That’s why they used the First Amendment to the Constitution to expressly prohibit U.S. officials from doing what Iranian officials have done.

Yet while U.S. officials, including those in Congress, will constantly look for ways to suppress criticism of their actions, the likelihood is that they would not go as far as the Iranian officials have gone, at least not without a major crisis to provide them with some cover for doing so.

Why is that so? Because if U.S. officials ever begin contemplating going down the road that Iranian officials have gone down, they must factor into their deliberations a fact that Iranian officials didn’t have to factor into their deliberations — that the American people, unlike the Iranian people, are well-armed and able to defend themselves against military and police officials who are loyally and patriotically obeying orders to murder peaceful and law-abiding demonstrators, protesters, journalists, bloggers, and other critics of government wrongdoing.

It is that insurance policy against tyranny that was the primary guiding force behind placing the right to keep and bear arms immediately after the protections regarding freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom to assemble peaceably. The purpose of the Second Amendment is not to guarantee the right of hunting deer or self-protection against criminals. It provides the means by which the citizenry can protect the First Amendment.

7. Civil liberties

In the aftermath of the Iranian elections, Iranian officials began rounding up dissidents, incarcerating them, charging them with crimes against the state, and threatening them with kangaroo trials and punishment. That’s the way that tyrannical governments ensure that their orders for people to shut up and stop criticizing government are enforced.

It is that power — the power to arbitrarily seize people and incarcerate and execute them — that supplies the teeth to the decrees ordering people to shut up. After all, if the government wields the power to tell people to keep silent but lacks the power to do anything to people who refuse to obey the decree, then the first power becomes worthless. The government’s power to arbitrarily arrest, jail, and punish people provides the enforcement mechanism for enforcing its orders for people to cease their criticism of government.

And that, in fact, is what the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments to the Constitution are all about. Our American ancestors were certain that once they called the federal government into existence, federal officials would end up doing the same types of things that the Iranian government officials are doing to the Iranian people. After all, why have express restrictions on the abuse of power if the threat of such abuse is nonexistent or remote?

Thus, Americans are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures because our American ancestors believed that that’s what federal officials would subject them to. The same holds true for the freedom not to be coerced or tortured into making confessions. They knew that federal officials would do such a thing, which is why they expressly prohibited them from doing it.  The right to effective assistance of counsel was intended to prevent federal officials from railroading and steamrolling people into jail and concentration camps.

The right of trial by jury was intended to protect Americans from the kangaroo tribunals employed in places like Iran. Juries, not judges or other government officials, would be the final arbiters of the law and the guilt or innocence of the accused. Cruel and unusual punishments, such as torture and sex abuse, were expressly prohibited because of the belief that government officials would inevitably employ such tactics.

The ancient writ of habeas corpus was expressly protected in the original Constitution. The Framers understood that it is the linchpin of a free society. For if people have no means by which to challenge in an independent judicial forum their arbitrary detention by government officials, then civil liberties become a dead letter.

Unfortunately, all too many modern-day Americans have been taught to believe that civil liberties are nothing more than the means by which guilty people get to escape punishment for crimes they have committed. Nothing could be further from the truth. As our Americans ancestors understood so well, civil liberties protect the citizenry from arbitrary arrest, imprisonment, and punishment at the hands of government officials who are doing their best to quell dissent and criticism of wrongful government conduct.

8. The drug war

The drug war perfectly encapsulates the loss of freedom that the American people have suffered under the paternalistic regulatory state. What could be a more perfect assault on the freedom of the individual than for the state to have the power to arrest someone and punish him for doing nothing more than selling, purchasing, possessing, or ingesting some substance that government officials don’t approve of?

Everyone would agree that some substances can be harmful if ingested, especially in excess. Alcohol, tobacco, sugar, and fatty foods are examples. That’s not the point. The point is whether freedom entails the right to ingest whatever a person wishes to ingest and, if so, whether the state should be permitted to infringe that important aspect of freedom.

Imagine a person sitting within the privacy of his own home. He’s drinking booze, smoking cigarettes, ingesting marijuana, snorting cocaine, swallowing prescription drugs, and injecting heroin. We can all agree that such conduct is unwise and detrimental to good health. But under what moral authority does a government official punish another adult for doing bad things to himself? How can such power possibly be reconciled with basic principles of individual liberty?

Not only has the war on drugs constituted one of most direct assaults on individual liberty in U.S. history, it has also spawned an enormous array of other infringements on liberty. It is impossible to measure, for example, the extent to which the American people are subjected to searches and seizures at the hands of government officials because of the war on drugs.

There are also the tremendous assaults on financial privacy that the drug war has generated. Asset-forfeiture laws have provided a means by which public officials have become financially dependent on the drug war, not to mention the direct stealing of money from citizens that voracious cops commit under the guise of asset-forfeiture laws. Bribery, payoffs, and other forms of corruption have spread through the ranks of law enforcement and the judiciary, thanks to the drug war.

After more than three decades of drug warfare and the ruination of countless people with drug problems, what do drug-war proponents have to show for their efforts? Nothing, except death, destruction, corruption, violence, and the ruination of countless lives. Nonetheless, the war just keeps going on and on and on, with no end in sight. All that matters is that more arrests and punishments continue taking place and that more money keeps flowing into the hands of the people who are benefiting from the war, including government officials.

There is one — and only one — solution to this craziness: the legalization of drugs. The restoration of liberty in America necessitates an immediate end to drug-war prohibition.

9. The monetary system

The United States was founded on a monetary system based on gold coins and silver coins. The reason for that was that the Framers understood that one of the greatest threats to the freedom and well-being of the citizenry was the government’s propensity to plunder and loot people’s wealth through the excess printing of paper money. Thus, by rejecting paper money in favor of gold coins and silver coins, our ancestors removed one of the most popular means that government officials have used to inflate the currency.

That intent was manifested in the Constitution. For example, the powers delegated to Congress did not include the power to issue paper money, establish a central bank, or enact legal-tender laws. There were also express provisions prohibiting the states from making anything but gold and silver coins legal tender and from issuing “bills of credit,” i.e., paper money.

The result was the soundest monetary system in history. People didn’t need to worry about losing their wealth through inflation. Throughout the 19th century, companies were issuing 100-year bonds payable in gold coins, and the result was massive amounts of capital flowing into the United States and being retained in the United States.

Unfortunately, modern-day Americans decided to abandon that monetary system in favor of the one that has characterized other nations in history, one based on paper money, a central bank (i.e., the Federal Reserve System), and legal-tender laws. This monetary system has provided the federal government with the means to plunder and loot people indirectly and surreptitiously through the process of inflation.

The beauty of the system, from the standpoint of public officials, is that very few citizens are able to figure out what is going on. They see prices of nearly everything rising but they’re unable to recognize that what’s actually happening is that it’s the value of their currency that is dropping, owing to the massive amounts of new money that the government is injecting into the system. Thus, many people inevitably fall into the trap of blaming businessmen, oil companies, grocery stores, gasoline stations, speculators, and entrepreneurs for rising prices, rather than laying blame where it properly lies — with the government that is artificially expanding money and credit.

A society in which government wields the power to inflate the currency to finance its ever-increasing projects and programs cannot be considered a free society. How can people truly be free when the government wields the monetary power to take away everything they own?

The monetary standard of gold coins and silver coins served as an adequate protection for more than 100 years of American history. Nonetheless, it was not the ideal. The ideal is a free-market monetary system, one in which the market — i.e., consumers and producers — have the freedom to determine the medium of exchange that they themselves decide to use. That is what the Nobel Prize-winning economist Friedrich Hayek referred to as the “denationalization of money.” While the free market would very likely rely on metals-based coins, there is always the possibility that the miracle of the market could come up with media of exchange that people have never dreamed of.

What would a free-market monetary system entail? The repeal of all legal-tender laws, the dismantling of the Federal Reserve System, and, best of all, a constitutional amendment guaranteeing a permanent separation of money and the state.

10. Militarism and empire

When the United States was founded, the world was shocked by an unusual feature of American life: No standing military force, no conscription, no alliances with other nations, and a steadfast refusal to get involved in foreign conflicts.

The fact is that Americans had had a bellyful of empire, militarism, and foreign wars, which is what the British Empire was all about. They were also sick and tired of the debts, taxes, bureaucracy, regulations, gun control, and infringements on privacy and civil liberties that come with empire.

Their idea was obviously a radical one: The new government would lack the military means and power to go abroad and save people from tyranny, oppression, starvation, or anything else. If people wished to escape such conditions, however, they would know that there was at least one nation in the world to which they could go, a nation whose borders were open and whose government would not forcibly repatriate people to their country of origin.

Our American ancestors didn’t like militarism. And they understood one of the most important lessons in history regarding standing armies: that regimes inevitably use such armies to suppress the rights and liberties of their own citizenries, as the citizens of Iran, China, Burma, North Korea, Cuba, and so many others will attest.

Thus, our ancestors decided that America would be a limited-government, constitutional republic, one without an enormous standing army.

So how did they intend to protect the United States? Well, for one thing they understood that few countries had the military means by which to send enormous armies across the ocean to successfully invade and occupy the United States.

More important, they placed their faith in a free people, who could be counted on to keep themselves armed and trained to fight and shoot, and who would be readily available as citizen soldiers to quickly rally to the cause of repelling a foreign invader. They understood that to attack a free nation whose citizenry will fight to remain free and who are armed and trained would be akin to swallowing a porcupine.

Unfortunately, and oddly, modern-day Americans have abandoned their founding principle of a limited-government republic and endorsed the very concept of empire against which the Founding Fathers rebelled. Today, America is characterized by an enormous standing army whose tentacles reach not only into cities and towns across America but also all over the world.

Through the CIA and the Pentagon, the U.S. empire engages in all the things that our American ancestors found abhorrent: foreign interventions, foreign wars, entangling alliances, foreign aid, foreign meddling, assassinations, coups, torture, invasions, wars of aggression, and brutal occupations. It’s all done, of course, in the name of “freedom,” the bogus buzz word that has guided empires throughout history.

Moreover, with its domestic empire of military bases, the Pentagon has millions of Americans dependent on military largess. Towns and cities across the land live in perpetual fear that the Pentagon might target them for base closure.

With empire have come ever-increasing debts and taxes, bureaucracy, regimentation, the ever-present threat of terrorist retaliation, assaults on privacy and civil liberties, kidnapping and rendition, indefinite detention, death and destruction, torture and sex abuse, and monetary debauchery.

By their fruits you will know them!

The solution is simple: abandon all the foreign military bases, bring all the troops home, discharge them, close the bases here at home, discharge those troops, and rely on well-trained, well-armed citizen soldiers in the highly unlikely event that the United States is ever invaded by some foolish foreign regime.

In fact, the solution to all of America’s woes is simple, for all it entails is restoring the principles of liberty on which our nation was founded and then building on them to take America to even greater heights as a model society of freedom. That entails, at a minimum, no more income taxation, trade restrictions, welfare, regulation, immigration controls, gun control, drug war, infringements on civil liberties, paper money, or militarism and empire.

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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.