Ludwig von Mises pointed out that one government intervention will inevitably lead to more interventions. The reason is that the initial intervention produces a crisis, which then leads public officials to call for a new intervention to address the crisis. That new intervention then produces a new crisis, which then leads to new interventions.
A good example of this phenomenon, of course, is the U.S. economy. The government enacts a series of interventions to encourage home ownership, including the creation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the implicit federal guarantee of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bonds, and the Community Reinvestment Act.
When those interventions collapsed like a house of cards, what was the response of federal officials to the crisis? Their response was to blame it all on “free enterprise” and enact more interventions in the form of massive socialistic bailouts of firms who got caught in the collapse along with a proposed massive new public-works “stimulus” package.
Another good example of Mises’s dictum is what is occurring on along the southern border, where the Mexican government has imposing a severe crackdown in the war on drugs.
The drug war began with making the possession and distribution of drugs illegal. When people failed to voluntarily obey the law, an ever-increasing array of interventions were enacted, including such things as the creation of the DEA, drug raids, warrantless searches and seizures, asset forfeitures, mandatory-minimum sentences, foreign aid to corrupt regimes, etc.
Each intervention produced new crises, which public officials used as the justification for new interventions. Throughout the decades and despite the ever-increasing number of interventions that filled the prisons, conservatives would say, “The real problem is that they’re just not cracking down hard enough. If I were in charge, I’d really crack down and win the war on drugs.”
What better evidence of a “real crackdown” than Mexico, where both the cops and military are battling the drug lords? The result? Big crises in the form of gang wars, killings of law-enforcement officers, torture, and kidnappings.
So, guess what U.S. officials are now planning. If you answered, “More interventions,” you win the prize. According to the New York Times, they’re planning a “surge” — yes, just like in Iraq! — of civilian and perhaps even military law enforcement along the border to deal with the possibility of drug-war violence spilling over into the United States.
For decades, Americans along the border have had to deal with the increasing Soviet-like presence of the Border Patrol to deal with the illegal-alien crisis produced by immigration controls and interventions. These include warrantless searches of vehicles along the border, trespass onto ranches and farms, the Berlin-type fence being constructed, and passport checks at airports and highways as far as 100 miles north of the border. They’ve also had to deal with the enormous presence of drug-war agents in their towns and communities, who have succeeded in sending many people along the border into federal and state penitentiaries. As some people have put it, the borderlands are a Constitution-free zone.
But all that might prove to be minor compared to what will happen if they follow through with their plans to militarize the border with a surge of battle-tested troops. What better way to bring “order” than that? Isn’t that what they’ve done in Iraq and Afghanistan?
As things continue to get worse and worse in such areas as the economy, the drug war, immigration, and in foreign policy, Americans would be wise to begin thinking about the fact that there is a solution to their woes: the rejection of the paradigm of interventionism that is at the root of their problems and the embrace of the paradigm of individual liberty, free markets, and a constitutional republic on which our nation was founded.