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Embargoes Attack Freedom at Home


President Bush recently took Barack Obama to task for Obama’s willingness to meet with Raul Castro, the newly elected president of Cuba. Bush suggested that it was important for a U.S. president to establish preconditions before engaging in such a meeting. Bush said, “It will send the wrong message…. It will give great status to those who have suppressed human rights and human dignity.”

Obama responded to Bush’s attack by pointing out, “The American people aren’t looking for more of a do-nothing Cuba policy that has failed to secure the release of dissidents, failed to bring democracy to the island and failed to advance freedom for 50 years.”

Actually, both Bush and Obama are wrong. What the U.S. government needs to do is simply lift its cruel and brutal embargo against Cuba. That can and should be done unilaterally, without meetings or negotiations with Cuban officials.

That same principle applies to every other sanction or embargo that the U.S. government has imposed against other countries. All the U.S. government has to do — and should do — is cease its own wrongful conduct. Doing so does not require any meetings or agreements with the leaders of the affected countries.

In fact, that’s also the answer with respect to all trade. For example, the reason that NAFTA was bad was not because it liberalized trade between Americans and Latin Americans (which is good) but because it was a negotiated agreement between governments — one in which the governments were “permitting” their respective citizens to trade with each other.

As the U.S. government purports to “spread freedom” around the world with its sanctions and embargoes, the American people should be asking themselves important questions about the nature of rights and freedoms: Is the right to trade with others an inherent, fundamental right or not? Under what moral authority does the U.S. government interfere with people’s freedom to trade with others, especially through the threat of prosecutions, fines, and incarceration?

The Declaration of Independence points out that everyone has been endowed with inherent, fundamental rights. Such rights come not from government but rather from God or nature. They preexist government.

Among these inherent, God-given rights is the right to do what one wants with his own money and his own life, so long as his conduct is peaceful. That’s part of what the phrase “life, liberty, and property” is referring to in the Declaration.

As the Declaration points out, the reason that government is called into existence is to protect the exercise of such rights, not to destroy them. Yet, the U.S. government’s embargo against Cuba has destroyed the natural, God-given right of the American people to trade with the Cuban people.

Sadly, over the years the American people have quietly acquiesced in the destruction of this important God-given right. Convincing themselves that the embargo against Cuba has adversely affected only Cuba’s leaders and not the Cuban people, Americans have compounded this “life of the lie” by blocking out of their minds that the embargo also constitutes a direct attack on their own fundamental, God-given rights and freedom.

A restoration of the right of the American people to travel anywhere they want and spend their money any way they want does not require negotiated trade agreements or meetings between U.S. and foreign officials. It simply requires an aroused citizenry that demands the restoration of its fundamental, God-given rights and that will settle for nothing less.

This post was written by:

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.