Hornberger's Blog

Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Hornberger’s Blog, June 2008


Monday, June 30, 2008

Isolationist Options for the United States
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Whenever a libertarian calls for the dismantling of the U.S. government’s overseas military empire and the end of foreign interventionism, the standard response of the pro-empire, pro-intervention crowd is, “We cannot return to isolationism. That would be a disaster.” The sentence is intended to immediately shut down all further discussion given the opprobrium that is attached to the term “isolationism.”

Actually, however, there are three different options, including the libertarian one, when it comes to analyzing foreign policy and isolationism. To understand why libertarianism is the only viable option, both morally and pragmatically, it is necessary to examine each of those three options.

First of all though, in analyzing foreign policy it is important to draw a distinction between the government sector and the private sector, something that the pro-empire, pro-intervention crowd is usually loathe to do. Employing the pronoun “we,” they inevitably conflate both the government and private sectors in their analyses. Actually, however, there are two separate and distinct groups of people — those in the government sector and those in the private sector — a phenomenon that is reflected, for example, in the Bill of Rights, which expressly protects the private sector from the government sector.

Here are the three foreign-policy options with respect to isolationism:

1. Continue to permit the U.S. government to have omnipotent rein all over the world while restricting the ability of the private sector to interact with the people of the world. This is the paradigm under which the United States has been operating for many decades.

This option would mean that the U.S. government would be able to continue maintaining military bases around the world, invading and occupying countries, kidnapping and renditioning people, torturing and sexually abusing terrorist suspects, sanctioning and embargoing foreigners, and providing foreign aid to brutal regimes.

At the same time, through tightened visa restrictions and travel controls, the private sector would be discouraged from interacting with foreigners. Foreigners would be inhibited from coming to the United States, while Americans, through embargoes and sanctions, would be discouraged from traveling overseas.

Thus, this option involves unleashing the government sector onto the world while isolating the private sector from the rest of the world. In a sense, the two positions are related given that the threat of terrorist blowback from the government’s overseas operations provides the excuse to protect the American people from the terrorist threat by isolating them from foreigners.

2. Rein in the federal government overseas by dismantling all overseas military bases, bringing all U.S. soldiers home and discharging them, and prohibiting the U.S. government from intervening in the affairs of other nations. At the same time, restrict the ability of the private sector to interact with the people of the world, as described in Option 1.

With this option, both the government sector and private sector are being isolated from the rest of the world. While preferable to Option 1, it is still less than ideal due to its isolation of the private sector from the rest of the world.

3. Rein in the federal government, as described in Option 2, while at the same time unleash the private sector to interact with the people of the world. This is the libertarian foreign-policy paradigm. It would involve the end of all sanctions and embargoes and other restrictions that interfere with the ability of the American people to freely trade, travel, and spend money anywhere in the world.

Option 3 rests on the notion that the American people — the private sector — are our nation’s greatest ambassadors. It recognizes that American tourists, cultural groups, businessmen, and charities are the best means for producing the natural harmonies that guide human affairs while government officials, including soldiers, are among the worst.

The United States will soon have a change of administrations. However, what our nation needs most of all is a change of paradigms. A paradigm of empire and intervention and isolation of the private sector is the wrong way to go. A paradigm of limited government and isolation of the private sector is also the wrong way to go. The best paradigm for foreign policy is the libertarian one — one which embraces limited government in overseas affairs and freedom for the American people — the private sector — to interact with the people of the world.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Second Amendment Victory for Freedom
by Jacob G. Hornberger

In a 5-4 decision yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional Washington, D.C.’s, ban on possession of handguns in people’s homes. Rejecting the ridiculous argument of the gun controllers that the Second Amendment is intended to protect the “right” of the National Guard to own guns, the Court correctly held that our American ancestors intended to protect the right of private individuals to keep and bear arms.

The decision is especially important for people in D.C., which is oftentimes labeled “the murder capital of the nation.” Many of the murders in D.C. are committed with handguns. How is that possible, given that it’s illegal to own handguns in D.C.? Because murderers have steadfastly refused to obey D.C.’s gun ban, which means that the law has prevented victims from defending themselves from murderers with handguns.

But there’s another reason for the Second Amendment, one that even the most stalwart gun-rights advocates are oftentimes reluctant to mention in polite conversation. The real reason that the Framers specifically enumerated people’s right to keep and bear arms was to enable the citizenry to defend themselves from tyranny at the hands of U.S. government officials.

After all, let’s not forget that the people who crafted the Second Amendment had been British citizens who took up arms against their own government. If they had not been free to own guns, those English colonists would never have been able to revolt against the tyranny of their own government. When the English troops came to kill them (and confiscate their guns), the colonists were able to successfully defend themselves — because they had guns that they could use to shoot back.

Of course, gun-control advocates say that tyranny happens only in foreign countries, such as Britain, and that it could never happen here in the United States. Never mind that U.S. officials are now kidnapping, torturing, sexually abusing, murdering, and incarcerating people in secret prisons and denying people due process, trial by jury, and protection from cruel and unusual punishments, but, heck, those are foreigners, not Americans, right? Well, except for American citizen Jose Padilla but, heck, he’s only one American. No cause for concern there, right? And the president and Congress have cancelled habeas corpus only for foreigners. They would never do it against American citizens, right?

Well, the truth is that one never knows. I’m willing to bet that when the members of the German parliament granted their president’s request to “temporarily” suspend civil liberties during the German terrorist and communist crisis, most Germans never figured that their government would become tyrannical. But as they learned, once the darkness of tyranny falls upon a nation it’s a bit too late to start calling for gun rights.

The right to keep and bear arms is the ultimate insurance policy against tyranny. Like most other insurance policies, the probability is that a claim will never be made upon it. But if disaster were to strike, people who love liberty will be happy that they preserved the right — and the ability — to resist. Moreover, the existence of such a policy is the best way to ensure that federal officials think twice before going too far with their tyrannical dreams.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Don’t Invade Zimbabwe
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The situation in Zimbabwe provides an excellent example of how U.S. foreign policy should operate all over the world.

Like most public officials everywhere, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe is desperately trying to maintain his grip on power. Unfortunately, his bag of dirty tricks goes far beyond the various forms of character assassination and ballot-access barriers that are employed by U.S. incumbents against their political opponents. Mugabe and his military goons have been systematically kidnapping, torturing, and murdering the supporters of his presidential opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai. The violence situation has gotten so bad that Tsvangirai decided to withdraw from a runoff election scheduled for tomorrow in the hope of preserving the lives and limbs of his supporters.

What should the U.S. government do in this horrific situation? Should it invade and occupy Zimbabwe? Should it attempt a regime-change operation? Should it assassinate Mugabe? Should it impose sanctions and embargos? Should it buy Mugabe off with foreign aid?

The answer is: None of the above. It is no more business of the U.S. government to intervene in the affairs of Zimbabwe, no matter how horrible conditions are there, then it is for, say, the Swiss government to do so.

Is there anything the United States can do to help people in Zimbabwe? Yes. Here are some ways:

1. Americans should be free to travel to Zimbabwe and do whatever they want to support Mugabe’s opposition, including armed revolution if it comes to that. What such Americans should not be permitted to do is enlist the U.S. government to come to their aid. They must take individual responsibility for their convictions and actions.

2. Americans should be free to send money and other aid to people in Zimbabwe on a purely voluntary basis. They should not be permitted to enlist the taxing power of the U.S. government to assist them with foreign aid.

3. Americans should be free to engage in economic activity with Zimbabweans. No sanctions or embargoes. Building up the economic base of the private sector is one of the most effective tools against tyranny.

4. In a larger context, Americans should be devoting their efforts to establishing a model free society here at home to serve as an example to the people of Zimbabwe and the rest of the world. This would include the end of such things as kidnapping, torture, militarism, rendition, and military tribunals at the hands of the U.S. government and the complete restoration of such principles as due process of law, right to counsel, habeas corpus, right to confront witnesses, and trial by jury. It would also include the complete restoration of economic liberty to the American people.

5. In a similarly larger context, Americans should restore their heritage of open borders, which would send a message to the world that the beacon in the Statue of Liberty has been relit, sending forth its light to people all over the world, especially those suffering tyranny, oppression, or starvation. The message would be: “We will not permit our government to come and save you with soldiers, bombs, missiles, and bullets, which would kill and maim hundreds of thousands of you. Instead, you should know that if you are able and willing to escape your plight, there is at least one nation to which you can come that will not force you to return.”

Given the interventionist debacle in Iraq, which has killed and maimed thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, fortunately there are few Americans who are calling on the U.S. government to invade and occupy Zimbabwe, despite the lack of democracy in that nation. The same holds true, of course, for such nations as Vietnam, North Korea, and China, where there is a lack of democracy and a willingness among Americans to live with that fact.

The same policy of nonintervention (i.e., no invasion, occupation, or assassination) that Americans embrace for Vietnam, North Korea, China, and Zimbabwe should be applied to every country on earth. The time has come for the American people to end the U.S. government’s role as the world’s international policeman and welfare provider, a role that inevitably only makes a bad situation worse.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Speculators as Scapegoats
by Jacob G. Hornberger

It seems that American statists are conjuring up new scapegoats for America’s economic woes, what with speculators, oil companies, and OPEC becoming the new national boogeymen. I suppose this was inevitable given that it might be difficult to blame ever-rising gasoline prices at the pump on illegal aliens.

First, though—a little personal history on this subject:

Three-and-a-half years ago — December 27, 2004 — I wrote an article entitled “The Federal Attack on the Dollar” in which I stated in part:

“In effect, Washington officials are doing what imperial powers have done throughout history — debasing the currency to finance massive military and welfare expenditures. The consequence will inevitably be ever-increasing prices, which is simply the market’s way of saying that the currency is falling in value in comparison with everything else. The advantage to public officials, obviously, is that the masses usually have no idea that government is behind the rising prices and so join the government’s chorus blaming the rising prices on rapacious businessmen, profiteers, and speculators.”

In August 2006, I wrote an article entitled “The Federal War on Gold,” in which I stated in part:

“When prices of commodities, goods, and services start rising in response to the depreciating quality of the money, the average person is likely to blame those in the private sector, such as oil companies, speculators, and businessmen, for the woes.”

On November 27, 2006, I wrote a blog entry that stated in part:

“If out-of-control federal expenditures do produce a monetary crisis, here’s my prediction: Just like with Iraq, where no federal official is accepting responsibility for the debacle, it will be the same with a dollar crisis. Federal officials will claim that the fault lies with such scapegoats as speculators, entrepreneurs, big oil, big business, OPEC, and perhaps even illegal aliens.”

Just as I have been predicted for the past several years, today we have two presidential candidates—John McCain and Barack Obama, as well as many of their statist friends — blaming rising fuel prices on OPEC, oil companies, and speculators.

Here are McCain’s blast and Obama’s blast against speculators:

“I believe there needs to be a thorough and complete investigation of speculators to find out whether speculation has been going on and, if so, how much it has affected the price of a barrel of oil.”—John McCain

“For the past years, our energy policy in this country has been simply to let the special interests have their way — opening up loopholes for the oil companies and speculators so that they could reap record profits while the rest of us pay four dollars a gallon.” —Barack Obama

Of course, both McCain and Obama are sadly misguided. The problem is not with the speculators, it’s with the federal government, including Congress, where both McCain and Obama have been serving for many years. As I’ve been pointing out for the past several years, the problem is out-of-control federal spending, which has brought about a crashing of the dollar, which is reflected in rising prices not only for oil and gas but also for other commodities, including foods and precious metals. But of course, when was the last time you saw a government official take individual responsibility for his actions?

The speculator, in fact, plays a very important and beneficial role in a free market. For one thing, he helps protect both sellers and buyers against big unforeseen price changes. For example, suppose a farmer is getting ready to plant his soybean crops, when the price is $10 a barrel. A speculator, believing that soybean prices are going to soar, will commit to buy the farmer’s soybean production in advance for $10 a barrel. The speculator, not the farmer, takes the risk on future price fluctuations.

Moreover, the speculator’s actions send market signals to people about available supplies of an item. If the speculator is buying up a particular item, his actions will tend to drive up prices. That tells consumers to conserve and producers to produce. Contrariwise, if speculative activity drives prices down, it tells consumers to consume liberally and producers to shift production into other items.

Here are three great articles that explain the beneficial role in a free market played by speculators — and how speculators have historically been reviled for their free-market activity:

The Speculator as Hero (1993) by Victor Niederoffer;

Bless the Speculator by John Stossel;

Greedy Speculators? by Richard Rahn.

Of course, it’s not surprising that as two major proponents of the welfare-warfare state that has saddled Americans with ever-growing big government and big spending, both McCain and Obama do what profligate government officials have done for centuries: look for scapegoats in the private sector on which to blame the nation’s economic woes.

We can only hope that Americans come to see that the root cause of their economic crises lies not with the terrorists, the communists, the Muslims, the Islamo-fascists, drug lords, oil companies, OPEC, illegal aliens, or speculators. The responsibility for the economic mess in which our nation is mired lies in Washington, D.C., and specifically in the out-of-control federal spending used to fund both the welfare state and the warfare state.

Don’t look to McCain—or for that matter to Obama—to remind people about how Ronald Reagan brought down the Soviet Empire—by causing the Soviet government to spend the nation into bankruptcy. The point now uncomfortably hits a bit too close to home, given that that is precisely what the U.S. government is doing to our nation.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Fighting Terrorism with Socialism
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Let’s give credit where credit is due. In the midst of its invasions, occupations, bombings, sanctions, killing and maiming, torture and sex abuse, kidnappings and renditions, and kangaroo judicial proceedings, the U.S. government deserves credit for providing the world with some comic relief.

It comes in the form of a U.S. taxpayer-funded ($350 million and counting) television network named Alhurra that the U.S. government established in the Middle East to convince people that its actions were good, virtuous, and beneficial to people in that part of the world. Alas, however, according to a front-page article in yesterday’s Washington Post, the network is faltering because of — surprise, surprise — lack of interest in viewing it.

According to people in the Middle East, the primary reason why people don’t watch Alhurra is that it’s boring. Its stories, for example, have included such exciting programs as “old documentaries with Arabic subtitles, a program about a Jewish singing group on tour in Australia, a show on the history of bluejeans.”

Since many of Alhurra’s executives don’t speak Arabic, there have also been a few journalistic blunders along the way. For example, on Easter Muslim viewers were greeted with “Jesus is risen today!” One high executive lost his job when the network broadcast an unedited speech by a leader of Hozbollah, a real no-no in the eyes of U.S. government officials.

Unfortunately, American television viewers don’t get the pleasure of viewing Alhurra. While U.S. law allows the U.S. government to employ propaganda against foreigners, it is illegal to do so against Americans. Apparently declarations by Alhurra’s president that “We’re not the propaganda channel … not the Bush channel” have been insufficient to override the law. (The article didn’t state whether foreign television networks are allowed by their laws to employ propaganda against American citizens here in the United States.)

The U.S. government’s latest foray into socialism (i.e., government ownership of a television network) brings to mind the hilarious announcement by the Pentagon a few years ago that it was expanding its range of services to include the rebuilding of countries, which meant, of course, massive socialist projects akin to those that the Soviet Union used to engage in. No doubt that the Pentagon’s portfolio is filled with beautiful photographs showing what a great success its rebuilding program in Iraq has been. One can only assume that the Pentagon offers a special discount to those countries that it both destroys and rebuilds.

The U.S. government’s Alhurra television network is a comic example of the confluence of socialism, imperialism, and interventionism and the propaganda intended to convince people of their merits. No doubt that U.S. officials are scratching their heads in befuddlement over why Alhurra has failed. But at least they’ve succeeded in making the rest of us laugh.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Minimum Wage Hurts the Poor
by Jacob G. Hornberger

All too many liberals continue to extol the virtues of the minimum wage despite the fact that it hurts the very people liberals want to help — the poor. A recent example of this phenomenon occurred last week in a New York Times op-ed by Adam Cohen. Harkening back to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, Cohen used the 75th anniversary of the National Industrial Recovery Act, a law cartelizing American industry that fortunately was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, to sing the praises of the federal minimum wage.

Here is the critical sentence in Cohen’s op-ed: “The minimum wage can play a vital role in lifting hard-working families above the poverty line.”


Actually, it’s the exact opposite. The minimum wage can play a vital role in keeping hard-working families below the poverty line by preventing them from working.

Let’s see how.

Cohen points out that the federal minimum wage in 1933 was 30 cents an hour. Today, he observes it is set at $7.25 per hour. He states that over the years “advocates for low-income workers have had a hard time keeping the minimum wage at a reasonable level and passing other laws necessary to fulfill the original goal: ensuring that people who work hard can achieve a reasonable standard of living.”

Unfortunately, Cohen fails to point out what his ideal minimum wage would be. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he would be generous to the hardworking poor. Let’s say that Cohen would support a minimum wage of, say, $100 per hour.

Now, what poor person would oppose that? Certainly Cohen wouldn’t oppose it, given his concern for the working poor.

However, there would be one big problem with setting the minimum wage at $100 per hour. It would doom many of the hard-working poor to unemployment.

The problem becomes obvious to most people when we set the minimum wage at $100 per hour. It’s just not worth it to most employers. Value is subjective. While employers might find it worth it to purchase workers’ labor at, say, $10 an hour, they won’t find it worth it to purchase it at, say, $100 an hour.

In fact, most people would easily recognize that businesses simply could not afford to pay their workers $100 an hour and would quickly go out of business if they did so. Faced with a law that required them to pay $100 per hour, most businesses would not hire new people and would also let some current employees go.

Thus, it is easy to see that every worker whose labor is valued in the marketplace at less than $100 per hour will be precluded from getting a job. Every time he applies for a job, the employer will say, “Sorry, I just cannot afford to pay you $100 per hour, which the law mandates. You might be the best worker in the world but your labor is not worth $100 an hour to me. I’d be willing to pay you $10 an hour but unfortunately the law won’t let me.”

What if the prospective employee says, “I need the job. I’ve got a family to support. I’ll work for $10 an hour”? The employer will refuse because he’s facing sizable damages if he’s caught breaking the law.

Therefore, the $100 per hour minimum-wage law would doom a vast portion of the working populace to unemployment. How would they survive? You’ve got it — government welfare, unemployment compensation, food stamps, public housing, public schooling, etc. That would keep the poor alive — and dependent on the government.

Cohen might respond “But $100 is too high. How about a reasonable compromise — to, say, $10 per hour? Surely a small increase like that wouldn’t cause unemployment, like $100 an hour would.”

That would certainly be true if everyone’s labor is valued in the marketplace at $10 an hour. Employers would still find it in their interests to hire such workers. But it would not hold true for every worker whose labor is valued by employers at less than $10 per hour. The $10 per hour mandated minimum wage will doom those workers to unemployment, poverty, welfare, and governmental dependency.

Thus, if one wants to help the working poor the best thing he can do is to repeal minimum-wage laws to ensure that they all can work.

How can workers be assured of being paid the highest possible rate? Through the virtues of competition. They look around and see what other businesses are paying workers, and if they are paying more, employees ask for a raise or leave for better pay. Therefore, it is in the interests of the working poor to have a marketplace where there are multitudes of businesses opening up, successfully serving consumers, and competing for workers.

After all, if the minimum wage law is what requires employers to pay workers a minimum rate of pay, why is that many employers pay more than the minimum wage? Not surprisingly, it’s a question that Cohen does not address.

Cohen’s piece is a classic example of how good intentions are irrelevant when it comes to public policy. Like other liberals, Cohen wants to help the poor. The problem is that the economic interventionism he endorses actually hurts the very people he wants to help.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Democratic Capitulation on Telecom Immunity
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Not surprisingly, the Democratic-controlled Congress has once again capitulated to the president, this time agreeing to a “compromise” bill that grants immunity to telecom companies that knowingly and intentionally broke the law that prohibited them from sharing confidential information about their customers with the government.

Outraged customers sued the companies for damages, and the president has now prevailed on Congress to immunize the companies from those lawsuits, just as the president secured immunity from criminal prosecution for torture and murder committed by CIA officials. Even worse, the Democrats, no doubt fearful of once again being called soft on terrorism, even agreed to expand the president’s wiretapping powers.

This episode, occurring on the eve of the presidential election, brings to mind when Congress, fearful of being accused of being soft on Saddam Hussein, unconstitutionally and cowardly delegated its power to declare war on Iraq to the president on the eve of the 2002 congressional elections.

The grant of immunity and the expanded wiretap powers once again confirm that there is no way to achieve a free society in the context of a pro-empire, interventionist foreign policy. The interventionist policy (i.e., sanctions, invasions, occupations, foreign aid, etc.) produce the ever-constant threat of terrorist blowback, which U.S. officials then (1) use as an excuse to engage in more interventionism, which then produces more threats of terrorist blowback, and (2) use as an excuse to suspend civil liberties to encounter the ever-growing threats from terrorist blowback.

For months, civil liberties groups have been opposing the enactment of the telecom immunity bill with articles, essays, lobbying, and publicity campaigns, just as they have been opposing for years the torture and sex abuse, kidnapping and rendition, Gitmo, military tribunals, cancellation of habeas corpus, etc. that have come with the “war on terrorism.”

As important as those efforts to preserve what remain of our civil liberties, they are clearly insufficient. As long as the federal government is able to continue killing, maiming, kidnapping, torturing, and sexually abusing people overseas, there is going to be the constant threat of terrorist blowback, which then gives the government the excuse to take away people’s freedom, “temporarily” of course. (The telecom/immunity law is scheduled to expire in 2012,) Moreover, let’s not forget the “enemy combatant” doctrine, justified as part of the government’s “war on terrorism,” which enables military officials to take anyone in the world, including Americans on American soil, into custody as an “enemy combatant” and treat him as a “terrorist.”

The immunity/wiretapping bill, agreed to by both the Democrats and Republicans, demonstrates once again that the American people are facing a very important choice: (1) Either continue going down the road to empire and intervention, which will bring more chaos, loss of liberty, fear, currency debasement, hardship, and isolation; or (2) Restore a limited-government, constitutional republic and a foreign policy of nonintervention to our land, which would help restore a normal, free, peaceful, harmonious, and prosperous society.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Scalia’s Siren Song
by Jacob G. Hornberger

In his dissent in Boumediene, Justice Scalia pulls an old trick from the interventionist hat — that Americans will be safer if they surrender their fundamental rights and liberties to the government. What he’s saying is that Court’s holding recognizing habeas corpus rights to Guantanamo prisoners is going to result in terrorists being set free, who will then return to “the battlefield” to kill Americans. Never mind that such a conclusion entails placing full and complete trust in the military, rather than the courts, to determine who is guilty of terrorism and who isn’t.

Scalia’s argument is the siren song of statists, one that has been used by tyrants throughout history to seduce people into surrendering their rights and freedoms for the pretense of safety. As the German people discovered after the German parliament “temporarily” suspended civil liberties after the terrorist attack on the German Reichstag, people who fall for that trick inevitably lose both their freedom and their safety.

Prior to the 9/11 attacks, The Future of Freedom Foundation was pointing out that unless the U.S. government ceased and desisted from the bad things it was doing to people as part of its foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, Americans would be facing the threat of terrorist blowback on American soil.

We weren’t the only ones issuing that warning. Chalmers Johnson predicted the same thing in his pre-9/11 book Blowback.

Of course, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to make such a prediction. In 1993 — eight years before 9/11 — Ramzi Yousef bombed the World Trade Center and later cited U.S. foreign policy for the anger and rage that motivated his act of terrorism.

Nonetheless, the U.S. government continued its interventionist ways, especially when many Americans, in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Empire, were asking why a huge military and military-industrial complex were still necessary. U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East included the cruel and brutal sanctions against the Iraqi people, which contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, the illegal and deadly “no-fly zones” over Iraq, the stationing of U.S. troops on Islamic holy lands, and the unconditional military and foreign aid to the Israeli government.

Such measures were, year after year, adding to the boiling cauldron of hate and anger against the United States in the Middle East. But that was of secondary importance to U.S. officials. What mattered first and foremost was empire and interventionism. The possibility of terrorist blowback was a price that U.S. officials were willing to pay in order to maintain the empire and their policy of interventionism.

Today, with U.S. officials continuing such policies, especially with their invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, the American people are faced with the same choice as before 9/11. Are the maintenance of an overseas empire and the continuation of an interventionist foreign policy worth the risk of terrorist blowback (not to mention a constantly debasing dollar and the continuous loss of U.S. troops)?

My own opinion is that such policies are not worth the cost. But if most Americans decide that empire and intervention are important to them, then the worst thing they can do is to succumb to fears of terrorist blowback by surrendering their rights and freedoms to government officials, even “temporarily.” As our American ancestors warned us, and as history has repeatedly shown, not only will Americans not gain the security they seek, the chance that U.S. officials will restore their rights and liberties anytime soon is nil.

If Americans choose empire and intervention, then they should simply accept the potential consequence: that some Americans are going to die in the process. What is shameful and disgraceful is when some Americans, who “bravely” support the troops who are maintaining the empire thousands of miles away from American shores, then cowardly cry, “The terrorists! The terrorists! They’re coming to get me! Please do whatever you have to — take away my rights and freedoms — to protect me from the terrorists.”

Thus, the ideal is to dismantle the empire and end the U.S. government’s role as international policeman and intervener, which will then restore a normalcy to the lives of the American people. But if Americans instead decide that they don’t want the federal government to give up its overseas empire and its role as international policeman, then they should simply and courageously accept the possibility that some Americans, including soldiers, are going to die as part of that process.

After all, isn’t it better to die a free man than as a serf cowering in the corner of one’s living room in fear of the terrorists or, even worse, the gendarmes of one’s own government?

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Real War Facing Our Nation
by Jacob G. Hornberger

While it might be tempting to blame George W. Bush for the last 7 years of darkness, tyranny, and oppression in America, such would be a big mistake. While Bush has presided over such federal programs as torture and sex abuse, spying on American citizens, wars of aggression, occupations, indefinite detentions, murder of detainees, Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, cancellation of habeas corpus, kidnapping and rendition, the drug war, the war on terrorism, and the debasement of the dollar, the notion that simply electing a new president, McCain or Obama, will resolve America’s woes is hopelessly naïve. The problem is a systemic one, not one of electing “better” people to public office.

The primary issue confronting the American people is twofold, one on the domestic level and one on the foreign level.

The domestic issue is with respect to the welfare state and the regulated society. America’s welfare-state economic system is grounded in the notion that it is proper for people to use the government to take money that has been earned from some in order to give it to others and to use the government to punish people for engaging in peaceful, albeit harmful behavior, the drug war being a prime example.

The foreign issue is with respect to the warfare state and the overseas military empire that Americans unfortunately came to embrace in the 20th century. Despite the end of the Cold War more than a decade ago, the U.S. government continues to maintain military bases all over the United States and more than 100 countries, an ever-growing military-industrial complex, and an interventionist foreign policy that produces the ever-present threat of terrorist blowback.

The spending required to sustain both the welfare state and the warfare state has produced a major crash in the value of the dollar, which is reflected by soaring prices in commodities, including oil and gas. And given the ever-increasing level of federal spending, both domestically and foreign, there is no end in sight with respect to monetary crises.

Federal officials, not surprisingly, try to frame the issue in terms of a war against foreigners not surprisingly, try to frame the issue in terms of a war against foreigners (i.e., the terrorists, Muslims, Islamo-fascists, illegal aliens, drug dealers, etc.). But in actuality the real war is an ideological one and a domestic one between those who love liberty (e.g., libertarians) vs. those who love statism (e.g., socialists, interventionists, and imperialists).

The real fight is between those of us who are trying to restore the principles of liberty and republic on which our nation was founded and those who are trying to maintain the principles of socialism, militarism, and imperialism that America unfortunately came to embrace in the 20th century.

Therefore, by necessity, the fight that we libertarians are waging is against both conservatives and liberals.

Conservatives are fighting their hearts out to maintain the big-government edifice that they brought into existence during the Cold War, an edifice they rationalize under the rubric of “a strong national defense.” Having embraced an interventionist foreign policy, especially after the demise of the Soviet Union, they now use the 9/11 terrorist blowback from such policy to rationalize the types of things the Soviet Union was doing — torture, gulags, indefinite detentions, etc. They also remain prime supporters of the drug war, despite the fact that it too has produced nothing but death, destruction, and infringements on liberty.

While some liberals have admirably opposed the last 7 years of ever-growing assaults on civil liberties and the U.S. government’s pro-empire, pro-intervention foreign policy, they remain steadfastly committed to the welfare state that the FDR administration brought to our nation in the 1930s. The best example of the liberal mindset is an argument they employ for ending the occupation of Iraq — that the money being used to “rebuild” Iraq could instead be used to fund America’s welfare-state programs. The libertarian idea that people would be better off keeping their own money and deciding what to do with it is, unfortunately, still alien to the liberal mind.

The good news is that there is a way out of the statist morass in which our nation finds itself. That way out is libertarianism. The other good news is that more and more people — liberals, conservatives, and non-ideologues alike — are recognizing that libertarianism is the key to the future well-being and liberty of the American people, a phenomenon that is scaring the daylights out of American statists. Every day, more and more people are figuring out that the root cause of the many crises facing our nation is the socialism, interventionism, and imperialism emanating from Washington, D.C.

Thus, the fact that Americans will be electing a new president is itself no cause for celebration because the new president will simply be ruling over the same bankrupt and corrupt system of socialism, interventionism, and empire that has produced the many crises under which the American people are now suffering.

What is needed above all is a moral revolution that arises within the American people themselves — one in which the populace demands a different system — one that restores the principles of individual liberty, free markets, freedom of choice, private charity, and a limited-government republic to replace the system of big-government socialism, interventionism, and empire that currently holds our nation in its grip.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My Government, Never Wrong
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Conservatives are berating the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in the Boumediene case, where the Court held unconstitutional the federal government’s attempt to cancel habeas corpus rights to the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. The conservative reaction to the decision reflects, once again, how conservatives have come to view the federal government — and, more specifically, the executive branch — as a deity, one which is never wrong.

For example, how often do we see conservatives condemning the federal government for prosecuting Zacharias Moussaoui in federal district court, where he was accorded all the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights, along with such non-enumerated rights as the presumption of innocence?

Answer: Never. Yet, wasn’t Moussaoui, as one of the government’s many 20th hijackers on 9/11, just as dangerous as the detainees at Guantanamo Bay? Why shouldn’t he have been transferred to Guantanamo Bay and deprived of the rights and guarantees of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights? Why shouldn’t his conviction be vacated and why shouldn’t he be sent to Guantanamo Bay as an enemy combatant?

Conservatives have no answer to those questions because to even contemplate the questions tends toward questioning the perfection of their deity, the federal government.

The same questions, of course, hold true for Timothy McVeigh, a terrorist who bombed a federal building in retaliation for the federal massacre at Waco, killing and injuring dozens of federal employees and their children. Do conservatives ever argue that McVeigh should have been treated as an enemy combatant rather than as a criminal defendant? No, because again that would entail criticizing their beloved deity.

Or take the classic case — that of Ramzi Yousef, the terrorist who did the same thing that the 9/11 terrorists did. Eight years prior to 9/11, he attacked the World Trade Center in retaliation for U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. He was arrested in Pakistan (without the dropping of bombs or invasions and occupations, which would have killed countless innocent people) and returned to the United States, where he was prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced in a federal district court.

Do conservatives ever condemn Yousef’s federal-court prosecution? Do they ever claim that his conviction should be nullified and that he should be sent into the clutches of the U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay as an “enemy combatant”? Nope. Again, that would constitute criticism of their deity, a deity that is never considered to be wrong.

One case that has confounded the religious convictions of conservatives is that of Jose Padilla. When Padilla, an American citizen, was being held by the Pentagon as an enemy combatant, conservatives were effusive in their praise of federal officials. Then, when the feds transferred Padilla to federal-court jurisdiction, where he was prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced, conservatives remained supportive. No matter which way they go, the feds can never be considered wrong because, in the conservative mind, deities are never wrong.

Viewing the federal government as their deity is the main reason that conservatives get so upset when libertarians point out that the 9/11 attacks were terrorist blowback from the bad things that the U.S. government has been doing to people in the Middle East. Just think back to the conservative reaction to Ron Paul’s pointing out the relationship between U.S. foreign policy and terrorist blowback in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Do you recall how angry and outraged conservatives became? Pointing out the relationship between U.S. foreign policy and terrorist blowback implies that the federal government has done wrongful things to foreigners. That’s considered blasphemy among conservatives because their federal deity is incapable of doing bad things to anyone.

This is also the reason that conservatives will not entertain any suggestion that federal officials might have lied about the infamous WMDs that Saddam Hussein was supposedly about to unleash on the United States. It’s also why conservatives fully supported the blind grant of immunity for tortuous or murderous acts committed by the CIA while fully supporting the president’s proclamation, “We don’t torture.” In the mind of the conservative, the federal deity is incapable of wrongdoing or even lying about it.

Ironically, many conservatives are Christians, oftentimes even wearing their religion on their sleeves. They simply see nothing inconsistent in worshipping dual deities and even having them work in conjunction with each other — for example, in such areas as helping the poor, needy, and disadvantaged with such welfare-state programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schooling, foreign aid, corporate grants, and SBA loans. What better way to fulfill God’s commandment to love one’s neighbor than by using the power of coercion wielded by His co-deity, the federal government?

Libertarians, who would never consider deifying the federal government, take the view that what matters, first and foremost, is the exercise of conscience, which means that sometimes a person has to take a firm stand against the wrongdoing committed by his own government. Conservatives rail against the libertarian view because it suggests that their deity is capable of wrongdoing. Thus, the conservative mindset steadfastly maintains, “My government, never wrong.”

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hating the Constitution
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Suppose the Chinese people were able to overthrow their communist regime and install a democratic republic. Suppose the new Chinese officials asked Americans to help them implement a new criminal-justice system for China.

Some Americans would recommend that China adopt such criminal-justice principles as right to counsel, right to confront witnesses, right to due process of law, right to bail, right to speedy trial, right to habeas corpus, and trial by jury. The reason they would do so is because they believe that these principles are correct, just, and moral — and that they are among the best defenses to tyranny, communist or otherwise.

Other Americans, however, would recommend that China reject the criminal-justice principles in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They would recommend such things as tortured confessions, hearsay, secret evidence, secret trials, denial of effective assistance of counsel, and tribunals. In other words, some Americans would recommend the same type of criminal-justice system that the Chinese communists employed.

How do we know this?

Because we know what Pentagon officials did when they thought they were freed of any constitutional restraints and any federal-court interference with their operations at Guantanamo Bay. When free to construct what they considered would be a model judicial system, they rejected the principles found in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and adopted criminal-justice principles that have been employed in such countries as the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, North Korea, and Cuba.

Conservatives often jump to the conclusion that all the detainees the Pentagon has jailed at Guantanamo are guilty of terrorism. Let’s leave aside the fact that the Pentagon has voluntarily released many detainees over the course of 6 years, which would imply that mistakes have been made. Let’s focus on the prisoners who are still being held.

In setting up what it considers to be a model judicial system for prosecuting the detainees, the Pentagon makes an implicit assumption: that they might not, in fact, be guilty of terrorism. Assuming that the proceedings at Guantanamo are not simply show trials designed to cover up illegitimate executions, they are presumably intended to accomplish what federal-court prosecutions are intended to accomplish: to make a factual determination as to whether the accused actually did commit a criminal act of terrorism.

One searches in vain in the Guantanamo process for such rights as trial by jury, right to effective assistance of counsel, speedy trial, right to confront witnesses, right to compulsory process for witnesses, right to a public trial, right to habeas corpus, and right to due process of law.

Why is this? Why would the Pentagon, when it was free to establish a model judicial system for prosecuting terrorists, reject the criminal-justice principles set forth in our very own Constitution and Bill of Rights?

The answer is unavoidable: The Pentagon holds the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in disdain and exalts instead the criminal-justice principles found in such countries as the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, North Korea, and Cuba, where officials embraced such things as tortured confessions and evidence, denial of speedy trial, indefinite incarcerations, secret evidence and secret trials, tribunals, and denial of trial by jury, the right to cross-examine witnesses, effective assistance of counsel, and due process of law.

Let’s not forget, after all, the very reason that the Pentagon set up its prison camp in Cuba — so that it would be free of all constraints in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and free of interference from the federal judiciary that the Constitution established. Why would Pentagon officials do that if they genuinely admired the principles found in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights? If they believed in such principles, wouldn’t they wish to see them applied universally?

Thanks to our American ancestors, the United States brought into existence the greatest criminal-justice system in history. It is far from perfect, but it has been the greatest protector of the innocent ever established. By rejecting the criminal-justice principles set forth in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the Pentagon reflects its deeply seated disdain for our heritage of law and liberty.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Stunning Rebuke to Tyranny
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Yesterday, in a stunning rebuke of President Bush, the Pentagon, and Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the cancellation of habeas corpus for foreigners accused of terrorism. The Court’s decision in Boumediene v. Bush nullified the provision in the Military Commissions Act that purported to remove the jurisdiction of the federal courts to hear habeas corpus cases for the detainees at the Pentagon’s prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.

First and foremost, keep in mind why the president and the Pentagon set up their prison camp and “judicial” system in Cuba: To avoid the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the federal judiciary that the Constitution established.

It is impossible to overstate the significance of that motivation, for it reflects how much the president and the Pentagon hate the principles set forth in both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. After all, why else would they try to avoid the application of such principles? If they were proud of the principles in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, wouldn’t they want to extend such principles rather than try to avoid them?

In 2004, the Supreme Court put the quietus to the president’s and Pentagon’s plan to establish a prison camp and “judicial” system that were independent of constitutional provisions and federal-court interference. In Rasul vs. Bush, the Court held that the Constitution extended to the Pentagon’s operations in Cuba. This ruling upheld the right of detainees at Guantanamo to file petitions for writs of habeas corpus to challenge their detention.

It’s important to remind ourselves what habeas corpus is and what it isn’t. Habeas corpus does not involve a full-blown trial in which the guilt or innocence of an accused is determined. It is simply a proceeding in which a judge determines whether the government has cause to be holding a person. It is designed to prevent government officials from holding people indefinitely without charge.

Of course, that’s exactly what the Pentagon has been doing at Gitmo, where people have been held for six years without any guarantee of ever being tried or released. The significance of Rasul is that the ruling enabled detainees to file petitions in federal courts saying, “I’m an innocent person. Please give me a chance to show you that. The U.S. military authorities are holding me without cause.”

At the habeas corpus hearing, both sides would be permitted to be heard. If the Pentagon could establish just cause why the person should be held, the prisoner would be returned to prison. If the Pentagon could not do so or if the prisoner established his innocence, then the federal judge would order his release. Both sides could appeal the decision to the federal court of appeals and then to the U.S. Supreme Court.

After the Rasul decision, Congress, at the behest of the president, enacted the Military Commissions Act, which removed the jurisdiction of the federal courts to hear habeas corpus petitions from the Guantanamo prisoners. It was a cute trick designed to avoid the express constitutional prohibition against suspending habeas corpus except in times of rebellion or invasion.

Fortunately, the Supreme Court did not permit this machination to succeed. In Boumediene, the Court held that the provision of the Military Commissions Act purporting to remove jurisdiction of the federal courts to hear habeas corpus cases is unconstitutional.

In one of the finest expositions of the history and purposes of habeas corpus, the majority pointed out that habeas corpus is the bulwark of a free society. If people lack a way to challenge their imprisonment by government officials, then all other rights become a dead letter.

For example, suppose a person is imprisoned for criticizing the Pentagon. If he has no right to go to court to say, “They’re wrongfully imprisoning me for criticizing them,” then his right to freedom of speech means nothing.

There were four dissenters in Boumediene, all conservatives. In fact, many others in the conservative movement are reviling the majority decision, claiming that the ruling is going to make the American people less safe. The conservative dissent in Boumediene and the conservative reaction to the majority decision confirm why conservatives can never be trusted when it comes to our rights and freedoms. They are all too eager, especially in time of crisis, to sacrifice liberty for safety, not realizing that tyranny brings neither.

President Bush, a conservative, says that while he disagrees with the ruling in Boumediene, he intends to comply with it. No doubt he is wishing he could do what his friend, partner, and ally in Pakistan, President Pervez Musharraf has done: fire the Supreme Court justices, appoint his cronies to replace them, and jail any lawyers who dare to protest his actions.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Barack Obama’s Socialist Philosophy
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The central point of Barack Obama’s economic plan is to tax the rich in order the give money to the poor. Of course, this is nothing more than the core philosophy of the welfare state. It is also the core principle of socialism.

What Democrats (and Republicans) have a difficult time facing is the philosophical roots of the New Deal, the federal program that abandoned the economic philosophy of laissez faire in favor of the welfare state. American welfare-state advocates attained many of their economic ideas from two primary sources: Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin, both of whom were highly admired by leftist American intellectuals and politicians in the 1930s.

Mussolini’s economic philosophy was fascism, which was a system in which the government left private property under private ownership but subjected it to government control. Stalin’s economic philosophy was socialism, which involved taking property from the rich in order to redistribute it to the poor.

During the 1930s, American leftists were traveling to fascist Italy and the socialist (and communist) Soviet Union not only to pay homage to Mussolini and the fascists and Stalin and the socialists but also to gain ideas from them for use in the United States. Many of the fans of fascism and socialism ended up serving in the Franklin Roosevelt administration or as founts of ideas for FDR.

The irony (and hypocrisy) is that U.S. officials often rail against foreign regimes that engage in socialism. For example, consider Iran in 1953. The Iranian regime nationalized the oil industry, which means that they cancelled British ownership of oil rights in Iran and transferred such rights to the Iranian government. That action is what ultimately caused the CIA to oust the democratically elected prime minister of Iran from office and install the brutal dictatorship of the Shah of Iran.

Today, what are Obama and other Democrats calling for as a solution to high oil prices? They’re calling for confiscation of oil revenues from oil companies, or what they call a “windfall profits tax.” (Never mind that the oil prices are largely a reflection of a crashing dollar brought about by out-of-control federal spending, which Democrats have enthusiastically supported. Confiscating revenues from the oil companies deflects attention away from the federal government and toward an easy scapegoat.)

What’s the difference in principle between nationalizing an oil company and stealing its revenues? Isn’t the difference one of degree rather than principle? Iranian officials steal all of the company and U.S. officials steal a portion of the company. And they do it in the name of equalization and the people.

One year later — 1954, the CIA ousted the democratically elected president of Guatemala, Jacobo Arbenz, and installed a brutal military general in his stead. Arbenz’s crime? He was a socialist who confiscated unused land owned by United Fruit Company, a U.S. corporation doing business in Guatemala, and redistributed it to Guatemalan peasants. That was a super no-no in the eyes of U.S. officials, especially given that United Fruit was a contributor to the political campaigns of many U.S. congressmen. Yet, Arbenz’s socialist philosophy was no different in principle from that of President Franklin Roosevelt, whose New Deal philosophy was based on taking from the rich in order to give to the poor.

The ardent devotion to socialism among American liberals is one reason that they have long had a deep sympathy toward Fidel Castro. Castro carried out socialist principles to their logical conclusion. The state took ownership of everyone’s property and then redistributed the largess to everyone. Cubans who owned large mansions, for example, had them confiscated, whereupon poor people were permitted to move in to the houses. All businesses, large and small, were nationalized for the interests of the nation and the people.

How is that different from Obama’s dream of taxing the rich in order to equalize people’s economic condition? Castro confiscates and redistributes 100 percent. Obama wants to confiscate and redistribute, say, 30 percent. Big deal. The difference is one of degree, not one of principle. Socialism is socialism.

At least the Cuban people recognize that they live under a socialist order. The American people have permitted themselves to be convinced that their system continues to be “free enterprise.” In fact, when you confront an ordinary American with the fact that public (i.e., government) schooling and government-provided health care are the core elements of Fidel Castro’s system, they’re likely to say, “You mean Castro is finally adopting free enterprise?” The sad plight of the American people can be summed up with the words of Johann von Goethe: “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Stop the President from Running the Economy
by Jacob G. Hornberger

A front-page article in the New York Times today describes how the economic policies advocated by both John McCain and Barack Obama are the same old tired ideas that Republicans and Democrats have been advocating for years. McCain’s panacea is tax cuts for the rich and Obama’s panacea is redistribution of wealth to the poor. Both claim that their plan will provide economic salvation for the nation.

The Times is right and both McCain and Obama are wrong. These ideas are old and tired, and they are only going to cause more damage to the American people. The problem is that both presidential candidates, along with most Americans, refuse to acknowledge the real economic problems facing our nation, which are federal intervention and federal spending, both of which are soaring out of control on both welfare and warfare, with no end in sight.

Most Americans have been taught to believe that the president is responsible for “running the economy.” Therefore, one of the primary criteria that people use to decide who to vote for is which candidate will do the best job “running the economy.”

However, in a truly free-market economy — that is, one that is unhampered by government intervention — people plan and run their own economic activities. They open businesses or secure jobs in which they draw an income. They save, invest, donate, or spend their money on things that they consider important. They use the price system to guide their economic decisions. They coordinate their economic activities with others.

The result of all these trillions of individual decisions is an infinitely complex system that produces positive results, many of which are not part of anyone’s intention. For example, while a person working on a ranch in North Dakota is doing so because he loves working with cattle, New Yorkers who love to eat steak are the beneficiaries of the ranch worker’s actions in North Dakota.

The 19th-century French free-market legislator Frederic Bastiat once wrote an essay on how Paris got fed. Every morning Parisians would wake up to find that thousands of Parisian food markets were filled with foodstuffs on which people depended for their survival. Yet, there was no government agency planning and coordinating this vitally important task. Instead, the fact that Parisians got fed was, in the words of Friedrich Hayek, the results of human action, not of human design.

Thus, the ideal is a way of life in which everyone is free to plan his own life, freely enter into business relationships with others, keep the fruits of his earnings, decide what to do with his own money, and coordinate his actions with others. It is this process that raises standards of living for everyone, especially those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

When presidents “run the economy,” what they’re actually doing is damaging people’s economic well-being with rules, regulations, spending, borrowing, taxation, and inflation. “Running the economy” includes, for example, having the IRS collect taxes and or having the Federal Reserve print the money to “rebuild Iraq” or to send a federal grant to some friendly congressman for redistribution in his district. That means less money for people to use for their own plans. On top of the taxes and debasement of the currency, of course, are the hundreds of thousands of rules and regulations that interfere with people’s economic liberty.

As long as the American people continue to hope for a president who can “run the economy,” rather than demanding the freedom to run their own economic affairs, this damaging and destructive process will continue, with economic ruin and loss of liberty at the end of the road.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

What a Great Conference!
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Our conference “Restoring the Republic 2009: Foreign Policy and Civil Liberties” was a resounding success! The 21 speeches were among the best I’ve ever heard. In fact, I have never participated in a conference with so many consistently great speeches. The mix of liberals, conservatives, and libertarians — along with a select group of lawyers who are fighting hard to preserve the Constitution and Bill of Rights — ended up working perfectly to present the libertarian case on these two burning issues of our time.

On Friday night of the conference, C-SPAN covered three of the talks — Ron Paul, Stephen Kinzer, and Andrew Bacevich. The speeches were among the best at the conference. One of the most entertaining parts was the exchange between Kinzer and Bacevich themselves — two intellectual giants good naturedly battling over a certain point about foreign policy. You can see all three speeches online here.

In the weeks ahead, we’ll be sharing the conference speeches with you. Thank you to all the supporters and sponsors whose financial support made the conference a reality, to all our student interns who helped us out, to all of our great speakers, to our FFF staff, and to everyone who attended the event. Here at FFF, we are a bit tired but we are still flying high over how well everything went.

Keep in mind: Next year is FFF’s 20th Anniversary Conference.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Fight Socialism with Freedom in Cuba
by Jacob G. Hornberger

A rare Gallup poll conducted in 2006 in Havana and Santiago, Cuba, reflect that Cubans have a good grip on reality regarding the two root causes of the horrible economic misery under which they have long been suffering.

The first cause is Cuba’s socialist economic system. According to a New York Times report of the poll, “80 percent said that they backed a market economic system that included the right to own property and run businesses.”

The second cause is the cruel and brutal embargo that the U.S. government has enforced against the Cuban people for almost five decades. According to the Times, “Most Cubans in that survey also attributed their economic woes to the American trade embargo.”

While U.S. officials blame Cuba’s economic woes on socialism and Cuban officials blame Cuba’s economic woes on the embargo, the truth is that they are both right. The Cuban people have had the economic life squeezed out of them by the twin jaws of the vise — Castro’s socialism and the U.S. embargo.

Of all the failures of U.S. foreign policy, the embargo against Cuba must rank among the top. From the very beginning of the embargo, the purpose has been regime change. The idea has long been to squeeze the Cuban people into ousting their president Fidel Castro from power and installing a Cuban puppet who could be controlled by Washington officials.

What is sad about the Cuban embargo is not only the horrible economic damage it has caused the Cuban people but also that the embargo adopted anti-capitalist methods to fight communism and socialism.

Some Americans have convinced themselves that the U.S. embargo constitutes economic control on the Cuban people. Not so. The embargo is actually a control on the American people. The embargo places harsh criminal and civil penalties on Americans who travel to Cuba and spend money there.

Freedom of travel and the right to spend one’s own money the way he sees fit are fundamental rights that preexist government. They go to the essence of the inherent and unalienable rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence.

Yet, with the embargo the American people permitted their federal officials to establish the same type of harsh economic controls on them that Fidel Castro established on the Cuban people.

Was there a better way to fight socialism and communism in Cuba? Absolutely — with freedom. If Americans had not permitted their government officials to impose the Cuban embargo, the American people would have been free to travel into Cuba, talk to people, help Cubans accumulate wealth, and expose Cubans to diverse ideas, especially ideas on liberty. What better way to influence foreigners than to let the American private sector flood into a country? Wouldn’t freedom have been a better way to move Cuba in a positive direction than by fighting socialism with socialism?

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Minimum-Wage Laws Are Unnecessary and Destructive
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Among the biggest myths in economics is that government intervention is needed to ensure a minimum wage for workers. In fact, not only is such intervention unnecessary, it is actually harmful to those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

Interventionists claim that in the absence of minimum-wage laws, wages would be driven down to below-subsistence levels by employers. The idea is that since employers are greedy, profit-seeking type of people, if the law didn’t force them to pay high wages, they wouldn’t do so.

Oh? Well, if that’s the case then why do so many businesses pay higher than the minimum wage mandated by Congress? If all that these greedy, profit-seeking employers are required to pay is, say, $6 per hour, then why do they pay more than that? Wouldn’t you think that they would be paying only the amount they are forced to pay and not a dime more, especially considering the claim by interventionists that in the absence of the mandated minimum wage, employers would be paying significantly less?

In fact, a minimum-wage law actually hurts those people at the bottom of the economic ladder — those whose labor is valued by employers at less than the mandated minimum. Legislators falsely think that they can repeal the laws of supply and demand. They false believe that they can mandate people’s subjective valuations in the marketplace. A minimum-wage law leaves unemployed those whose labor is valued in the marketplace at below the mandated minimum.

Do employers pay more than the minimum wage because they’re selfless, caring, and loss-seeking?

No. The wages that employers pay to workers is based simply on the supply of workers and the demand for workers.

If the supply of workers is low, wages will be higher and if the supply is high, wages will be lower. By the same token, if the demand for workers is high, wages will be higher and if the demand is low, wages will be lower.

So, how do workers ensure that employers are paying them the best wages under the economic conditions existing at that time? They look around. They see what people are being paid in similar work or even completely different lines of work. If they hear that wages (and benefits) are significantly higher elsewhere, they either ask for a raise or quit and go elsewhere.

Thus, the best protection that workers could ever have is a booming economy in which lots of businesses are opening and expanding. Every one of those businesses is then competing for workers, which tends to drive wage rates upward. Even if an employer is the greediest, most profit-seeking person in the world and wishes to keep wages as low as possible, if he doesn’t match the wages that other businesses are paying, he loses worker and even possibly goes out of business.

Obviously, there is a constraint on how much money businesses can devote to wages. For example, if a business has an annual gross income of, say, $100,000, there is no way that it will be able to pay more than $100,000 in wages, at least not without going into the hole through borrowing. In fact, the total amount paid for wages will by much lower than that given other business expenses. Thus, the total amount produced by the business limits the amount to be devoted to wages.

What if the business doubles its annual production? Then it has more money to devote to wages. How can workers be sure that employers will raise wages in response to increases in production? Again, they look around and see what other businesses are paying. If they can do better elsewhere, they’ll threaten to leave, motivating their business to raise its wages. Again, that’s why a booming economy is in the best interests of workers.

So, how does a business increase production? Through capital — machinery, equipment, tools, computers, and so forth. A farm where workers are using tractors will produce more than a farm where workers are using hoes.

Thus, it’s in the interest of workers that businesses keep everything they earn. That is, no taxes on business income or capital. In that way, businesses are better able to invest their monies in productive equipment, which raises productivity, which provides more income to pay better wages. When every business is free to keep its income and capital, workers in all enterprises benefit.

Thus, contrary to what socialists have been claiming ever since the time of Karl Marx, government intervention is unnecessary to protect workers from greedy, profit-seeking employers. The natural and harmonious forces of an unhampered market economy accomplish that quite well.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Not a Dime’s Worth of Difference on Foreign Policy
by Jacob G. Hornberger

An op-ed in yesterday’s conservative Wall Street Journal provides another example of how there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between Republicans and Democrats, especially when it comes to foreign policy. The op-ed, entitled “Don’t Expect a Big Change in U.S. Foreign Policy” by Timothy J. Lynch and Robert S. Singh, argues that no matter who is elected president — McCain, Obama, or Clinton — foreign interventionism will continue to be the order of the day.

We all know where John McCain and Hillary Clinton stand, especially with respect to the war of aggression against Iraq, a type of war that was punished as a war crime at Nuremberg. McCain is proud of the fact that the U.S. government attacked, invaded, and occupied Iraq, a country whose people and government never attacked the United States.

Although Hillary Clinton now waffles over whether she favored the invasion of Iraq, she cannot deny that she, along with her cohorts in Congress, unconstitutionally delegated the congressional power to declare war on Iraq to President Bush. While she now says that she really didn’t expect President Bush to actually attack Iraq when she voted to give him the authority to attack Iraq, she’s being dishonest and disingenuous. The fact is that if the invasion and occupation had gone swimmingly, there is little doubt that Clinton would today be crowing about how she voted for such “success.”

Obama simply got lucky when he opposed the invasion of Iraq. After all, it’s not as though he has a principled opposition to empire and interventionism, as say Ron Paul does. Like other pro-empire, pro-intervention advocates in both the Republican and Democratic Parties, Obama picks and chooses which Third World countries are likely to succumb to such U.S. regime-change techniques as coups, assassinations, foreign aid, invasions, and occupations.

Obama may have suspected that the conquest of Iraq would not go well, which is the most likely reason that he opposed it. After all, does Obama ever talk in terms of moral principles? Does he ever say that it was wrong to attack a country that had never attacked the United States? That it’s wrong for the U.S. government to be committing the war crime of waging a war of aggression, especially after having participated in a legal proceeding that punished German officials for committing such as war crime? That it’s morally wrong for U.S. soldiers to be killing and maiming Iraqis in an occupation that is rooted in an illegal war of aggression? That the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq are illegal under our form of government given that President Bush never secured the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war?

I’ve never heard Obama say any of those things. All I’ve ever heard him say, in essence, is that the occupation and the surge aren’t working and that President Bush should have continued bombing people in Afghanistan (without the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war) in the hopes that one of those bombs landed on Osama bin Laden.

Fortunately, there’s a way out of all this imperialism, militarism, corruption, out-of-control federal spending, and violations of civil liberties. That solution is the libertarian paradigm of individual freedom, free markets, and a constitutional republic. Since the solution would require the dismantling of the U.S. government’s military empire and the abandonment of militarism and interventionism, unfortunately Americans cannot look to such Republicans and Democrats as McCain, Obama, and Clinton to embrace it.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Conservative Idiocy over Rachel Ray and Dunkin Donuts
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Americans received a good dose of conservative idiocy over the weekend.

The dose, which almost defies belief, involves noted conservative commentator Michelle Malkin, who got upset with a television advertisement by Dunkin Donuts that featured 30-minute chef Rachel Ray.

The reason for Malkin’s distress over the commercial? The war on terrorism, a war that excites conservatives even more than the war on drugs, the war on communism, or the war on immigrants.

Malkin went ballistic because in the commercial Rachel is wearing a scarf that bears a resemblance to a kaffiyeh, a traditional scarf worn by Arab men, which apparently some people in the Middle East view as a symbol for Palestinian independence and Islamic radicalism.

So, there you have it: Rachel Ray, the chef who shows people how to make 30-minute meals, and Dunkin Donuts, the company selling donuts and coffee, secretly and subliminally promoting terrorism and al-Qaeda and maybe even anti-Semitism.

Hey, it gets worse. According to the a blog by Monica Corcoran in the Los Angeles Times, the kaffiyeh has been won by dozens of celebrities, including Colin Farrell, David Beckham, Kirsten Dunst, and both Olsen twins.

Oh my gosh! Those anti-American, anti-Semitic, pro-terrorism moles have now infiltrated sports and Hollywood? Quick, declare them all “enemy combatants” and ship them off for a bit of waterboarding at Guantanamo Bay.

Is this idiocy or what? Alas it’s what goes for intelligent commentary in the conservative movement these days.

Let me tell you why conservatives are spending their time with this type of idiocy. They know that it wasn’t just the neo-cons who supported the war of aggression against Iraq. It was also the conservatives. Take a look at any conservative website and you’ll find a host of articles from the 1990s calling for the U.S. government to overthrow Saddam. Once the adventure took a nosedive, conservatives chose to do anything to avoid confronting their personal responsibility for the debacle, even trying to mislead people into thinking that it was all the fault of just the neo-conservatives.

Look at what conservatives have done with their out-of-control government spending, especially on the U.S. military, the military-industrial complex, and Iraq. For the last several years, the dollar has cratered in value, resulting in soaring prices at the pump and in the grocery stores, restaurants, and elsewhere. Conservatives are doing everything they can to avoid taking personal responsibility for the horrific consequences of their big-spending ways.

Look at how conservatives have legitimized intentional violations of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, including presidential wars waged without the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war, torture and sex abuse, indefinite incarcerations, kidnapping and rendition, secret overseas prisons, kangaroo military courts, and denial of due process, habeas corpus, trial by jury, and effective assistance of counsel.

Unable to confront the shame of their actions, conservatives now spend their time wallowing in idiocy, as the Malkin complaint about Rachel Ray and Dunkin Donuts so perfectly reflects.

Unfortunately, Malkin successfully intimidated Dunkin Donuts into withdrawing the ad. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if the company and Ray had instead responded, “Malkin, take your conservative idiocy and shove it”?

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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.