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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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The Melding of Welfare and Warfare


In a move that is certain to leave American anti-militarist liberals (i.e., leftists) in a quandary, the Pentagon has sent a U.S. Navy destroyer to Georgia to deliver “humanitarian aid” in the form of such things as baby food and bottled water.

After all, don’t liberals believe that the primary mission of government is to help the poor, needy, and disadvantaged with welfare? And isn’t that what that U.S. Navy destroyer in Georgia is doing?

Why, one can easily imagine both liberals and conservatives holding hands, cheering the U.S. destroyer’s delivery of welfare to Georgian officials, and together singing kumbaya.

The warship’s actions should cause Americans to ask themselves some fundamental moral questions.

Who exactly are the humanitarians in this process? The Navy commander? The ship’s crew? Pentagon officials? President Bush? American taxpayers? American voters? American citizens?

In other words, should I be patting myself on the back because a U.S. Navy destroyer has delivered baby food and bottled water to people in Georgia? Is this what being a Christian is all about? Is this what my church means when it says to help the poor? Is God pleased with me because of the Pentagon’s delivery of welfare to government officials in Georgia? Have I done something good here?

Actually, the Pentagon’s delivery of “humanitarian aid” to Georgia is a moral abomination. First, the action is nothing more than an international power play disguised as a humanitarian mission. The real point of the Pentagon’s action is to send a message to the Russians that “our army is bigger than yours.” Second, since the “humanitarian aid” was purchased from money forcibly extracted from U.S. taxpayers, there is no individual goodness involved in this process at all.

The U.S. warship’s humanitarian relief effort is a perfect example of how the welfare mindset of the left melds and integrates with the warfare mindset of the right. Isn’t the socialist point of the welfare state to use the force of government to take money from the rich in order to give it to the poor? Well, in principle what difference does it make which department of the federal government distributes the welfare? Why is the Pentagon’s delivery of welfare any different in principle from a distribution of welfare by some domestic agency of the federal government?

As libertarians have long argued, there is a deep moral degeneracy in both the welfare and the warfare state, which is why both need to be dismantled. It’s not so much that both of them have proven to be utter failures and it’s not so much that they have proven to be so damaging and destructive. What matters most is morality. Neither the welfare state nor the warfare state can be reconciled with basic moral principles.

What would a society look like that is based on moral principles rather than coerced values? The society our American ancestors founded provides a good starting point — one in which people are free to keep their own money (i.e., no income taxation) and decide for themselves what to do with it (i.e., no government welfare) and where government exists solely to protect the exercise of such fundamental individual rights.

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.