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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 Reform Game


The campaign season is abuzz with all four of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates exclaiming how they’re going to “reform” Washington. Not surprisingly, the establishment media is excited about the theme, calling on the candidates to come up with the “specifics” of their respective “reform” plans.

There are two implicit assumptions in this reform game. The first assumption is that the welfare-warfare system is now a permanent feature in American political and economic life and the American people had just better get used to it. The second assumption is that the crises associated with the welfare-warfare system are capable of being fixed through some type of not-yet-discovered “reform.”

Look at the fruits of the welfare-warfare system that McCain, Palin, Obama, and Biden believe in and embrace. Aren’t there crises everywhere? Social Security. Medicare. Medicaid. Federal spending. The dollar. Immigration. Terrorism. Drug war. Iraq. Aghanistan. Foreign policy. Gitmo. Rendition. Kidnapping.

Despite the manifest failure of their beloved welfare-warfare state, the statists continue to exclaim to the American people, “Elect me! Elect me! I’ll be the one who finally brings success and victory to the socialistic welfare state and the U.S. military empire. I’m running against Washington! I’ve got a secret reform plan, including balancing the budget by 2020.”

So, what is the presidential election really all about? It’s a vicious fight over who is going to get to control the money and wield the power that comes with the welfare-warfare state. The candidates are motivated by power and their trough-feeding supporters are motivated by the money that comes with all the government transfer programs, both for domestic welfare and military-industrial-complex welfare.

The magic word through it all is “reform.” It’s a game that both conservatives and liberals have become masters at playing. The beauty of the reform game, from their standpoint, is that it leaves the government programs in existence. Since such programs are inherently defective, they’re always in need of reform. That provides conservatives and liberals with the perpetual opportunity to carp about the failures of the programs and call on people to support their new “reform.”

Whenever you’re unsure whether a particular article, person, or organization is libertarian in philosophy, a quick test is to check their recommended solution. If they call for reform, the likelihood is that they are either conservative or liberal. If they call for repeal, abolition, or termination, the likelihood is that they are libertarian.

Libertarians, of course, are not interested in reforming the cancerous monstrosity that conservatives and liberals are devoted to reforming. We’re interested in restoring a free society to our land. By necessity, that entails the repeal, not the reform, of socialist, interventionist, and imperial government programs.

For libertarians, the issue is both moral and pragmatic. Freedom entails the right to live one’s life any way he chooses, so long as his conduct is peaceful and doesn’t violate the rights of others. Freedom also produces a peaceful, prosperous, charitable, and harmonious society.

That’s why our American ancestors chose to live without the types of programs that today’s conservatives and liberals embrace — e.g., Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, income taxation, drug war, public (i.e., government) schooling, Federal Reserve, wars of aggression, military industrial complex, subsidies, and welfare. It’s why they also fought for bans on such things as cruel and unusual punishments, including torture and sex abuse, unreasonable searches and seizures, arbitrary arrests, and indefinite detentions. It’s also why they fought for protection of such things as due process of law, habeas corpus, right to counsel, and right of trial by jury. It’s why they fought for such things as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, right to assemble, and the right to keep and bear arms.

Our American ancestors knew what freedom means. They never confused a loss of freedom with freedom itself. And they were never willing to trade freedom for the pretense of “safety.”

Can we restore freedom to our land? Of course. But obviously it won’t come from the likes of Obama, McCain, Palin, and Biden, whose philosophy of “reform” is nothing but a desperate attempt to get their hands on the levers of power and money over a corrupt welfare-warfare system that is responsible for the morass in which our nation has been plunged.

Meaningful change — a change toward liberty — can only come from the bottom up — from Americans who discover the libertarian heritage of our nation and demand its restoration.

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.