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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A Runaway Train


The political and economic situation in the United States has the feel of a runaway train.

Federal spending continues to go through the roof, both in foreign and domestic affairs. That means more federal borrowing, which means more money added to the national debt. It also inevitably means more inflation or printing of money to pay off the debt.

The fundamental problem is the fierce commitment that both conservatives and liberals have to the welfare-warfare state. While there is some handwringing going on over the ever-increasing federal spending, the fact is that neither conservatives nor liberals will dare let go of their favorite government programs.

Consider, for example, the 7-year U.S. occupation of Afghanistan. You’ll recall that the invasion of that country was justified under the notion that the U.S. military was going to kill or capture Osama bin Laden and the terrorists. They’ve had 7 years to accomplish that goal. That’s almost twice the length of World War II! Yet, all we hear is how much worse the situation is getting in Afghanistan and how necessary it is to spend even more money there.

There is also the 6-year occupation of Iraq. The U.S. invasion ousted Saddam Hussein from power and installed a radical Islamic regime. Yet, after 6 years the regime is unable to stand without the support of the U.S. military. So, they tell us that as long as there is a risk that the regime could be toppled by Iraqi insurgents and dissidents, the U.S. military must stay. So, the federal spending spigot for Iraq remains open.

There is also the far-flung U.S. Empire, consisting of U.S. troops stationed in more than 100 countries. Their job is to ensure order and stability in the world. There is also the enormous amount of foreign aid that must constantly be paid to foreign regimes, both in terms of money and military armaments. As history has repeatedly shown, the price of empire is not cheap. Troops must be paid, equipment must be constantly upgraded, and foreign rulers must be paid.

Domestic entitlement programs continue to suck billions of dollars out of the pockets of the American people. Social Security recipients view their payments as a “right,” no matter how much harm or damage this socialistic program produces, especially among young people. The same holds true for Medicare and Medicaid. While other welfare programs are not considered as “rights,” the welfare state mindset is so fixed in the minds of conservatives and liberals, they might as well be. Education grants, farm subsidies, corporate bailouts, community grants. The list of potential welfare programs is virtually endless.

There is also the regulated society to consider, including the departments, agencies, and armies of bureaucrats and law-enforcement agents to operate and enforce the regulations. The DEA and drug war. The SEC. Homeland Security. The Border Patrol. The ATF. It’s all very expensive.

Neither conservatives nor liberals will let go of Afghanistan, Iraq, the U.S. Empire, Social Security and other welfare-state programs, and the drug war and other regulatory programs, along with the armies of bureaucrats that administer and enforce them.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government continues to kill people in Iraq and Afghanistan and continues furnishing money and armaments to foreign regimes that are killing people, thereby producing the perpetual threat of terrorist blowback against Americans, such as that which occurred on 9/11. If such blowback occurs, U.S. officials will then use that a justification to impose harsher measures both on foreigners and on Americans. That means more expensive (and more oppressive) government.

So, the obvious question is: What is the solution to this mess? The answer is one that neither conservatives nor liberals like to hear: As long as one operates within the conservative-liberal paradigm of the welfare-warfare state, there is no solution. Things are only going to get worse. After several decades of the welfare-warfare state, things seem to be finally headed toward a climax, and it’s not a good one.

When a paradigm is inherently defective, there is only one rational course of action: reject the failed paradigm and adopt a paradigm that works. That would be libertarianism, the philosophy of freedom, free markets, and limited government on which our nation was founded. Libertarianism entails the dismantling, not the reform, of the welfare programs, the warfare programs, the empire programs, and the regulatory programs. Unfortunately, it might well take a train wreck before Americans finally reject the welfare-warfare paradigm and embrace the paradigm of libertarianism.

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.