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, December 2009


Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fight Cuban Tyranny with American Freedom
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Once again, the U.S. government’s 112-year obsession with controlling Cuba rears its ugly head. This time, it involves the arrest by Cuban authorities of an American subcontractor who works for a company named “Development Alternatives, Inc.” According to the New York Times, (see here and here) “the company won an American government contract last year to help USAID ’support the rule of law and human rights, political competition and consensus building’ in Cuba.”

It’s not clear yet whether the man is a CIA agent or whether Development Alternatives, Inc. is a CIA front company, but it’s entirely possible. After all, it does seem somewhat strange that the U.S. government continues to refuse to disclose the guy’s identity. Moreover, as William Blum points out in his excellent book, “Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II,” USAID has maintained “a close working relationship with the CIA, and Agency officers often operated abroad under USAID cover.”

Why can’t U.S. officials simply leave Cuba alone? What is it about this small island that has set the U.S. Empire on its never-ending goal of regime change in the hopes of installing a pro-U.S. puppet on the island? Isn’t it enough to be maintaining military bases all over the world, not to mention the occupation of two sovereign and independent countries? Apparently not.

Cuban-American Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen from Florida stated, “It should come as no surprise that the Cuban regime would lock up an American for distributing communications equipment.”

Oh, come on, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. You know darned well that the U.S. regime would do precisely the same thing that the Cuban regime has done. Any private American who travels to Cuba without the permission of the U.S. government and spends money there faces arrest, fine, and incarceration by the U.S. government upon his return to the United States, whether he distributes cell phones, food, clothing, or simply visits the island as a tourist.

This is what all too many Americans block out of their minds about the brutal embargo that the U.S. government has enforced against the Cuban people for decades — that while its adverse economic consequences fall most heavily on the Cuban people, its restrictions on economic liberty fall most heavily on the American people.

Think about it: The Cuban regime arrests Americans for distributing cell phones without permission. The U.S. regime arrests Americans for traveling and spending their own money without permission.

What’s the difference in principle? And what’s the point of fighting Cuban restrictions on freedom by enacting U.S. restrictions on freedom? Wouldn’t it be better to fight for freedom with freedom?

Ironically, with its cell-phone escapade in Cuba, the U.S. government implicitly makes one of the arguments that libertarians have long made for lifting the Cuban embargo. Without the embargo, American tourists and businessmen would be flooding the island and interacting with the Cuban people, both personally and for business. That combination of personal interaction and economic exchange would inevitably strengthen the private sector as a counterweight to the government sector.

Sure, the Cuban authorities could still restrict the activities of private visitors but it would be much more difficult for them to monitor and control. And the entire matter would be depoliticized given that it would be private people, not government-sponsored agents, engaged in both commercial and noncommercial activity.

The U.S. government’s interventionist antics have done enough damage to the Cuban and American people. It’s time for U.S. officials to butt out of Cuban affairs and free the American people to travel, trade, and interact with the Cuban people.

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

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Denial on Terrorism and Foreign Policy
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Do you ever wonder why it is that so many Americans steadfastly refuse to acknowledge that our nation’s terrorist woes are rooted in U.S. foreign policy? Why not simply acknowledge the obvious rather than come up with cockamamie explanations for the terrorist strikes, such as “They hate us because we’re Americans and free” or “They are motivated by hatred for Christianity”?

Consider, for example, this statement by Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby regarding the guy on the flight to Detroit who purportedly tried to explode a bomb on the plane:

“Like the 9/11 hijackers and countless other jihadists, Abdulmutallab was motivated by ideological and religious fanaticism. The teachings of militant Islam may seem monstrous to outsiders, but that is no reason to doubt that their adherents genuinely believe them or that by giving their lives for jihad they hope to change the world.”

How in the world does Jacoby reconcile that assertion with all the news reports in which al-Qaeda took credit for what happened on that Detroit flight and expressly stated that it was in retaliation for U.S. attacks in Yemen. Consider this report from The Guardian:

“[Al-Qaida’s] statement yesterday saying the attempted bombing on Christmas Day was in retaliation for US attacks on the group in Yemen follows a year in which the US spent tens of millions of dollars boosting Yemen’s coastguard and border security and providing helicopters with night-vision cameras.”

Moreover, surely Jacoby knows that prior to the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government had killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children with its brutal sanctions on Iraq, had stationed troops in Saudi Arabia, and had been providing unconditional military and financial aid to the Israeli government, things that Osama bin Laden expressly pointed to prior to the 9/11 attacks.

Indeed, as a columnist Jacoby must be aware of convicted 1993 WTC terrorist Ramzi Yousef’s tirade at his sentencing hearing, during which he pointed to U.S. government interventions in the Middle East rather than express some general hatred for America’s “freedom and values” or for Christianity.

So, why don’t people just accept that the U.S. government’s actions in the Middle East have motivated countless people to seek terrorist retaliation against Americans? Then, we could have a real debate: Is the U.S. government’s foreign policy of empire and intervention morally right and is it worth the constant threat of terrorist retaliation, infringements on civil liberties, and national financial bankruptcy?

I think that all too many Americans have a profound unwillingness to think badly of the federal government when it conducts itself in overseas affairs. I get the feeling that in foreign affairs many Americans have raised the federal government to the status of a deity or an idol, one that is engaged in spreading morality, goodness, caring, and compassion to the poor, struggling people of the world.

Thus, any hint that this idol or deity has actually been doing some pretty awful things around the world is, for all practical purposes, considered akin to heresy.

You see this mindset especially with respect to the troops, who are really nothing more than human instruments whose mission is to use force to carry out the will of the government. Yet, many people treat them as if they were as exalted as angels. Aren’t we constantly being exhorted to “support the troops” without regard to what the troops are doing? In churches all across the land, aren’t special prayers offered for the troops but, for some reason, never for the contractors, police, businessmen, doctors, lawyers, or other people working in American society?

Another aspect of this is the welfare part of the welfare-warfare state. The federal government has become a primary provider for multitudes of Americans. It provides many people with their retirement, health care, education, food, housing, and many other things. It has become people’s friend, caretaker, daddy, or deity. What child wants to alienate his parents when his survival depends on them? What worshipper wants to alienate the god that maintains life or death powers over him?

Also, all too many people have come to conflate the U.S. government with the American people. Thus, they think that by acknowledging that the U.S. government has done bad things to people overseas, they are essentially accusing themselves of being bad people. The notion that the government and the country are two separate and distinct entities, as implied in the Bill of Rights, is unfathomable to such people.

Finally, there are some people who simply like the fact that the U.S. government is now an empire and willing and able to impose its will all around the world. They don’t want to give that up. So, they do everything they can to avoid confronting reality and convince others to do the same.

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

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Do Drug-War Killers Hate Us for Our Freedom Too?
by Jacob G. Hornberger

I can’t help but wonder how drug-war proponents explain the violence in Mexico that has killed some 6,000 people in the last year and 16,000 after Mexican President Calderon, with the full encouragement of U.S. officials, deployed 50,000 Mexican troops and federal police three years ago to wage war against the drug dealers.

Taking a cue from the war on terrorism, I think some drug-war proponents might argue the following: “The violence in Mexico, including the killing of scores of federal police officers, has nothing to do with the illegality of drugs. It’s all because the drug trade attracts a bad, even evil, type of person, one who hates society and who is willing to do anything, including torture and murder, to satisfy his insatiable thirst for money. We need to crack down even more so that we can kill them before they kill us. ”

Yet, what’s encouraging is that an increasing number of people, including even drug-war proponents, are finally beginning to realize how nonsensical this reasoning is. Yes, it’s true: There are extremely unsavory characters in the drug trade, but people are starting to ask themselves why the same types of unsavory characters are not engaged in the booze or cigarette business. They’re starting to realize that what enables these types of people to prosper is the illegality of drugs.

In other words, it’s the drug war itself — that is, making drugs illegal — that then spawns the opportunity for these types of unsavory characters in society to do their thing. In the absence of such illegality, such characters wouldn’t be involved in the drug trade for the same reason they’re not engaged in the booze or cigarette business: they lack the competence to compete against legitimate sellers in a legal market. Their unsavory skills, including the use of violence, are effective only in an illegal market.

What would happen if the sale, distribution, and possession of alcohol and cigarettes were made illegal today? Tomorrow, you would have the same types of unsavory characters engaged in the booze and cigarette business, with cartels, gangs, shoot-outs, murders, muggings, robberies, and all the other things that characterize the illegality of drugs.

Why is it an encouraging sign that more people seem to be drawing the logical conclusion that the drug war itself spawns the drug-war violence? Because at least then people can make a reasoned judgment as to whether it’s worth it to continue waging the war on drugs.

On the one hand, people might conclude: Okay, we acknowledge that the illegality of drugs is the reason why 16,000 people in Mexico have been killed in the last 3 years and that the drug dealers and drug gangs would not be operating if drugs were legal. Nonetheless, we think that these deaths are worth it — that is, worth our hopes of finally stamping out drugs from society.

On the other hand, however, people might conclude: Thirty years of drug warfare have failed to stamp out drugs and there is no reason to believe that another 30 years will do the job. Indeed, the greater the effort to stamp out drugs from society, the greater the violence. The deaths of thousands of people are just not worth all this failure. It would be best to simply legalize drugs, which would place all those bad guys out of business immediately. Let’s treat drug addiction as a social problem, not a criminal-justice one.

By accepting reality about this government program, there is hope that a sufficient number of people will finally bring enough pressure to bear on their public officials to bring the drug war to an ignominious end.

On the other hand, when people cling to the notion that drug-war violence has nothing to do with the illegality of drugs, the hope for positive change diminishes owing to the failure to focus on the genuine root of the problem.

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

Monday, December 28, 2009

Terrorism Is a Cost of Empire
by Jacob G. Hornberger

To justify the federal government’s massive post-9/11 infringements on civil liberties, the proponents of Big Government have sometimes said, “There hasn’t been another major terrorist attack on the United States since 9/11. ”

I have responded with the following: “But if there had been another major terrorist attack, you Big Government advocates would be using that as a justification for even more severe infringements on civil liberties. So, either way you go, doesn’t Big Government win? ”

No one can deny that if the guy on that international flight to Detroit had succeeded in blowing up the plane, the Big Government advocates would be using that as an argument for having the federal government crack down even more on civil liberties.

And isn’t it interesting that the massive post-9/11 crackdown on civil liberties didn’t prevent the guy from apparently almost bringing down the plane. The fact that he failed doesn’t seem to have had anything to do with any security measures taken after 9/11. U.S. terrorism agents apparently even ignored or disregarded a personal warning from the guy’s father about his son’s extremist proclivities.

Even the anti-immigrant crowd is left empty-handed. It turns out that the guy apparently was entering the country legally, confirming what I’ve been saying ever since 9/11: That if people really want to keep out terrorists, they’ve got to put a total ban on foreign tourism to the United States. They’ve got to hermetically seal the United States, just like North Korea does.

Not surprisingly, the pro-empire crowd is using the incident to show why it is more urgent than ever to continue the brutal occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and to expand killing the “bad guys” to Pakistan, Yemen, and who knows where else. The idea is that the government needs to keep killing those “bad guys” over there before they come here and kill us.

But as I’ve pointed out for years, the U.S. Empire has become the world’s biggest terrorist-producing machine. The more people it kills over there, the more the ranks of those who wish to retaliate against Americans are swelled.

In other words, the pro-empire advocates say, “We’re over there to kill them before they come over here and kill us. ” But what’s actually happening is this: They’re coming over here to kill us because the Empire is over there killing them.

What this is all about is the maintenance of the U.S. Empire — the “right” of the U.S. government to impose its will on countries around the world. Those regimes that cooperate receive U.S. taxpayer money. Those who refuse to cooperate receive bombs and missiles, or sanctions, embargoes, coups, assassinations, invasions, or occupations.

What the American people need to finally realize is that with Empire comes costs, including:

1. The meaningless deaths of U.S. soldiers. (No, they’re not dying to protect our rights and freedoms here at home but rather to maintain the hegemony of the Empire.)

2. The out-of-control federal spending that is sending our nation down the road to bankruptcy through debt, taxes, and inflation.

3. The constant threat of terrorist retaliation.

4. Ever-growing infringements on civil liberties.

The only way to avoid such costs is to dismantle the Empire, end the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, close all the overseas bases, and bring all the troops home and discharge them. There is no other way. Either keep the Empire and accept the costs, or restore a republic and get peace, prosperity, harmony, normalcy, and freedom.

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

Monday, December 21, 2009

Pakistan and the Fable of the Hornets
by Jacob G. Hornberger

In December 2001 — three months after the 9/11 attacks — I wrote an article entitled “A Foreign-Policy Primer for Children: The Fable of the Hornets.” The article provides a good description of what is now taking place in Pakistan, in response to the CIA’s drone assassinations in that country.

In the fable, Oscar the policeman provoked a crisis in the village by poking a bunch of hornets’ nests in the woods. The hornets responded to Oscar’s provocations by attacking people in the village.

In response, Oscar and several deputies entered the woods and attacked and destroyed the hornets’ nests. After a grand celebration by the villagers, Oscar reentered the woods and saw something foreboding: dozens of new, smaller hornets’ nests were now under construction throughout the woods.

Last Saturday, the Washington Post reported, “Militants forced to flee their havens in Pakistan’s mountainous tribal areas are establishing new, smaller cells in the heart of the country and have begun carrying out attacks nationwide, U.S. and Pakistani officials say. The spread of fighters is an unintended consequence of a relatively successful effort by the United States and Pakistan to disrupt the insurgents’ operations….”

What began with a post-9/11 police action in Afghanistan to capture the suspected perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, especially Osama bin Laden, morphed into a regime-change operation when the Taliban government refused the U.S. government’s unconditional demand to deliver bin Laden to U.S. officials.

The police action turned out to be unsuccessful, with bin Laden presumably escaping the country, but the regime-change operation did succeed in ousting the Taliban regime from power and installing a U.S. puppet regime in its stead.

Not surprisingly, the Taliban were determined to regain power, which has mired the U.S. government in a brutal 8-year (and counting) occupation of the country and, even worse, defending a crooked, corrupt, and fraudulent puppet regime. In the process of defending that regime, U.S. and Afghan forces continue to kill, torture, and abuse the Afghan people. That has, in turn, succeeded in providing the insurgents and the terrorists with an endless supply of recruits.

Since many of the militants were holing up in neighboring Pakistan, the CIA has now expanded the conflict with its drone-assassination program, killing people in a totally separate country. Additionally, U.S. officials have strong-armed the Pakistani government into killing its own people, under the rationale that anyone opposing the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan must also be considered an enemy of the Pakistani government.

So, we’ve now got both the Afghan government and the Pakistani government killing their own people, at the specific behest of the U.S. government. How can this not bode ill for the American people? How can there not be simmering, if not boiling, anger and rage every time an Afghan or Pakistani family loses a spouse, a parent, a child, a friend, or a countryman?

Moreover, by placing U.S. fortunes on one side or the other in these foreign countries, the U.S. Empire risks the possibility that the side it is opposing will ultimately gain power, such as what happened during the Iranian Revolution, when the Iranian people ousted the brutal Shah, who the CIA had installed into power, and replaced him with a radical anti-U.S. Islamic regime.

Consider Switzerland. The Swiss government is not occupying Iraq and Afghanistan. It is not policing the world. It is not propping up crooked, corrupt, and fraudulent rulers. It isn’t killing, abusing, and destroying people and property around the world. The Swiss government minds its own business. Unlike the U.S. Empire, the Swiss government isn’t poking hornets’ nests around the world. And unlike the United States, the hornets leave the Swiss people alone.

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

Friday, December 18, 2009

Government Welfare vs. Private Charity
by Jacob G. Hornberger

With Christmas approaching, perhaps this would be a good time to remind ourselves of the moral difference between government welfare and private charity.

Government welfare is based on the force of government. The IRS forces people to send in a portion of their income. If they refuse, the IRS goes after them. It files liens on their house, garnishes their bank account, and attaches their personal property. If people oppose the enforcement of such actions, they are met with an overwhelming amount of force by well-armed and well-trained federal agents.

Once the IRS gets its hands on people’s money, it is made available to the various federal bureaucracies, which then distribute the money to people named by Congress to receive them.

Most everyone involved in this process is supposed to be considered a good person because he’s helped the poor and needy. IRS agents are considered akin to Salvation Army personnel for their fine efforts collecting money for the poor. The members of Congress are praised for allocating the money to the truly needy. The welfare agencies are considered good for making sure the money gets to the right people. American taxpayers are considered saintly for tithing a portion of their income to help the poor. America, as a nation, is considered good because it set up the entire welfare-state system.

But the fundamental flaw in all this is simple to see: The entire process is based on force, which is employed to seize people’s money, which is then distributed to recipients designated by people’s political representatives..

Yet, how can the concept of force be reconciled with genuine charity?

It cannot be. Genuine charity entails voluntarily pulling out your wallet or checkbook and donating the money to a worthy cause.

Does it make any difference when money that has been taken by force is used to fund a worthy cause? Of course not. If I hold you up and take your money but end up donating it to my church, or to a 75-year-old impoverished couple, or to a student that cannot afford to pay for college, or to pay for a poor person’s life-saving heart operation, I remain a thief.

After all, your money belongs to you. It is your right to decide what to do with it. I have the right to ask you to make a donation to help with all those worthy causes. But you have the right to say no. If you say no, I have no right to take the money away from you by force, no how I plan to use the money.

What if a vote is taken in the community or the city council authorizing me to take your money and donate it to a worthy cause? That means I’m no longer considered a thief in the eyes of the law, but has anything changed from a moral perspective? Of course not. A fundamentally immoral act, whether robbery, murder, rape, theft, or whatever, cannot be converted into a moral act simply by majority vote.

Recall the story of when the young rich man approached Jesus, told Him that he was complying with God’s commandments, and asked Christ what else he could do to serve God. Jesus advised the man to sell everything he had and give it away and then to follow Jesus.

The young man couldn’t let go of his wealth and walked away.

Did Jesus and his followers forcibly take the money from the man and donate it to the poor? Did they summon Roman centurions to do the same?

No. Since free will entails the right to say no, Jesus let the man go his way, without initiating any force against him.

As we reflect on Christmas during the holiday season, let us also reflect on how the socialistic welfare state, with its process of forcible taking and redistributing people’s money constitutes a grave violation of the laws of God. Let us also reflect on how the concepts of freedom of choice and free will entail, by necessity, the right the reject one’s neighbor and even to reject God. Finally, let us reflect on the fact that genuine charity toward others is only when the donation comes from the willing heart of the individual, not because of a gun pointed at a person by some government official.

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

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Spending and Debt in Greece and the U.S.
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Greece is in a severe economic crisis arising from excessive government spending and ever-increasing government debt. Reflecting concerns of a possible default in the payment of Greece’s bonds, the credit-rating agency Fitch has downgraded the rating of Greek debt. To deal with the crisis, the Greek government has proposed severe cuts in government spending.

Wait a minute! I don’t understand. I thought that excessive government spending and mounting debt were supposed to be beneficial to a society. Isn’t that what U.S. officials tell us about the out-of-control federal spending that characterizes our government? Don’t they say that the national debt, which continues to soar each minute, doesn’t really matter because we owe it to ourselves (and, well, to the Chinese communists too)? Don’t they quote the famous economist John Maynard Keynes to justify this never-ending “stimulation” to the economy?

Well, if it’s all so great, how come Greece is now in a severe economic and financial crisis because of it?

The truth, which we have been emphasizing here at FFF for 20 years, is that out-of-control government spending and mounting debt is a very bad thing for every country, including the United States. It leads a nation down to road to moral debauchery and monetary and economic chaos.

In principle, public officials are no different anywhere. Federal officials here in the United States love to spend other people’s money as much as Greek officials do. There are always grandiose projects on which to spend money, both here and abroad.

Advocates of the American welfare-warfare state claim that unlike Greece, there is no chance of a default in the payment of the ever-mounting U.S. debt.

That’s ridiculous. Like the Zimbabwean government, the U.S. government is embarking on an inflationary road by which it intends to do the same thing it’s done ever since the Federal Reserve was established in 1913: crank up the monetary printing presses to pay its ever-increasing expenses and ever-mounting debt with newly printed money.

That’s a default. It’s no different in principle from saying to creditors, “We’re going to pay you 70 cents for each dollar we owe you.”

Why don’t Greek officials simply print the money to pay off their bills and debts, like the U.S. government does? Because they’re part of the Euro zone, which include many other countries, and, therefore, lack the power to crank up the monetary printing presses.

Today, there are thousands of Greek people dependent on federal largess who are protesting the proposal to slash government spending. They’re crying, “You can’t cut our dole. It’s our right to continue receiving it.”

It’s really no different from how the beneficiaries of America’s welfare-warfare largess would react if U.S. officials proposed a massive cut in federal spending. Senior citizens, universities, doctors, banks, Wall Street, the military-industrial complex, and countless more would go into hyper-drive exclaiming, “You can’t do this. It is our right to continue receiving the dole.” They would even cite national security as a reason.

It’s just more proof of what a disaster it was when Americans abandoned the free-market, limited-government way of life on which our nation was founded in favor of paternalism, interventionism, militarism, and imperialism. Once tens of thousands of people became dependent on the government largess of the welfare-warfare state, it became a certainty that they would fight vociferously to continued plundering and looting the productive class.

Here is the solution to all this moral debauchery and economic and monetary chaos:

(1) Repeal, don’t reform, every single socialist and interventionist program, agency, and department of the federal government, and discharge the federal workers into the private sector.

(2) End the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, bring all overseas soldiers home and discharge them into the private sector, and dismantle the entire military-industrial complex.

(3) Abolish the Federal Reserve and restore sound money by separating money and the state.

(4) Abolish the IRS and income tax, leaving people free to keep everything they earn and decide what to do with it.

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

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Which Comes First: Interventionism or Terrorism?
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Following up on my last two blogs regarding the important debate over what has motivated people to commit terrorist acts against the United States, two questions arise:

First, why does the U.S. government persist in his claim that the terrorists are motivated by hatred for American freedom and values when the overwhelming weight of the evidence is virtually conclusive that what has motivated the terrorists to strike against the United States is U.S. foreign policy?

Second, why do many Americans so readily buy into the U.S. government’s “freedom and values” argument, or even worse, resort to a religious-war explanation, rather than simply acknowledge that the U.S. government has done some very bad things to people overseas and that it is logical that the victims are likely to retaliate?

The last thing U.S. officials want is for Americans to be challenging the U.S. government’s expansive overseas empire and policy of interventionism. Through such devices as coups, assassinations, regime change, support of brutal dictatorships, establishment of bases, sanctions, embargoes, invasions, wars of aggression, and occupations, U.S. officials seek to install their people into public office in foreign countries, thereby expanding the dominion, influence, and control of the U.S. Empire.

If Americans were to conclude that all this is about empire, then they might begin questioning whether maintaining an empire is worth all the costs — the hundreds of billions of dollars in expenditures for the military-industrial complex, along with the accompanying debt, taxes, and inflation, the constant deaths and maiming, both physical and mental, of U.S. soldiers, the abandonment of long-established principles of civilization, such as prohibitions on torture, and the ever-growing suspension and infringements on civil liberties, not to mention the constant killing and brutalization of people in other lands.

In other words, if Americans were to conclude that the U.S. government’s pro-empire, pro-intervention foreign policy is the root of all these problems, they might well begin discussing and debating whether our nation should abandon such a policy.

Thus, given that that’s the last thing that U.S. officials want the American people to be discussing and debating, they simply conjure up the notion that foreigners in the victimized countries hate America for its freedom and values, not because of the bad things the U.S. government has done to them, their families, and their countrymen as part of the Empire’s expansive imperial and interventionist policy.

For their part, many Americans readily embrace the explanation because the last thing they want to admit to themselves is that their government does bad things to people overseas. They conflate the U.S. government and the American people in their own minds and, therefore, cannot imagine that “we” or “America” would ever do anything bad to others. They place the U.S. government in an exalted position and consider criticism of U.S. foreign policy as hatred for America or, even worse, as akin to heresy. They conjure up religious-war explanations for the terrorism even though they can’t explain why the terrorists aren’t striking at such countries as Switzerland and Italy.

Consider Iran. The U.S. government initiates a coup that ousts the democratically elected prime minister and installs a pro-U.S. unelected dictator and then helps him to brutalize and torture the Iranian people for the next 20 years or so. The Iranian people finally revolt, oust the dictator, install an independent extremist Islamic regime, and take several U.S. diplomats hostage.

What is the response of U.S. officials? “These terrorists just hate us for our freedom and values!”

What is the response of the pro-interventionist supporters? “Those Muslim terrorists are just waging jihad against us Christians!

What better way to avoid confronting the wrongfulness of the CIA coup in Iran than that?

And it’s the same with every other country where the U.S. Empire has attempted to expand its reach through such devices as coups, sanctions, embargoes, assassinations, invasions, wars of aggression, and occupations, including Iraq and Afghanistan. The intervention comes first. The anger, hatred, resentment, and retaliation come second, followed by cockamamie explanations from the U.S. Empire and its chorus of interventionist supporters as to what has motivated the terrorists to strike.

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Why Are U.S. Troops Being Targeted?
by Jacob G. Hornberger

A friend of mine telephoned me about yesterday’s blog and made an excellent point about the five young American men who were recently arrested in Pakistan on suspicion of conspiring to kill U.S. soldiers. My friend pointed out that those young men traveled more than 7,000 miles to enter a foreign country allegedly to kill U.S. troops when they could have stayed here and wreaked terrorist havoc at home.

One of the most important debates regarding U.S. foreign policy is regarding the motivation of those people who commit terrorist acts against the United States.

The official position of the U.S. government is that the terrorists hate America for its freedom and values. Therefore, U.S. officials argue, since the terrorists are coming after us to destroy our freedom and values, the U.S. government needs to send U.S. troops abroad to kill the terrorists before they come to the United States and kill Americans.

Most proponents of an expansive U.S. overseas empire and a foreign policy of interventionism buy into this argument. A smaller segment of the proponents of empire and intervention proposes a variation of the argument, a variation that is not held by the U.S. government. This segment holds that the terrorists are Muslims who hate Christians and whose interpretation of the Koran motivates them to wage jihad against Christians.

Libertarians have long held a contrary view regarding what motivates terrorism against the United States. We hold that it is the brutal nature of U.S. foreign policy that has given rise to deeply seated anger and boiling rage, which has then motivated people to retaliate with acts of terrorism against the United States. Therefore, we have long argued, the solution to restoring a sense of normality and freedom to country, lies in dismantling the empire, ending the foreign policy of interventionism, and restoring a constitutional republic to our land.

For example, we have pointed to the 1993 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, where the bomber, Ramzi Yousef, angrily directed his outrage toward U.S. foreign policy at his sentencing hearing before a U.S. federal judge. We have also pointed to the public statements issued by Osama bin Laden regarding U.S. foreign policy prior to the 9/11 attacks. We have also pointed to the logic of the situation — when a foreign regime (i.e., the U.S. government) kills and brutalizes people in a foreign country, it is logical to conclude that friends, relatives, and countrymen of the victims are going to get angry and possibly seek retaliation.

What does all this have to do with those five young Americans who traveled to Pakistan? Well, if they were motivated by hatred for America’s freedom and values, they could have simply stayed here in the United States and blown up shopping malls in which thousands of shoppers could be killed. Indeed, if they hate Christians, why didn’t they just stay here and blow up churches?

Instead, they traveled more than 7,000 miles away allegedly to target U.S. troops, which, of course, are the instrument by which the U.S. government occupies Iraq and Afghanistan and is now killing people in Pakistan.

That would seem to be fairly conclusive proof that what has motivated those particular five men to act, assuming that what they’re accused of is true, is neither hatred for America’s freedom and values nor hatred for Christians, but rather anger over U.S. foreign policy.

In fact, the same principle applies in the case of the Ft. Hood massacre. The Ft. Hood killer could have gone to a nearby shopping mall and opened fire on thousands of Christmas shoppers. Instead, he smuggled a gun onto the base, where he proceeded to kill U.S. soldiers. Again, the Ft. Hood killer’s targeting of U.S. troops would seem to be fairly conclusive proof that the killer was motivated by anger and rage arising from the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is not to say, of course, that in the future some terrorists won’t do what U.S. officials do — conflate the U.S. government and the American people — and strike at American civilians, as they did in 1993 and on 9/11. It’s just to say that the latest instances of terrorist activity provide powerful circumstantial evidence that the root of America’s foreign-policy woes lies in empire and interventionism and specifically in the continued occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and, now, the killings in Pakistan.

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

Monday, December 14, 2009

More Blowback from U.S. Foreign Policy
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Some people are befuddled over the 5 young American men who allegedly traveled to Pakistan to take up arms against American troops. The men have been described by high school friends as friendly, ordinary students of Muslim faith who bore no religious prejudice against Christians. People who know the men are shocked to learn that they had apparently pursued plans to join insurgents in Pakistan or Afghanistan.

Of course, the underlying sentiment is this: How could such fine young Americans end up hating their country and its freedom and values?

Isn’t that the standard explanation as to why people in the Middle East commit acts of terrorism against the United States? Wasn’t that the official explanation for the 9/11 attacks?

Or there’s a variation, one that many pro-occupation supporters use even though it is not the official version provided by U.S. officials: The Muslims hate Christians and are on a jihad to kill them.

Such Americans just don’t get it. It’s not that those five young men hate America for its freedom and values. And it’s not because they hate Christians. According to the many people interviewed who know the men, there is not one iota of evidence to support either thesis.

Why can’t we just accept the simple fact: Those five young Americans traveled to Pakistan to take up arms against U.S. troops because the U.S. government is occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, killing, torturing, abusing, humiliating, and destroying people and property in the process?

You see, many Americans look at the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and say, “Our government is there to kill the terrorists. If it wasn’t there killing the terrorists, the terrorists would be coming to kill us here in the United States.”

The problem is that such Americans have it backwards. They think that the terrorism comes first, giving rise to the necessity for invading and occupying Iraq and Afghanistan to kill the terrorists before they come and kill more people in the United States.

Actually, it’s the other way around. U.S. interventionism comes first. For example, consider the brutal sanctions against Iraq during the 1990s, which killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. Consider also U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright’s infamous statement to “Sixty Minutes” that the deaths of half-a-million children from the sanctions were “worth it.”

Those two things made people in the Middle East terribly angry. As year after year went by, with the death toll rising in Iraq, the anger began boiling over into rage. After all, there was nothing that anyone, including Americans, could do to bring the sanctions and continuing death toll to a halt. In fact, whenever an American was caught delivering humanitarian aid to the Iraqis in violation of the sanctions, he was prosecuted viciously by the U.S. government.

Moreover, fueling that fire of rage was the unconditional financial and military aid provided the Israeli government by the U.S. government, the deadly and illegal no-fly zones over Iraq, and the stationing of U.S. troops near Islamic holy lands.

The rage finally boiled over on September 11, 2001. Actually, it had boiled over long before that. In 1993, Ramzi Yousef committed a terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center. At his sentencing hearing, he angrily pointed not to America’s freedom and values but to U.S. foreign policy, including the brutal sanctions on Iraq that had killed, even up to that point (1993) countless Iraqi children..

The twisted part of all this is that the U.S. government used the 9/11 attacks as an excuse to take the very types of intervention actions it had been doing before 9/11 — the things that gave rise to the anger and rage that had culminated in the terrorist attack in 1993 and then again on 9/11. By invading Iraq and Afghanistan, the government continued killing more and more people in that part of the world, arguably many more people than the pre-9-11 sanctions had killed.

There is one — and only one — way to restore a sense of normality to our country: Withdraw all U.S. troops from overseas, beginning with Iraq and Afghanistan. To think that the U.S. government can continue to kill people without incurring the risk of retaliation from people who sympathize with the victims of occupation is folly.

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

Friday, December 11, 2009

DINA and CIA Assassinations
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Two of my blog posts this week have caused me to ponder the similarities of the mind-sets of the people in Augusto Pinochet’s secret intelligence force (known as DINA) and those in George W. Bush’s and Barack Obama’s CIA. One blog post was about the CIA’s use of drone attacks to assassinate people in Pakistan and the other was about Pinochet’s assassination of a former Chilean president.

In Pakistan, the CIA is using drone missile attacks to kill people who the CIA is convinced are guilty of terrorism. There’s no attempt to take such people into custody and let a court determine whether they are in fact guilty of the offense. Instead, they are simply taken out based on the CIA’s conviction that they’re guilty.

That’s also how Pinochet’s DINA agents operated. If they were convinced that someone was guilty of being a communist, they simply took him out with an assassination. No trials were necessary to determine whether they really were guilty of being communists. Instead, the authority was vested in DINA agents to make that determination.

Interestingly enough, however, U.S. officials do sometimes call on the Pakistani police to arrest a suspected terrorist in Pakistan rather than simply have the CIA assassinate him. For example, this week U.S. officials requested Pakistani police to arrest several U.S. citizens who allegedly traveled to Pakistan to become terrorists. U.S. officials are now contemplating bringing the men back from Pakistan and making them face criminal charges for terrorism in a U.S. District Court.

Yes, you read that correctly: I said “criminal charges.” The reason that the feds are doing that is because terrorism is a federal criminal offense under the U.S. Code. That’s why the U.S. government has indicted and prosecuted such terrorists as Zacharias Moussaoui, Jose Padilla, and Ali al-Marri in U.S. District Court — because, again, terrorism is a federal criminal offense.

In fact, that’s not the only time that U.S. officials have secured the assistance of the Pakistani police in effecting an arrest of a suspected terrorist. They did the same with Ramzi Yousef, who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993. After the Pakistani police arrested him, he was brought back to the United States where he stood trial for terrorism in federal district court, where he was convicted and sentenced. Today, Yousef is residing in a federal penitentiary because, again, terrorism is a federal criminal offense.

How does the U.S. government determine which suspected criminals to assassinate and which ones to arrest and bring back for trial? No one really knows the answer to that question. It appears to be a totally arbitrary and ad hoc decision-making process.

Another fascinating aspect to this is the calculus that goes into killing innocent bystanders.

For example, the CIA recently had the opportunity to assassinate a suspected terrorist in Pakistan named Baitullah Mehsud. The problem was that Mehsud was traveling with his wife and her parents.

What to do? If the CIA fired a missile at Mehsud, they’d also kill his wife and her parents. The CIA did a mental calculus and decided that killing Mehsud’s wife and her parents would be worth killing Mehsud. So, the CIA fired a missile that killed all four of them.

Pinochet’s DINA agents were faced with the same quandary when they assassinated a man named Orlando Letelier, who had served as Chile’s ambassador to the United States during the communist regime of Salvador Allende, the Chilean president who was ousted from power by Pinochet’s coup. At the time he was assassinated, Letelier was living in Washington, D.C., and his lobbying against Pinochet’s military dictatorship was considered by Pinochet to be a threat to national security in Chile.

So, Pinochet authorized DINA agents to take out Letelier. DINA agents, led by a man named Michael Townley, who ironically had previously worked for the CIA, planted a bomb in Letelier’s car. On the day that the assassination was planned, however, Letelier was riding with a 25-year-old American woman named Ronni Moffitt. (Here’s her bio and picture.)

Thus, the DINA agents were faced with the same mental calculus that CIA agents faced in the Mehsud assassination: Should they go ahead and kill Letelier knowing that Moffitt would be taken out as well? Like the CIA agents in the Mehsud killing, they decided that killing Moffitt would be worth taking out Letelier. They pushed the button that set off the bomb, killing both Letelier and Moffitt on the streets of the U.S. capital.

Interesting enough, U.S. officials treated the Letelier killing as a murder and ended up prosecuting Townley and other DINA agents who participated in the killing. Perhaps because of his CIA ties, Townley ended up in the federal witness protection program. Wikipedia states:, “According to the IPS [where Letelier and Moffitt worked], the Clinton administration de-classified more than 16,000 documents related to Chile, but withheld documents related to the Letelier-Moffitt assassination in Washington on the grounds that they were associated with an ongoing investigation.” Needless to say, it’s not clear what “ongoing investigation” they possibly could be referring to.

Finally, there was that missile that the CIA fired at an automobile in Yemen in 2002 carrying a suspected terrorist. It’s not clear whether the CIA knew that an American citizen was among the passengers traveling in the car. But the American was killed in the missile attack and there appears to be no regret on the part of the CIA in killing him. The killing of the American was obviously considered worth it.

What’s the difference between DINA’s assassination of Letelier and Moffitt and the CIA’s assassinations in Pakistan and Yemen?

Good question!

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

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Murder is Murder, Whether by Pinochet or the CIA
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Thirty-five years after military strongman Augusto Pinochet took power in a coup in 1973 in Chile, the Chilean people have just discovered that Pinochet ordered the murder of former Chilean president Eduardo Frei Montalva. Even though Pinochet is dead, criminal indictments have been issued against people who allegedly participated in the assassination.

Of course, Chileans know that immediately after Pinochet took power, his goons rounded up thousands of Chilean citizens, and incarcerated, tortured, raped, and executed many of them, on grounds of national security.

They also know that the intelligence force that Pinochet founded, DINA, went into foreign countries and killed people, again on grounds of national security. An example was the assassination, on national-security grounds, of former Chilean official Orlando Letelier, who was assassinated on the streets of Washington, D.C., along with his American assistant Ronni Moffitt.

But killing a former president of the country? Even Chileans must be a bit shocked over that one. As John Dinges, author of The Condor Years: How Pinochet and His Allies Brought Terrorism to Three Continents put it, “I’m the last guy who is going to be shocked by the stuff Pinochet has done, and I’m shocked. This is probably the greatest crime of the military government. This is like discovering that Nixon was involved in the Kennedy assassination.”

In 1981, Frei, who served as president of Chile from 1964 to 1971, died in a Chilean hospital after being operated on for a stomach ailment. The cause of death was described as septic shock from a stomach hernia operation.

Recently, Frei’s body was exhumed and it was discovered that while he was in the hospital, he was poisoned with mustard gas and thallidium.

No doubt there are those who are saying, “That happened a long time ago. Time to move on.” But give credit to Chilean officials, who obviously believe that murder is murder and that it is wrong to “move on” without bringing the perpetrators to justice, no matter how much time has passed.

If only U.S. officials felt the same way.

During the Chilean coup, agents of the CIA, who have long denied participating in Pinochet’s coup, played a still undefined role in the murder of a young American journalist named Charles Horman. The story of Horman’s murder was later made into the movie “Missing,” starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek.

For many years the American people, including Horman’s wife and parents, were unaware that CIA agents had participated in Horman’s murder. They knew that Horman had been murdered by Pinochet’s goons but they didn’t know that the U.S. government had participated in the murder, in large part because U.S. officials steadfastly maintained that they had played no role in the murder.

It turns out that those representations were false and were known to be false at the time they were made. In 1999, the U.S. State Department finally declassified a document that showed that U.S. officials had been lying the entire time. The memo admitted that the CIA had played “a role” in Horman’s murder.

What was the precise nature of that role? Did they do the shooting? Did they counsel those who did the shooting? Did they simply stand aside and let the execution take place? Did they specifically request that Horman be executed?

We don’t know. For that matter, we don’t even know who “they” are. We don’t know anything, and what’s pathetic is that U.S. officials don’t want us to know.

Has the U.S. government ever appointed a special prosecutor to investigate and go after Horman’s murderers?


Has the U.S. Congress ever called hearings to determine how Horman was killed and the identities of those who participated in the murders?


Unlike the Chilean attitude, the U.S. attitude is: “That happened a long time ago. Let’s move on. Let the murderers rest in peace.”

Like I say, pathetic. Murder is murder and should be investigated and prosecuted regardless of passage of time and identities of the perpetrators. Chilean officials know that. Unfortunately, U.S. officials don’t.

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Only Cure for America’s Health-Care Illness
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The core problem in the health-care debate is that most everyone just assumes the existence of Medicare and Medicaid and medical licensure. Then, they come up with some sort of reform plan that works around these socialist and interventionist programs.

That’s ridiculous, because Medicare and Medicaid and occupational licensure are the heart of the problem. It’s just that people are so accustomed to and dependent on these government programs that they simply cannot imagine life without them.

But life without them is the only cure for America’s health-care woes.

Last Saturday the Washington Post carried an interesting article about a family doctor in Post, Texas. By closely reading the article, one can infer how Medicare and Medicaid destroyed the finest health-care system in the world.

The doctor, Ben Edwards, is the only family practitioner within a 45-mile radius of the town. He has 2,000 patients, which he treats by allocating an average of 15 minutes to each of them. His professional time is filled to the maximum. His wife and child are important to him, and he does his best to spend evenings with them.

What would happen if President Obama were to get his wish of “free” health-care for everyone, including the 3,708 residents in Post? Edwards’ office would suddenly be inundated with people. According to the article, “He has no idea how he would fit in anyone else” and the last thing he wants to do is work at night. The article sums it up: “The truth is this: Edwards will not have time to treat them all.”

You see, the problem is the same as it is with Medicare and Medicaid. Without health-care coverage, people are much more cautious about going in to see a doctor. Once the government gives it to them for free, they go into the doctor seeking treatment on every single ache and pain, no matter how minor.

Rosemary Tuck is an example. A waitress in Post with no health benefits, when she gets sick, she treats herself with over-the-counter medications. Her statement is revealing: “If I had coverage, I would go see Dr. Edwards, even if I got a cold or sick.”

Her sentiment is echoed by Rosa Latimer, a newspaper editor with no health insurance: “If I’m really sick, I’ll go to the doctor.” But if she had coverage, she says, “I might go more often and get tests done without waiting.”

And that’s precisely what Lyndon Johnson’s socialistic Medicare and Medicaid programs did. By providing “free” medical service for millions, these two socialistic programs placed an enormous additional burden on the demand side of the health-care industry, bringing about ever-soaring health-care costs, which then produced a panoply of distortions and perversions in health care.

What about the supply side? The Post’s article was revealing in that respect also. If Obama’s health-care plan goes into effect, an estimated 40 million uninsured Americans might well suddenly seek general doctors for physicals and other everyday medical needs. Yet, “There is no sign that … the country is training enough family practitioners.”

That’s because government licensing restrictions operate to artificially restrict the supply of doctors and other health-care providers. Like with so many other professions (law being a good example), licensing is nothing more than a protection racket whose purpose is to restrict supply in order to keep salaries high of the privileged who have the money to meet the prerequisites for getting the licenses.

Yes, I know, the statists will immediately come back with, “Oh my gosh, there would be quacks doing brain surgery on me!” Well, there’s no one better to refute such nonsense than Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman’s. See his famous essay “Medical Licensure.”

Now, it’s true that medical regulations, insurance regulations, and employer-based health-care insurance have greatly distorted the health-care market too. Everyone would be better off with their total repeal.

But the only long-term cure for America’s health-care woes lies with radical surgery — the complete repeal of Medicare, Medicaid, and medical-licensure laws. Only by completely separating health care and state, as our ancestors separated church and state, can we restore a sense of normality to the health-care part of our lives.

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

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Imperial Folly and Terrorist Blowback
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Permit me to show you an example of why the U.S. government’s occupation of Afghanistan provides a continuing threat to the well-being of the American people. The example is a microcosm of U.S. foreign policy.

The December 3 issue of the New York Times carried an article about the CIA’s expanded use of drone missile attacks in Pakistan to kill “suspected militants.”

Among the people that the CIA recently killed with a missile was a man named Baitullah Mehsud, who the Times described as a leader of the Pakistan Taliban.

According to the article, while the CIA purportedly tries to avoid killing family members when firing on suspected militants, it made an exception in this case: “Mr. Mehsud’s wife and parents-in-law were killed with him, but that was an exceptional decision prompted by the rare chance to attack him, the official said.”

In other words, the intentional and deliberate killing of an innocent woman and her parents was considered worth it.

Now, suppose three brothers of the slain woman (or cousins, friends, or countrymen) retaliate for the killing of their sister and parents with a terrorist strike against Americans. What will be the immediate response of both U.S. officials and those American statists who favor an imperial foreign policy?

They will say the same thing that they said after the 9/11 attacks: “The terrorists hate us for our freedom and values. The attacks have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that we intentionally killed that young woman and her parents. The fact is that Muslims just hate Americans. These attacks confirm that our mission in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan is more important than ever. We just need to keep killing these people before they kill us.”

Alas, the pro-empire, pro-intervention crowd just doesn’t get it, or perhaps they do and simply feel that they have to maintain the “freedom and values” charade in order to maintain the dominion of the U.S. Empire and the continued existence of its most vital component, the vast and expensive military-industrial complex.

You see, the assumption of the statists is that the anger and rage against the United States within people of the Middle East came first and U.S. intervention came second. Not so. Prior to 9/11, there were such things as the CIA coup in Iran, the U.S. support of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, the U.S. partnership with Saddam Hussein, the Persian Gulf War, the intentional destruction of Iraq’s water and sewage facilities with the intent of spreading infectious illnesses among the Iraqi people, the brutal sanctions against Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people, the illegal no-fly zones over Iraq, the stationing of U.S. troops on Islamic holy lands, and, of course, the unconditional financial and military aid to the Israeli government.

All that interventionism generated an unfathomable degree of anger, rage, and hatred within the Middle East — prior to 9/11.

Then came 9/11, followed by U.S. pronouncements that “the terrorists and Muslims just hate us for our freedom and values,” followed by more interventions, including the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention the millions of dollars in foreign aid that were placed into the coffers of Pakistan’s military dictator, which the U.S. Empire continued to support over the vehement objections of the Pakistani people.

Now, they’ve expanded their operations to killing people in Pakistan, including innocent wives and parents of suspected militants, all in the attempt to prop up a crooked, corrupt, drug-pushing puppet regime in Afghanistan.

Time will tell, but my hunch is that Obama’s folly, just like Bush’s, is going to end up very badly and that, alas, it will be both U.S. troops and the American people who pay the price for such folly.

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

Monday, December 7, 2009

Another Loser: Military Occupation in the Drug War
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Iraqis and Afghanis are not the only ones who are protesting military occupation. According to Reuters, “Thousands of people dressed in white demanded soldiers leave Mexico’s most violent city on Sunday, accusing troops of provoking a surge in drug-war killings and running protection rackets.” Around 5,000 demonstrators, many carrying white balloons, held signs that said, “Leave Juarez, soldiers and police.”

This latest harsh military crackdown in the war on drugs has produced a death toll in Juarez of 2,400 in 2009, compared to 1,600 in 2008. According to the article, “Murders have reached a dozen a day and bullet-ridden vehicles and bleeding bodies on busy streets are commonplace. Businesses that fail to pay protection money to corrupt police and cartels have been set on fire or their owners kidnapped, tortured and killed.”

One 53-year-old businessman, who refused to give his name for obvious reasons, said, “We are tired of living in hell. Things have only worsened since the army arrived.”

U.S. officials, who still believe that the drug war is winnable after 35 years of failure, are undoubtedly disappointed. According to the article, “Washington officials had hoped to see a quick victory in the Mexican city and a domino effect across the country.”

Just another failure story in the decades-long war on drugs. But hey, the residents of Juarez should be counting their blessings. Things could always be worse. Just ask the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, who have suffered many years of brutal military occupation as part of the war on terrorism.

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

Friday, December 4, 2009

Another Great Economic Liberty Lecture
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Last Wednesday provided another great evening in our Economic Liberty Lecture Series, which we hold at George Mason University in conjunction with the students in the GMU Econ Society. As a matter of fact, that night we had a third co-sponsor — the Atlas Economic Research Institute’s Sound Money Project, which not only treated everyone to the pre-talk pizza but also to post-talk appetizers at Brion’s Grille, where we were joined by Austrian economics professors Pete Boettke (GMU) and Chris Coyne (West Virginia University).

This month’s speaker was Austrian economics professor Steven Horwitz, whose talk was titled “Do We Need a Central Bank?”

I confess that I was skeptical about anyone’s being able to keep people’s attention with an hour-long talk on monetary policy, but, boy, did Horwitz prove that my skepticism was unwarranted. His talk was absolutely captivating. And best of all, Steve has that unique ability to discuss a complex subject in a non-academic way.

Steve first provided a fascinating history of the monetary situation in the United States before the Fed was established — that is, from the period of the country’s founding to 1913. One of the interesting points he made was to show how the banking industry during that period of time was subject to state banking regulations and how such regulations often led to monetary crises.

Steve then showed that while the Fed was supposedly established to bring order and stability to the monetary realm, the Fed’s policies actually led to inflation in the 1920s and then to the Great Depression, followed of course by decades of monetary debasement.

One of the interesting questions in the Q&A session related to Ron Paul’s Audit the Fed bill. Steve alluded to the possibility that the reason that the Fed might be so ardently opposed to the bill is that it might have been doing some very nefarious things that it never thought people would be able to discover — things that an audit would disclose. If such is the case, obviously the disclosure of such things might lead even more people to join the call to end the Fed, which was the answer to the title of Steve’s talk: No, we don’t need a central bank and we’d be much better off without it.

We’ll have the video of the talk posted next week. I highly recommend watching it and sharing it with your friends.

Mark your calendar: The next Economic Liberty lecture will be on Monday, February 8, and will feature noted Harvard libertarian professor Jeffrey Miron. See the “Spreading the Word: Upcoming Events” section of our FFF Email Update for more details.

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

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Fascism of Virginia’s Smoking Ban
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The Washington Post carried a nostalgic article about Virginia’s state-wide smoking ban, which just went into effect. The article reminded people of Virginia’s long heritage of tobacco growing.

Not surprisingly, however, the Post failed to mention a far more important legacy of Virginia that has been rejected by the smoking ban — the legacy of individual liberty.

After all, don’t forget: this is the state of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, James Madison, father of the U.S. Constitution, and George Washington, father of our country, as well as Patrick Henry, George Mason, and many others.

Jefferson pointed out in the Declaration that people’s rights are inherent and fundamental. They don’t come from government. They come from nature and God and, thus, preexist government. Such rights include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Or as John Locke, the English philosopher from whom Jefferson drew his inspiration, enumerated such rights: life, liberty, and property.

Liberty entails the right to live your life any way you choose, so long as you don’t initiate force or fraud against another person.

As part of the economic aspects of liberty, you have the natural, God-given right to sustain your life through labor, to pursue any occupation or profession you wish, to engage in economic exchanges with others, and to accumulate unlimited amount of wealth and property.

And you don’t legitimately need the state’s permission or approval to exercise such natural, God-given rights. As the Declaration also pointed out, government is merely a servant whose job is to protect the exercise of such rights.

How does economic liberty pertain to Virginia’s state-wide smoking ban?

Economic liberty includes the right to run your business any way you want, again so long as you’re not trespassing on the rights of others.

A restaurant belongs to the owner, not to the state and not to society. As such, the owner has the right to run it any way he chooses. If he wishes to permit smoking in his establishment, that is his right. That’s what ownership is all about.

What about the adverse effects of second-hand smoke? Don’t they constitute an assault on the rights of people who eat in the restaurant?

No. Because people are not forced to patronize the restaurant. If they object to the restaurant’s policy of allowing smoking, they have a remedy: stay away. They don’t have the right to force their wishes and preferences onto the owner of the restaurant.

By the same token, the restaurant owner has no right to force people to patronize his restaurant. If he loses customers as a result of his smoking policy, he bears the responsibility.

In a free society, some restaurants permit smoking. Others ban smoking. Still others have smoking areas and non-smoking areas. Consumers are free to decide which restaurants they wish to patronize and not patronize. No one is forced to submit to anyone else’s preferences. That’s what individual liberty and free markets are all about. That’s what the Declaration of Independence was all about.

Alas, modern-day Virginia politicians think differently. They think that freedom and free enterprise entail government control over private property.

Now, it’s true that they they’re not (yet) calling for government ownership and operation of restaurants, as they do with liquor stores here in Virginia, but their mind-set is really no different in principle than that of the standard socialist.

A socialist would call for a state takeover of the restaurant business, much as President Obama has had the federal government take over the automobile industry.

Modern-day Virginia politicians say: Let’s leave businesses in private hands but have the state control their operations. It’s an economic philosophy that economists call fascism.

How ironic. If Jefferson, Madison, Washington, and the other Founding Fathers were alive today, they would find the economic philosophy of their modern-day statist successors to be downright revolting.

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

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Socialist Failure in Afghanistan, Iraq, and New London
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Pity the socialists. Their grandiose federal plans to “rebuild” Iraq and Afghanistan have turned out to be fiascoes.

But heck, at least the socialists retained the hope of pointing to grandiose rebuilding programs at home to buttress their case for socialism, such as their urban-renewal project in New London, Connecticut, where the city took away people’s private homes in order to convert the land into a grandiose industrial park, which would supposedly generate higher tax revenues for the city.

City officials used their grand rebuilding plan in New London to lure Pfizer, the big corporate drug company, to move into the area. The hope was that Pfizer would attract a number of other businesses, which would convert the area from a residential neighborhood to an “urban village.” The plan was a variation of the Marxian redistribution principle in that it used government force to take from the poor and middle class to give benefits to the wealthy and powerful.

Among the people who had their homes involuntarily taken away for this grand socialist rebuilding project was Suzette Kelo, whose name is on the now-famous eminent domain case in which U.S. Supreme Court upheld this grand socialist scheme.

Well, pity the socialists once again. Not only have their rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq gone awry, the same thing has now happened with their grandiose, socialist urban-renewal project in New London, Connecticut.

Guess who recently announced that it’s vacating the New London “urban village.” You got it: Pfizer! The company has given notice to the city that it is vamoosing within a couple of years. According to the New York Times, “It would leave behind the city’s biggest office complex and an adjacent swath of barren land that was cleared of dozens of homes to make room for hotel, stores and condominiums that were never built.”

Did you catch that last part — the part about “never built”?

On hearing about Pfizer’s plan to vacate the area, Suzette Kelo stated: “I’m not surprised that they’re gone. They didn’t get what they wanted: their development, their big plan.”

Michael Cristofaro, whose parents also lost their home in the scheme, put it more succinctly: “Look what they did. They stole our home for economic development. It was all for Pfizer, and now they get up and walk away.”

When will modern-day Americans come to their senses? What will it take for them to finally give up on socialism, whether it involves nation-building, urban renewal, national health care, compulsory schooling, stimulus plans, corporate bailouts, Social Security, Medicare, the Federal Reserve, and all the rest of the socialist junk that pervades our nation? How much more socialist failure will it take to finally induce people to restore America’s heritage of economic liberty, free markets, private property, and limited constitutional government to our land?

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

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Falsehood and Deception vs. Truth and Reality
by Jacob G. Hornberger

I was once delivering a lecture to a group of students at a local public (i.e., government) high school and I made the point that one of the biggest reasons why government officials love to control the educational system is for the purpose of indoctrination.

The students were incredulous. “Are you saying that we’ve been indoctrinated?” they asked?

“That’s precisely what I’m saying,” I responded.

Let me provide a perfect example: the Great Depression.

Suppose you were to give a one-question test in public schools across the country and, for that matter, to all graduates of U.S. public high schools: “True or False: The Great Depression was caused by the failure of America’s free-enterprise system.”

There can really be no doubt about what the answer would be. The vast majority of respondents would answer: True.

Yet, the correct answer is False. As Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Murray Rothbard, and others have documented so well, the Great Depression was caused by the Federal Reserve, America’s central bank, a federal institution that is antithetical to free enterprise.

Consider the following statement by Ben Bernanke, which he delivered at a dinner in honor of Friedman on November 8, 2002: “Let me end my talk by abusing slightly my status as an official representative of the Federal Reserve. I would like to say to Milton and Anna: Regarding the Great Depression. You’re right, we did it. We’re very sorry. But thanks to you, we won’t do it again.”

Wouldn’t you think that the mainstream media would at least want to get to the bottom of what is obviously a very important point? Wouldn’t you think that they’d say, “We’ve got a problem here because the government schools are teaching that free enterprise caused the Great Depression while the current chairman of America’s central bank is stating that it was the Fed that caused it”?

No, most of those journalists, like so many other Americans, would rather not confront something that might cause them to pierce through the many years of public-school indoctrination.

The situation is comparable to the old story about the emperor’s new clothes. The emperor is naked but everyone is convinced that he’s actually walking around in a fancy birthday suit. One day, some kid pierces through the deception and declares that the emperor is wearing nothing at all. Everyone is shocked and appalled over this involuntary exposure to reality. Life was much more comfortable operating under the popular deception.

That’s what is going on with respect to the Great Depression. People just want to hold on to what they were taught in their government schools, no matter how naked the lie is.

Alas, the deception and delusion are not limited to the Great Depression.

Today, we might well be witnessing the death throes of America’s welfare state and warfare state. Everywhere you look, the entire statist system is in crisis or chaos.

Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FDIC, the drug war, Iraq, Afghanistan, the dollar, federal spending, the national debt, stimulus plans, foreign aid, nationalizations, corporate and banking bailouts, and on and on.

The whole welfare-warfare system is busted, broke, bankrupt. With each passing day, it gets worse and worse, as federal officials continue to double down their bets in the hopes that somehow the system is going to come out fine.

But notice what the statists are saying: That it’s not socialism or imperialism that have failed, it’s free enterprise!

Herein lies one of the biggest, most important debates of our time. Because if the statists prevail with this nonsense, as they have with their Great Depression nonsense, then the road ahead is obvious: more socialism and imperialism, that is, more death, destruction, chaos, crises, control, and loss of freedom.

The antidote for such falsehood and delusion is a healthy dose of truth and reality. That’s what libertarians do. We’re like that kid that tells people that the emperor has no clothes — that he’s walking around naked as a jaybird. By confronting people with truth and reality, we accelerate the process by which genuine free enterprise can be restored to our land.

Jacob 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.