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, March 2010


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Why Do Conservatives Still Love the Drug War?
by Jacob G. Hornberger

An article by a conservative named Cliff Kincaid, who serves as editor of the Accuracy in Media (AIM) Report, provides a perfect example of how different libertarians are from conservatives and, well, for that matter, how there ain’t a dime’s worth of difference, when it comes to individual freedom, between conservatives and liberals.

The article concerns the drug war and is entitled, “Dopey Conservatives for Dope.” Ardently defending the continuation of the drug war, despite some 35 years of manifest failure, Kincaid takes fellow conservatives to task who are finally joining libertarians in calling for an end to the drug war. He specifically mentions columnist Steve Chapman, whose article “In the Drug War, Drugs are Winning,” which was posted on the website of the conservative website Townhall.com, was apparently what set Kincaid off.

Chapman made the point that it is the illegality of drugs that has produced the drug gangs and cartels, along with all the violence that has come with them. The reason that such gangs and cartels fear legalization is that they know that legalization would put them out of business immediately.

Consider alcohol. Today, there are thousands of liquor suppliers selling alcohol to consumers notwithstanding the fact that liquor might be considered harmful to people. They have aggressive advertising and marketing campaigns and are doing their best to maximize profits by providing a product that consumers wish to buy. Their competitive efforts to expand market share are entirely peaceful.

Now, suppose liquor production or distribution was made a federal felony offense, just like drug production or distribution. At that point, all the established liquor businesses would go out of business.

However, prohibition wouldn’t mean that liquor would cease being produced or distributed. It would simply mean that a new type of supplier would immediately enter the black (i.e., illegal) market to fill the void. Those suppliers would be similar in nature to the current suppliers in the drug business or, say, Al Capone — that is, unsavory people who have no reservations about resorting to violence, such as murdering competitors and killing law-enforcement officers, to expand market share.

At that point, the only way to put these Al Capone-type of people out of business would be by legalizing booze. Once prohibition of alcohol was ended, the violent liquor gangs would immediately go out of business and legitimate businesses would return to the liquor market. The same holds true for drug prohibition.

The big objection to the drug war, however, is not its manifest failure and destructiveness but rather its fundamental assault on individual freedom. If a person isn’t free to ingest any substance he wants, then how can he possibly be considered free?

Yet, for decades Kincaid and most other conservatives and most liberals have taken the audacious position that the state should wield the power to punish a person for doing bad things to himself. In fact, the drug war reflects perfectly the nanny-state mindset that has long afflicted both conservatives and liberals. They feel that the state should be a nanny for American adults, treating them like little children, sending them to their jail cell when they put bad things in their mouths.

Kincaid justifies his statism by saying that drugs are bad for people. Even if that’s true — and people should be free to decide that for themselves, as they do with liquor — so what? Why should that be any business of the state? If I wish to do bad things to myself, why should the likes of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, George W. Bush, and John McCain wield the power to put me into jail for that?

Quite simply, Kincaid: It ain’t any of your business or anyone else’s business what I ingest, whether it’s booze, drugs, candy, or anything else. I am not a drone in your collective bee hive. I am an individual with the natural, God-given right to live my life any way I choose, so long as my conduct doesn’t involve the initiation of force against others.

For decades, conservatives and liberals have been using the drug war as an excuse to assault freedom, free enterprise, privacy, private property, civil liberties, and the Constitution. They have brought nothing but death, violence, destruction, and misery with their 35-year old failed war on drugs. There would be no better place to start dismantling the statism that afflicts our land than by ending the drug war.

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

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Biggest Threat to Our Freedom and Well-Being
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The last thing statists want people to be doing is studying the Constitution. Because if people are studying the Constitution, there is a good possibility that they’ll discover what the Framers considered to be the biggest threat to the freedom and well-being of the American people. That would be, of course, the federal government.

The federal government? That’s just not possible, say the statists. The federal government is our caretaker, our provider, our friend, our parent, our god. After all, doesn’t it provide our retirement, health care, children’s education, housing, loans, food, and other essentials of life? Doesn’t it protect us from the drug dealers, illegal aliens, terrorists, communists, profiteers, speculators, greedy people, oil producers, and other scary people in the world?

How in the world could Americans possibly consider this grand provider and protector to be the biggest threat to their freedom and well-being? ask the statists.

The Constitution actually had a dual purpose. One purpose was to call into existence a federal government. But the Americans living during that time were reticent about doing that. They knew that historically people’s very own government had been the destroyer of their freedom and well-being.

So, early Americans were faced with a dilemma. They believed that a federal government was necessary, but they also believed that it would pose the biggest danger to their freedom and well-being.

What to do?

Their solution was to use the Constitution not only to bring into existence the federal government but simultaneously to use the Constitution to restrict the powers of the federal government.

Thus, the original Constitution — that is, the part that didn’t include the Bill of Rights — essentially said the following: This document calls into existence a federal government but one whose powers will be limited to the few powers that are enumerated in the Constitution because we don’t want this government to have very many powers.

So, why was a Bill of Rights necessary? Why not simply rely on the enumerated-powers doctrine?

Because our American ancestors believed that certain rights were so vitally important that they didn’t want to rely on the enumerated-powers doctrine for their protection. They feared that federal officials would begin violating the enumerated-powers doctrine and wanted to make sure that if they did so, they could not run roughshod over the rights that they considered so fundamental and important, such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and right to keep and bear arms.

Knowing that historically governments had arbitrarily punished people who were critical of government, they wanted to ensure that the federal government couldn’t arbitrarily arrest, jail, and execute people. That’s what the guarantee of rights in the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th Amendments are all about.

Is the mindset that guided the Framers outmoded? Are the statists right in suggesting that the federal government should now be looked upon as people’s parent, friend, or deity rather than the biggest threat to the freedom and well-being?

Well, ask yourself: What has the welfare state and the warfare state brought us?

Out-of-control federal spending, taxes, borrowing, inflation, assaults on income and capital, not to mention the damage that the welfare state has done to people’s sense of self-reliance, independence, charity, moral values, and family values.

On top of that are the kidnappings, renditions, torture, indefinite detentions, kangaroo tribunals, militarism, empire, denial of due process and trial by jury, suspension of habeas corpus, assassinations, and other infringements on civil liberties that the warfare state has brought us.

What better evidence of the threat to the freedom and well-being of the American people than all that?

The Framers were right: The federal government, owing both to its welfare state and its warfare state, still constitutes the biggest threat to the freedom and well-being of the American people. The statists are hoping that those Americans who are now studying the Constitution won’t discover that.

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

Monday, March 29, 2010

Diagnosing America’s Health-Care Illness
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Ludwig von Mises pointed out that one government intervention inevitably leads to more interventions in order to address the crises that are generated by the previous interventions. Ultimately, Mises said, the crises continue getting so bad that the government ends up taking over the entire sector.

That principle perfectly describes the area of health care.

The United States once had the finest health-care system in the world, one based on the principles of economic liberty and the free market. That changed in a big way in 1965, when liberal statist Lyndon Baines Johnson secured passage of Medicare and Medicaid, socialistic programs that provided “free” medical care for the poor and elderly.

What Medicare and Medicaid did, decade after decade, was to place an inordinate demand on health care, producing a concomitant rise in prices all across the board. When government makes things “free,” people tend to over-consume, which causes prices to go up.

Meanwhile, as the demand for health care continued to rise, the supply of health care remained constricted, thanks to medical-licensure laws, which protect people in the health-care industry from an oversupply of health-care competitors.

So, here was a prescription for disaster: Soaring demand brought about by “free” government-provided health care and restrictive supply brought about by medical-licensure laws.

As the decades went by, the price of health care began soaring, producing all sorts of distortions in health care to which suppliers, consumers, and insurers were constantly trying to adjust.

Aggravating the situation were such things as state regulations that attempted to protect intra-state insurance companies from interstate competition as well as income-tax manipulation that encouraged employers to purchase health-care insurance for their employees.

Slowly but surely, Americans became dependent on the welfarism and regulation. This included doctors and other health-care providers. It got to the point that many patients and many physicians just could not imagine life without the dole, without their beloved Medicare and Medicaid payments from the government.

Thus, as the health crisis continued to mount, most everyone’s position became the following: “Medicare and Medicaid, medical licensure, income-tax manipulation, and insurance regulation must be left intact. Now, what is your solution to the health-care crisis?”

In other words, the entire health-care debate was oriented toward coming up with a plan that reformed and saved the health-care socialism and interventionism that was at the root cause of the problem.

That’s inane.

Notice that many of the statist commentators are already saying that the Obama health-care plan is just a “first step.” Much more needs to be done, they say. The reason they’re saying that is because they know that Obama’s plan won’t fix anything. Instead, this latest intervention will simply produce a bigger crisis down the road, at which point the statists will call for the inevitable: a total government takeover of health care, just like in Cuba.

That’s the point that Mises was making — that interventions lead to more interventions, until government ends up owning or controlling that sector of the economy.

When a patient suffering an illness goes to the doctor, he hopes to receive a correct diagnosis of what ails him, because the prescription will inevitably turn on the diagnosis. Get the diagnosis correct, and there’s a good chance the doctor will issue the right prescription. But get the diagnosis wrong, and there’s a good chance that the prescription will be wrong.

The problem with health care is that all too many people have meekly and submissively accepted the diagnosis of a bunch of statist quacks, people whose deep devotion to socialism and interventionism blinds them as to the true cause of America’s health-care crisis. Their diagnosis of the quacks is that America’s health-care illness is due to freedom and free enterprise and that Medicare, Medicaid, licensure, income-tax manipulation, and regulation have nothing to do with it. Thus, their prescription for America’s health-care woes is — surprise, surprise — more socialism and interventionism.

What is the correct diagnosis for America’s health-care illness? America’s health-care system is sick because of the steady dose of poison that has been fed into the body politic for decades by the statists, in the form of Medicare, Medicaid, licensure, income-tax manipulation, and regulation.

What is the correct prescription? Immediate radical surgery, entailing the immediate repeal (not reform) of Medicare, Medicaid, medical licensure, income-tax manipulation, and insurance regulation. Nothing else will work.

Statism or economic liberty? That’s the choice facing the patient.

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

Friday, March 26, 2010

Another Statist Crisis
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Yesterday, the New York Times published an article detailing another statist crisis involving the U.S. welfare state. This time the crisis involves the crown jewel of America’s socialist programs, Social Security.

According to the Times, “This year, the system will pay out more in benefits than it receives in payroll taxes, an important threshold it was not expected to cross until at least 2016, according to the Congressional Budget Office.”

But what difference does that make? Isn’t there a Social Security fund, one in which people deposit their money, which then earns interest, and which they can later withdraw when they reach old age, like a private savings or retirement account? Isn’t that what so many Americans convince themselves? “I put it in and I have a right to get it back!” they exclaim.

Historically it’s been primarily the libertarians who have had the courage to pierce through the lies, deceptions, and delusions of this socialist program and confront directly the ugly reality of this anti-family socialist program.

The truth is that Social Security is just like food stamps and every other welfare-state transfer program.

With food stamps, people are taxed and the money is given to poor people. There is no food stamp trust fund.

It’s no different with Social Security. There never has been a Social Security fund any more than there has been a food-stamp fund. And nobody has “put in” to Social Security. Instead, they’ve simply been taxed over the work lives, with the money put into the overall general fund that pays for food stamps, Social Security, the drug war, foreign wars of aggression, and other socialist and imperialist programs.

What was astonishing about the New York Times piece was that it actually acknowledged reality: “Although Social Security is often said to have a ‘trust fund,’ the term really serves as an accounting device, to track the pay-as-you-go program’s revenue and outlays over time. Its so-called balance is, in fact, a history of its vast cash flows: the sum of all of its revenue in the past, minus all of its outlays.”

When young people lament that Social Security might not be available for them when they get old, what they’re really expressing is a concern that officials won’t be able to collect sufficient taxes to fund their retirement. But why not? Couldn’t U.S. officials simply continue to increase taxes — say, to 90 percent of people’s income — to continue this Ponzi scheme indefinitely?

Well, possibly. But young people might start wondering how valuable life is if 90 percent of their work life is enslaved to government. Moreover, at some point the entire debt and tax burden of the welfare state can get so heavy that it caves in on itself, as it has now done in Greece.

By the way, since Greece’s welfare recipients are refusing to let go of their largess, Greek officials have been looking to Germany to bail them out. However, hard-pressed German taxpayers are saying, “No way!”

So, Greece is now considering asking the IMF for a bailout and, coincidentally, President Obama has just asked Congress to approve an emergency $108 billion credit line to the IMF.

How compassionate! One welfare-state deadbeat helping another.

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

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Why Conservatives Lost the Health-Care Battle
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The reason that conservatives bit the dust in the recent health-care battle is simple: their fateful decision to abandon their principles many decades ago cost them any chance of defeating President Obama’s socialist health-care plan.

Think back to the 1960s, when liberals were celebrating the enactment of LBJ’s Medicare and Medicaid plans as much as they are celebrating Obama’s plan today. Those were the halcyon days when the statists were proclaiming that Medicare and Medicaid would bring a health-care paradise to America.

At the time conservatives were warning Americans against traveling down this road to socialism, a road to serfdom, a road that would lead to national bankruptcy, a road to where socialism has led Greece today.

But Americans wouldn’t listen. Surrendering to the siren’s song of the statists, the American people embraced Medicare and Medicaid (and the welfare state), in the process ditching what was once the finest health-care system in the world, one based on freedom and free markets.

Conservatives realized that they had an important choice to make — whether to adhere to their free-market principles or to join the statists. Fearing that they would lose political power and “legitimacy” and “credibility” with the mainstream press, they chose to throw in the towel and join the statists. They embraced Medicare and Medicaid (and Social Security and the rest of the welfare state) with eagerness and enthusiasm, sometimes, it seems, even trying to appear more statist than the liberals.

Meanwhile, libertarian free-market thinkers were continuing to warn Americans what lay ahead.

Friedrich Hayek, whose famous book The Road to Serfdom had been published in 1944, continued to sound the warnings.

Ludwig von Mises was pointing out that one government intervention would inevitably lead to future interventions to deal with the crises produced by previous interventions.

In his 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman included a chapter in which he called for an end to medical licensure.

Putting all this together inevitably led any devotee of liberty to but one conclusion: that the root cause of America’s health-care woes lay in the socialism of Medicare and Medicaid and the interventionism of medical licensure and insurance regulation. As these government programs developed over time, the health-care crisis grew bigger and bigger, producing more and more distortions and perversions, leading statist proponents to call for ever-increasing new socialist and interventionist programs.

So, where did that leave conservatives in the latest health-care debate? It left them with nothing. Concerned about legitimacy, credibility, and power, they couldn’t bring themselves to call for the only real solution there is to a crisis produced by decades of socialism and interventionism: Repeal (i.e., don’t reform) Medicare, Medicaid, medical licensure, and insurance regulation (along with the taxes that fund them).

Yet, calling for nothing would have left conservatives in the position of implicitly defending the continuation of the nation’s health-care crisis. So, they took the predictable course: They proposed their own alternative reform plan, which simply called for a bit less socialism and interventionism than Obama’s plan.

That leaves the libertarians to lead the way. Ever since conservatives threw in the towel, libertarians have assumed the difficult task of sounding the warnings against socialism and interventionism and striking at the root of the welfare state rather than trimming its branches.

Can we succeed in bringing about a change in course, one away from socialism and interventionism and toward freedom and free markets? Sure, but we must never permit ourselves to do what conservatives did. We must continue adhering to our principles and our integrity and to speaking the truth. It is, of course, no guarantee of success but it provides the only real chance there is of restoring a free, prosperous, harmonious, and healthy society to our land.

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

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Do Libertarians Have Any Chance of Success?
by Jacob G. Hornberger

With another major victory for statism in the form of President Obama’s socialist and interventionist health-care reform plan, the obvious question arises: Do libertarians have any chance at all of attaining the free society?

After all, libertarians not only opposed Obamacare, they also favor, in a more fundamental sense, the complete separation of health care and the state. That would mean the repeal, not reform, of Medicare and Medicaid, medical licensure, and insurance regulation, which are the root of America’s health-care woes.

That’s not a moderate program.

For that matter, neither is the separation of the economy and the state, or education and the state, both of which libertarians also advocate.

For that matter, we also call for the repeal, not reform, of all welfare-state programs, including Social Security, SBA loans, education grants, foreign aid, corporate grants, bailouts, stimulus plans, and community grants, and the abolition of all welfare-state and regulatory departments and agencies.

We also advocate bringing all the troops home immediately, not only from Iraq and Afghanistan but also from the rest of the world, and discharging them into the private sector, and dismantling America’s Cold War standing army, military empire, and military-industrial complex.

We would abolish the income tax and the Federal Reserve, the twin jugular veins of the welfare-warfare state.

We would restore sound money to America by abolishing the Federal Reserve System and having a free market in money, instead of government central planning.

We would legalize all drugs, not just marijuana.

So, with another giant victory for statism on health care, it would be natural to assume that libertarians remain further away than ever from ridding our nation of the scourge of socialism, interventionism, and empire, and restoring individual liberty, free markets, and a constitutional republic to our land.

That would be a mistake, especially given the ever-growing number of people who are now joining the libertarian cause.

The investment guru W. Edwards Deming, who was the man responsible for the giant leap in quality in Japanese products in the 1970s, described the process by which a firm or business changes a philosophy or paradigm under which it operates. He said that at first a few people introduce the philosophy, and begin talking about it with others within the company. After a while, more and more people become interested in the new philosophy or paradigm. Then, once a critical mass of people is reached, which might well be less than a majority, the entire firm just shifts in favor of the new paradigm, overcoming the resistance of those who continue clinging to the old paradigm.

There is no reason to believe that that same principle doesn’t also apply to a nation. Once a critical mass of people who favor libertarianism is reached, which might well be below a majority, the entire society will suddenly shift, overcoming the resistance of the statists.

Thus, our job is not so much to convert people to libertarianism but rather to find the people who are naturally disposed to libertarianism and assist them to convert themselves. As the numbers of people embracing libertarian principles continues to mount, that gets us closer to reaching the critical mass in society that is required to achieve a paradigm shift, one that overcomes the resistance of the statists and succeeds in restoring a free, prosperous, moral, and harmonious society to our land.

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

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The President’s Nullification Power
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Among the most extraordinary powers claimed by both President Bush and President Obama as part of the post-9/11 “war on terrorism” is the power to nullify — or ignore — jury verdicts of acquittal in federal criminal cases involving terrorism.

Ever since the founding of the United States, it has been a fundamental principle of American criminal jurisprudence that the executive branch has the power to charge and prosecute people for criminal offenses while the judicial branch has the power to determine whether they’re guilty or not.

Another fundamental principle, one expressly guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, is that in all criminal prosecutions, the accused has the right to have a jury of his peers, rather than the judge, weigh the evidence and determine whether the prosecution has proven his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Historically, jury verdicts in criminal cases have always been considered final. When a jury comes back into the courtroom with a “Not Guilty” verdict, the federal judge immediately releases him from custody, even if everyone else, including the judge, thinks the jury has made a mistake.

These principles of criminal jurisprudence have been a hallmark of American law since the founding of the Republic.

They came to a screeching halt on 9/11, when President Bush, the Justice Department, and the Pentagon announced that they now possessed the power to treat suspected terrorists either as criminal defendants or as enemy combatants, at their option.

As part of that announcement, the president and the military quietly assumed the power to nullify — that is, ignore — federal-court jury verdicts of acquittal in terrorism cases and treat the acquitted person as an enemy combatant, including subjecting him to indefinite incarceration.

The obvious question arises: What’s the point of sending a suspected terrorist down the criminal-defendant road in the first place? If they’re going to ignore a jury’s verdict of acquittal anyway, why not simply treat him as an enemy combatant and not waste all the time and money involved in a federal criminal prosecution?

In fact, two legal scholars — Benjamin Wittes and Jack L. Goldsmith — recently made that point in an op-ed entitled “The Best Trial Option for KSM: Nothing” in the Washington Post. They reached the logical conclusion: Since the U.S. military is going to take a person acquitted of terrorism by a federal court jury into custody as an enemy combatant, what’s the point of having a federal court trial in the first place?

The answer is that a federal-court proceeding provides an aura of legitimacy and respectability, but without any risk to the government.

If a person is convicted of terrorism in federal court, then U.S. officials can say that he’s been accorded due process of law before he’s sentenced to a long prison term.

If the person is somehow acquitted, however, no sweat. The minute the jury announces its verdict, a contingent of U.S. soldiers swoops into the courtroom, grabs the acquitted defendant, and whisks him off to some military incarceration camp, possibly for the rest of his life.

Where did President Bush and the Pentagon come up with the idea of this novel and extraordinary power, one that President Obama has eagerly embraced? It’s impossible to say for certain, but one good possibility is Nazi Germany. As part of the Nazi legal system, whenever German prosecutors failed to secure a criminal conviction, the Gestapo would simply take the person into custody and railroad him into a concentration camp.

In fact, German judges got in the habit of contacting the Gestapo before they released an acquitted defendant to see if the Gestapo wanted him. I can’t help but wonder whether U.S. federal judges will be doing the same thing with the Pentagon whenever a jury returns to the courtroom with a verdict of acquittal in terrorism prosecutions.

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

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Great Conference!
by Jacob G. Hornberger

We had an absolutely great time at the Free State Project’s Liberty Forum this past weekend. Lots of great speakers, hundreds of attendees, seeing old friends, meeting new ones, and perfect weather. Bart Frazier and Scott McPherson were manning the FFF exhibit booth and I gave the concluding talk of the conference. The conference organizers were video-taping the speeches and so I assume they’ll be putting them online in a few days. Also, we’ll be posting our own videotape of my talk on FFF’s website this week and link to it in FFF Email Update. A special thanks to the Free State Project’s inviting us to be part of a great conference.

The other big event that FSP sponsors is the Porcupine Festival (aka Porcfest), which I’ve heard is also a really fun time.

During the conference, I was interview on two great radio stations, which you might want to check out:



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

Friday, March 19, 2010

Your Papers, Please
by Jacob G. Hornberger

A few days ago, Pete Eyre (who serves as outreach consultant to FFF) had an encounter with two police officers in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which Pete videotaped while openly carrying a weapon, which is legal under New Mexico law.

After some conversation, the two officers asked Pete to produce identification. Pete asked the cops if he was required by law to produce an ID, and they responded that he was. Pete pointed out that the officers were wrong because he wasn’t violating any law and, therefore, was not required to produce any identification.

The officers then suggested that Pete must have something to hide. Pete responded that he simply valued his privacy.

Pete steadfastly refused to provide his ID to the officers and, after some conversation with them, departed from the scene without producing his ID and without the cops doing anything to him.

Several years ago, I was traveling in Cuba. Like other communist countries, people in Cuba are required to carry “their papers” with them.

Over the years, most Americans have heard that term, especially in the movies — “Your papers, please.” But how many people have ever given much thought to what the term means? “Your papers” simply means “your ID.”

During my trip to Cuba, I took a cab from Havana to another town about 6 hours away. When I arrived, I paid the cab driver and he returned to Havana. It was about sundown. There were no hotels in town but people were renting rooms in their houses to tourists.

The problem was that no one would rent to me. Why? Because I had forgotten my papers — my passport — back in Havana. Under Cuban law, the people renting the rooms were prohibited from renting to anyone who couldn’t produce his papers.

I finally paid a bribe to an old woman to permit me to illegally stay in her home. I signed the registry that Cuban law required her to keep, but I could see that she was clearly scared to let me stay there. She said to me, “You will never make it back to Havana. There are checkpoints on the roads and they are stopping everyone. They will arrest you and jail you somewhere along the way.”

The prospect of spending the night or several nights in a Cuban jail was not very attractive to me. The matter was especially tense because during my visit, Cuba was prosecuting a terrorist with CIA ties who had bombed some Cuban hotels, killing at least one person. (The trial was being shown on national television, parts of which I watched in public venues. Ironically, it was remarkably similar in appearance and process to the U.S. military tribunals at Guantanamo.)

When I was ready to return to Havana, I decided I’d be better off taking a flight back rather than a cab, despite the fact that the airline was government owned and operated. When I approached the ticket agent, I smiled, spoke English instead of Spanish, and said that I was visiting from the United States. The agent said, “Oh, Cuba’s baseball team is playing in your country.” I responded, “I know. I’m cheering for your team!”

He laughed, gave me my plane ticket, and didn’t ask to see my papers. I made it back to Havana.

What those two New Mexico cops fail to realize is that by asking innocent people for their IDs, they are conducting themselves like the police in communist countries. American police officers need to be taught that in America, cops are not supposed to ask innocent people for their papers. Hopefully, there are two cops in New Mexico who have now learned a valuable lesson in freedom and privacy.

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

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Who Needs Trials?
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The Washington Post has just published an op-ed that pretty much sums up where we’ve arrived as a country, post-9/11, thanks to both conservatives and liberals. The op-ed is entitled “KSM’s Dispensable Trial” and is co-authored by Jack Goldsmith, who served as an assistant attorney general in the Bush administration, and Benjamin Wittes, who serves as research director in public law at the Brookings Institute. Both of them are also associated with the Hoover Institution.

Goldsmith and Wittes have come up with an ingenious way to resolve the standoff as to whether Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other alleged Sept. 11 conspirators should be tried in a military tribunal or in federal court. Their solution? No trial at all! Just let the military keep them incarcerated for the duration of the war on terrorism, which would essentially amount to life sentences.

As audacious as the proposal might sound, it actually is quite logical, once one has bought into the war-on-terrorism paradigm.

What Goldsmith and Wittes are saying is that the war on terrorism is a real war, just like World War I and World War II. Therefore, since prisoners of war in a real war can be kept incarcerated until the war is over, there’s no problem with holding terrorists until the war on terrorism is over, which isn’t likely to happen for a few decades.

They also point out that even if the suspects were to be acquitted in either federal court or by military tribunal, the feds wouldn’t release them anyway. Why? Because they’re alleged terrorists who are waging war against the United States. Thus, if they’re not going to be released anyway, Goldsmith and Wittes say, then what’s the point of having a trial?

One interesting aspect of the op-ed is a particular adjective that the authors employ in the very first sentence of the article. The adjective is “alleged.” They refer to “Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other alleged September 11 conspirators.”

Why would they use that adjective? It seems to me that the use of that adjective expresses some degree of doubt as to whether the people they want incarcerated for life without a trial are actually guilty. Why not simply describe them as “the September 11 conspirators” or as “the terrorists”?

What Goldsmith and Wittes seem to be saying is: “We don’t need no stinking trial to determine whether these people really are guilty of terrorism. It doesn’t matter whether they’re guilty or not. We’re at war and we’ve got to put our total faith in our government to make this determination without a trial. If innocent people are incarcerated for the rest of their lives, so be it, especially if by doing so we’re kept safe. ”

An obvious problem arises, one that Goldstein and Wittes do not address: What about alleged Americans terrorists? The issue is simple: Why should alleged American terrorists be treated any differently than alleged foreign terrorists? After all, an alleged terrorist is an alleged terrorist, right? Just ask Goldsmith himself. He was serving in the Justice Department when the U.S. military was doing to an alleged American terrorist precisely what Goldsmith and Wittes now claim should be done to alleged foreign terrorists — incarcerating him indefinitely and denying him a trial — and, of course, claiming the war-on-terrorism authority to do the same to every other American alleged to be a terrorist.

Another problem that Goldsmith and Wittes fail to address is one relating to the U.S. Code, the statute book that enumerates the federal criminal offenses enacted by Congress. It includes terrorism among the federal crimes, which is precisely why alleged terrorists have traditionally been prosecuted in U.S. District Court.

Presumably, Goldsmith and Wittes would say that the U.S. Code provisions on terrorism have become moot because, they would say, U.S. officials have the power to convert criminal offenses into a real war, as they did after the 9/11 attacks.

But that obviously raises another big problem: Where does such a power come from? It’s certainly not included in my copy of the Constitution. I wonder what Goldsmith’s and Wittes’ position would be if the feds decided to do the same thing in the war on drugs. After all, as Mexican officials will attest, the alleged drug lords are killing many more people than the alleged terrorists. Would it be acceptable for U.S. officials to suddenly convert drug offenses to acts of war, enabling them to circumvent trials and the Bill of Rights for those crimes too?

By the way, Pakistani officials have decided to charge and prosecute those five young Americans who traveled to Pakistan to allegedly become terrorists. As bad and corrupt as the Pakistani judicial system must be, the men ought to be counting their lucky stars. At least in Pakistan, they get a trial.

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

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Starbucks, Guns, and Property Rights
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The controversy over guns and Starbucks provides us with an opportunity to understand the relationship between gun rights and property rights.

The gun-control crowd is upset with Starbucks because the chain is permitting people to openly carry firearms into its stores. They say that this is carrying the right to keep and bear arms too far.

On the other hand, some gun-rights advocates are claiming that the Second Amendment guarantees the right of people to keep and bear arms in Starbucks.

As a private business, Starbucks has the right to operate its business any way it sees fit. If it wants to permit people to bring weapons into the store, that is its right. That’s what private ownership entails.

By the same token, Starbucks has the right to ban its customers from bringing guns into its stores. That’s what private ownership also entails.

If Starbucks changes its policy to no longer permit people to bring guns into its stores, it hasn’t violated the rights of any gun owner. Instead, it has exercised its right to run its own stores in the manner it sees fit. No one, including gun owners, has a right to impose his views on Starbucks.

Of course, customers have the right to take their business elsewhere if they disagree with Starbucks’ policy.

If the gun-control crowd decides to boycott Starbucks because it is permitting people with guns into the store, the gun-control crowd has not violated anybody’s rights in their boycott decision, including the rights of Starbucks and gun owners.

On the other hand, if Starbucks changes its policy and prohibits guns in its stores, the gun-rights crowd is perfectly free to boycott Starbucks and take its business elsewhere.

Thus, ultimately human rights are rooted in property rights.

Here’s another example. There is a famous line issued by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. in the case of Schenck v. U.S.: “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.”

Actually, however, Holmes’s analysis is misapplied. Issues of free speech, like gun rights, are rooted in property rights.

For example, consider a newspaper that publishes nothing but critiques of socialism. Socialists complain that their free-speech rights are being infringed upon because the newspaper won’t publish their perspectives too. But the socialists are wrong. The newspaper is not violating their rights to free speech by refusing to publish their socialist perspectives. Instead, it is simply exercising its right to run its private business any way it wants. Of course, the socialists are free to boycott the newspaper and also to go out and form their own newspaper.

By the same token, a movie theater has the right to operate its business the way it wants. The reason that a customer isn’t free to falsely cry fire in the theater isn’t because there are “reasonable” limits to free speech, as Holmes implied, but because the policy of the theater owner is to prohibit customers from disturbing the peace of the other customers, which obviously would happen with a fraudulent cry of “Fire!” While customers are free to boycott theaters, they do not have the right to violate the policies of the theater owner.

But suppose, just hypothetically speaking, a theater owner was displaying a raucous type of rock-and-roll movie and announced that during that particular movie, customers could make as much noise as they wanted and scream whatever they wished, no matter how false, including “Fire!” The theater owner would be perfectly within his rights to do so. It’s his theater. If customers didn’t want to attend that particular movie and put up with people screaming, yelling, cutting up, and falsely yelling “Fire!” it would be within their rights to boycott the movie.

Finally, it’s important that we keep in mind that the Bill of Rights consists of restrictions on federal power, not on the use of private property. Thus while the First Amendment prohibits federal officials from enacting laws or engaging in conduct that infringes on such fundamental rights as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press, it does not prevent private owners from using their property the way they want. The same holds true for the right to keep and bear arms guaranteed by the Second Amendment.

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

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hitler’s National Security Court
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Let’s make no bones about it. Adolf Hitler, who served as chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, could easily be the inspiration for those here in the United States now calling for the creation of a special national security court for trying terrorists. After all, it was Hitler who first established a national security court, and he did it for the same reason that U.S. proponents are now calling for such a court: the concern that regular courts would fail to convict people that government officials knew were terrorists.

Hitler’s national security court, which he established in 1934, was called the People’s Court. It consisted of a tribunal of judges, both civilian and military. There was no trial by jury consisting of regular citizens. The most famous of the lead judges of the People’s Court was a man named Roland Freisler, who presided over the now-famous trials of Hans and Sophie Scholl and the other members of the White Rose.

Hitler established the People’s Court after the terrorist bombing of the German parliament building, the Reichstag. After a trial in a regularly constituted German court, many of the people charged with that terrorist act were acquitted, which, needless to say, outraged Hitler as much as it would have outraged current U.S. proponents of a national security court. After all, Hitler argued, those people who were acquitted were terrorists — otherwise they wouldn’t have been charged and prosecuted — and, therefore, they deserved to be convicted and punished, not acquitted and released.

To ensure that terrorists and other criminals were never again acquitted, Hitler established the People’s Court. Like the national security court that some Americans are now advocating for the United States, the purpose of the court was to create the appearance of justice while ensuring that terrorists and other criminals were convicted and punished.

Proceedings before the People’s Court would easily serve as a model for U.S. advocates of a national security. The trial of Hans and Sophie Scholl was over in less than an hour. Criminal defense lawyers were expected to remain silent during the proceedings, and did so. Defendants were presumed guilty and treated as such. Hearsay was permitted, as was evidence acquired by torture. There was no due process of law. Confessions could be coerced out of defendants. The judges on the tribunal would berate, humiliate, convict, and then swiftly issue sentences, including the death penalty.

For a good example of how a national security court would operate here in the United States, see Part 13 and Part 14 of the great movie Sophie Scholl: The Final Days .

Yes, I know what the American proponents of a national security court would say in response: Just because Hitler was the first to establish such a court doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a bad thing. They would point out that Hitler’s People’s Court had an extremely high conviction rate, and they would claim that it kept the German people safe. Why, perhaps they might even recommend that a bust of Hitler be placed in America’s national security court, much as the U.S. Social Security Administration has posted a bust of Otto von Bismarck, who was known as the Iron Chancellor of Germany, on its Social Security website.

Proponents of a U.S. national security court would also undoubtedly point out that Hitler’s National Socialist regime also embraced such much-vaunted American socialist programs as public (i.e., government) schooling, social security, national health care, government-business partnerships, and a military-industrial complex. And they would remind us that Hitler’s socialist autobahn system served as the inspiration for America’s giant boondoggle of a public-works project known as the Interstate Highway System.

But shouldn’t the fact that it was Adolf Hitler who first came up with the idea of a national security court to make sure that terrorists and other criminals were duly convicted and punished at least be enough to raise eyebrows among the American people?

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

Monday, March 15, 2010

Conservatives Hate Trial by Jury
by Jacob G. Hornberger

One of the things the mainstream media never mentions in discussing conservatives’ embrace of the Pentagon’s military-tribunal system in Cuba for prosecuting accused terrorists is the disdain that conservatives have for trial by jury, the right that our American ancestors enshrined in the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution.

After all, it’s not as if conservatives couldn’t have made trial by jury part of their military-commissions system. But that’s the last thing they wanted. Instead, they wanted a system like that employed in countries like Burma, where the people who are determining the guilt or innocence of the accused are military officials, that is, people who can be counted on to do their duty by convicting while falsely and fraudulently appearing to render justice.

In a jury trial the people who are determining whether the government has satisfied its burden of proof are ordinary citizens drawn at random from the community. They might be bankers, janitors, hairdressers, schoolteachers, or any other occupation or they might even be unemployed. Most of the time, a jury will consist of people who are not experts in the law. They’re just ordinary people who are called upon to sit in judgment in one particular case, after which they return to their regular lives.

Trial by jury is a system in which Americans should take great pride. There’s good reason why the Americans who founded our country made certain that trial by jury was enshrined into the Bill of Rights. When it came to criminal prosecutions, they didn’t trust lawyers, judges, the military, or any other governmental officials to make the right decision on guilt or innocence of the accused. The people they trusted to make the right decision were ordinary people in the community who would be periodically called upon to serve as jurors.

Our ancestors understood that over time, judges become jaded, even crooked or corrupt. As their years on the bench go by, they inevitably begin viewing every criminal defendant from the standpoint of a presumption of guilt. They become so accustomed to criminal defendants’ falsely claiming to be innocent that when a truly innocent person appears before them protesting his innocence, the judge’s mindset becomes one of “Yeah, sure.”

Not so with juries. They usually take seriously such principles as the presumption of innocence and the requirement that the prosecution must convince them beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused really is guilty of what they’re charging him with.

The collective conscience of a jury is much more elevated than that of the judge. This phenomenon manifests itself not only in terms of a more conscientious determination of guilt or innocence but also in the equally important determination of the morality of the law itself or the propriety of the government’s conduct in the case.

I’m referring, of course, to the concept of jury nullification, the power that a jury possesses to acquit a criminal defendant because the jury has concluded that the law under which he is being prosecuted is unjust or because the government has behaved wrongfully.

Consider, for example, the drug war. A jury might well acquit a defendant because of the fundamental immorality of drug laws. Or they might acquit because drug agents have committed perjury in the case.

That’s not something any judge is ever likely to do. In fact, judges usually will never tell a jury of the extent of their power to acquit.

The latest proposal set forth by conservatives — a national security court — is undoubtedly modeled on the national security court established by Adolf Hitler. Hitler established his national security court, which he called the People’s Court, for the same reason that American conservatives are calling for such a court — to ensure that accused terrorists and traitors were always convicted, not acquitted. It might interest you to know that the disdain that conservatives have toward criminal defense attorneys who represent accused terrorists was also shared by Hitler and his People’s Court tribunal. To get a good picture of how a national security court would operate here in America, see Part 13 and Part 14 of the movie Sophie Scholl: The Final Days on Youtube.

Of course, none of this should surprise us, given that conservatives established their prison camp in Cuba for the precise purpose of avoiding the application of the Constitution and of the Bill of Rights. What better evidence than the intentional establishment of a Constitution-free zone in a communist country of conservative hatred not only for the right of trial by jury but also the other rights and guarantees in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights?

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

Friday, March 12, 2010

Socialist Education Battle in Texas
by Jacob G. Hornberger

A battle in Texas provides a good example of the socialist central planning that takes place in public (that is, government) schools. All sorts of people are lobbying feverishly before a 15-member state board to try to get their favorite historical, political, and economic perspectives included in the social studies textbooks, which will be used in Texas public schools for the next 10 years. According to an article on FoxNews.com, the issue is of importance to all Americans because “90 percent of American textbooks are based on Texas’ curriculum.”

We often think of socialism as government ownership of the means of production. It is that, of course, but it’s more than that. Socialism also involves the concept of central planning, where a government official or a board of government officials plan, in a top-down fashion, the peaceful activities of multitudes of people.

Imagine: Here you have 15 government officials deciding what doctrines and philosophies are going to be fed into the minds of thousands of children. Since it is a virtual certainty that those 15 people are statists, rather than libertarians, it is also a virtual certainty that the social studies textbook will be filled with statist ideas and philosophies rather than libertarian ones.

What caused the Great Depression? Students will learn that it was caused by free enterprise, not the Federal Reserve System.

The 9/11 attacks? Students will be taught that it was because the terrorists hated America for its freedom and values, not because of the bad things the U.S. government has done to people in the Middle East.

World War II? Students will be taught that it was a triumph for freedom because Eastern Europe was delivered into the clutches of America’s WW II ally and partner, the Soviet Union, instead of Nazi Germany.

The Vietnam War? Students will be taught that 58,000 American soldiers died for freedom rather than for nothing.

U.S. foreign policy? Students will be taught that to dismantle America’s military empire would constitute isolationism rather than anti-imperialism and non-interventionism.

The economy? Students will be taught that America’s welfare-state is freedom because the government takes care of people.

And on and on.

What is the alternative to central planning? A free market. In a free market, everything is depoliticized — or, more accurately, “de-governmentalized.” There are still differences of opinion between people but the controversies involve multitudes of private groups, ones that people are free to abandon in order to join others whose views are more acceptable.

Consider, for example, the area of religion, where government plays no role. There is a total free market in religion. There are debates and controversies constantly taking place within each religious denomination. If people become dissatisfied with the doctrines or practices of a particular religion or church, they’re free to go to another one.

Now, suppose religion had been placed under the control of the government, like education has been. In that case, we would have a 15-member board in Texas deciding which religious doctrines would be taught to all the school children in the state. Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, atheists, and others would be feverishly lobbying the board to insert their particular concepts into the religion textbook. The battles would be fierce, as they are in the educational arena. The losers would be unhappy, but many of them would have no effective choice but to leave their children in the public churches, just as circumstances require many people to leave their children in public schools.

There is only one solution to central planning in education — a separation of school and state, in the same way our ancestors separated church and state. With a free market in education, controversies over what concepts to include in textbooks would be decentralized and “de-governmentalized.” If people didn’t like what one school was teaching, they could move their child to one whose views they favored. This concept of freedom in education is comparable to the concept that we embrace with respect to freedom in religion.

But just don’t count on those students in Texas learning about the idea of separating school and state in those government-approved social studies textbooks. After all, that’s a libertarian idea.

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

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Census and the Welfare State
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The letter that Ralph Groves, director of the U.S. Census Bureau, recently sent to the American people reflects what America has become under the welfare state. Here is what the letter states in part:

“Your response is important. Results from the 2010 Census will be used to help each community get its fair share of government funds for highways, schools, health facilities, and many other programs you and your neighbors need. Without a complete, accurate census, your community may not receive its fair share.”

In that one paragraph lies the plunderbund society in all it majestic glory. Everyone is supposed to feel morally obligated to answer all those intrusive questions in order to ensure that his community receives its fair share of the loot forcibly collected by the Internal Revenue Service during the course of the year, but especially on April 15.

You see, all that IRS-collected money goes into a gigantic pool that the president and Congress then have at their disposal to distribute to people.

As Groves points out, some of that IRS-collected money is sent to your “community.” What does “community” mean? Alas, it doesn’t mean you. If it did, that would mean that the federal government would simply be returning your hard-earned money to you.

No, by “community” Groves means your state and local elected and appointed politicians and bureaucrats, who send complicated and expensive proposals to Washington begging and pleading for help to construct some new highway, health-care facility, school, recreational facility, or some other project or program.

Federal grants are announced with tremendous fanfare. The distributing federal agency issues a press release announcing that the city has received a grant of several million dollars to build, say, its new recreation center. The congressman for that district humbly takes credit for the grant. Area newspapers publish editorials extolling local officials for their genius is securing the grant and effusively praising the effectiveness of their congressman.

In the process, most everyone forgets where the money originally came from, or they simply don’t care. All that people focus on is that they’re receiving free money that is coming from the federal government, the all-good, all-caring, all-compassionate entity whose job it is to take care of the citizenry.

A particular sign oftentimes is posted on the project site for passersby to see: “Jobs for your community!” Not only has the federal government provided free funds for your community, it also uses local people to help build the project.

It’s all so grand, so glorious. Who could possibly object to such a process?

Well, that’s where libertarians come in. Libertarians object to the process because it is immoral, crooked, corrupt, fraudulent, and destructive to the core.

The process entails an all-out battle between public officials in different states and cities to get their dirty little hands on as large a portion of the money that has been forcibly taken from people as they can.

Millions of people across the country are struggling financially, but does anyone suggest a moratorium on the payment of income taxes to the IRS? Of course not (well, except for libertarians, who call for a permanent moratorium on income taxation). Nothing must be permitted to interfere with that giant pool of IRS-collected money that federal officials have at their disposal to send to grateful state and local officials.

And no, the process does not create jobs, it simply redistributes them from productive, private-sector projects to politically motivated projects. You see, all the money that the IRS took from people would have brought jobs into existence if people had been left free to keep their own hard-earned money instead of sending it to the IRS. Since those jobs were never permitted to come into existence, you don’t see them. All you see is that “free” health-care facility which federal, state, and local politicians and bureaucrats can point to and say, “Here it is — your free facility that has provided free jobs for your community.”

The sad part of all this is that all too many Americans continue to play right into the celebration and even praise it. Failing to think through what has been done to them and their fellow citizens, they haplessly and pathetically play the role of a theft victim celebrating what has been done to them.

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

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Blame It on Freedom
by Jacob G. Hornberger

One of the distinguishing characteristics of statists is their inability to take responsibility for their failures. The fault always lies elsewhere. Two of the best examples of this phenomenon are the welfare state and the warfare state.

For more than a century after the founding of the Republic, Americans had lived with little or no income taxation, economic regulation, paper money, legal-tender laws, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SBA loans, corporate grants, education grants, drug laws, and other forms of paternalism. Early Americans believed that freedom involved the rights to engage in economic enterprise freely, accumulate unlimited amounts of wealth, and decide what to do with their own money — e.g., invest, save, spend, or donate.

All that changed in the 20th century, thanks to the statists. In 1913, the income tax and the Federal Reserve were established, heralding a way of life in which government would wield omnipotent power to take or destroy people’s income and wealth.

Major change came again in the 1930s, when President Franklin Roosevelt built the foundation for the modern-day welfare state, a type of socialism that had originated among the socialists of Germany.

Since then, the welfare state — the paternalistic state — the nanny state — the socialist state — whatever label you wish to put on it — has grown by leaps and bounds.

To fund all this socialism, well, that’s where those two mechanisms that were formed in 1913 come into play — income taxation and the Federal Reserve.

Today, the welfare state is cracking apart. Everywhere you look, things are in crisis. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, FDIC, the dollar, the national debt, and federal spending. It’s all broke or breaking. Just like it has in Greece, whose the welfare state has finally reached the breaking point.

But what do the statists say? Oh, it’s all because of freedom and free enterprise. You know, such guilty culprits as greed, speculation, banking, deregulation, and profit. Not surprisingly, their solution to all these welfare-state woes is … you guessed it — more statism.

It’s no different with the warfare state. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the statists went into panic mode over fear of suffering massive reductions in welfare for the military and the military industrial complex. Desperately in search of a mission that would permit them to maintain their hold on their Cold War largess, they embarked on course of action designed to poke hornets’ nests in the Middle East, with deadly and destructive consequences.

There was the Persian Gulf intervention against their old partner and ally Saddam Hussein; the intentional destruction of Iraq’s water and sewage facilities after the Pentagon confirmed that this would help spread infectious illnesses among the Iraqi people; the brutal sanctions that contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children; U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright’s infamous declaration that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children were “worth it”; the illegal no-fly zones over Iraq, which killed more Iraqis; the stationing of U.S. troops on Islamic holy lands, knowing how insulting this would be to Muslims; and, of course, the years of unconditional financial and military support given to the Israeli government.

Then came the inevitable “blowback” — the retaliation: the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, the attack on the USS Cole, the attacks on the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and 9/11.

What was the response of the statists? It’s all because of freedom! You see, according to the statists, the anger and hatred that had boiled over in the Middle East after a decade of brutal U.S. intervention, was all because Muslims hate America for its freedom, not because people were angry over all that death and destruction that came with intentionally poking those hornets’ nests.

Today, both the welfare state and the warfare are in deep crisis, and things are only getting worse by the month. Count on the statists to become angrier, more frustrated, and more fearful that people might discover the truth as to the real causes of America’s woes. Count on the statists to continue blaming freedom for America’s woes, both foreign and domestic. It’s the only hope statists have that Americans will continue following them down the road to serfdom and impoverishment.

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

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Conservatives Love Castro’s Judicial System
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Last December a 60-year-old American citizen was taken into custody in Havana by Cuban authorities. The man, Alan Phillip Gross, who resides in Potomac, Maryland, is suspected of being a spy for the CIA.

While U.S. officials are denying that Gross is a spy, circumstances surrounding the case are enough to raise eyebrows. He was in Cuba distributing cell phones as a consultant to a company that received a multi-million grant from USAID, whose projects over the years have included regime change in Cuba. Oddly, Gross’ detention was kept secret for more than a week after he was taken into custody.

Presumably, Gross violated Cuba’s Law 88, which criminalizes the “distribution of financial, material, or other resources that come from the United States government, its agencies, subordinates, representatives, functionaries, or private entities.”

Meanwhile, many, if not all, of the conservatives who have been denouncing American criminal defense attorneys for representing accused terrorists at Guantanamo and demanding federal-court trials for them, have remained silent about Cuba’s treatment of Alan Gross.

The reason is not difficult to decipher. The fact is that conservatives love the judicial system that Cuba’s communist leader Fidel Castro has implemented in Cuba.

After all, don’t forget that the reason that conservatives have ardently supported the decision by President Bush and the Pentagon to locate their prison camp for suspected terrorists in Cuba rather than the United States was that Gitmo was intended to be a Constitution-free zone, one in which the U.S. government would have the same power to treat suspected terrorists as Cuba has in treating suspected spies like Gross.

Look at how the Cuban authorities have treated Gross. He’s been held in jail since December without a preliminary hearing and without being formally notified of the charges against him. He has no legal way to challenge his detention because habeas corpus, which is the lynchpin of a free society, isn’t recognized under Cuban law. So far, there’s not even any indication that Gross will be put on trial, meaning that he could be incarcerated indefinitely, just like the people on the U.S. side of Cuba.

Of course, conservatives love all this. After all, Gross is a spy, right? Why should a spy be accorded any more rights than a terrorist, especially when he is a foreigner, right? Like those terrorists on the U.S. side of Cuba, Gross simply deserves to be punished.

Nonetheless, there is a possibility that the Cubans will decide to put Gross on trial anyway, if for no other reason than to make it look like justice has been done before he’s punished, much like the way those tribunals work at Guantanamo. If that were to happen, there would be virtually no chance of an acquittal, given that Cuba does not permit independent criminal trial attorneys to ardently defend their clients. A conservative’s dream, as we see from the way that conservatives are denouncing those criminal-defense attorneys who have been representing people being detained by U.S. authorities on their side of Cuba.

American conservatives would undoubtedly agree that the Cuban criminal-justice system is a conservative’s dream-come-true. No coddling of criminals, no due process of law, no grand-jury indictments, no preliminary hearings, no suppression of illegally acquired evidence, no prohibition against tortured confessions and testimony, no independent criminal defense attorneys, and pre-ordained, rigged verdicts at the hands of fearful judges. Just quick, severe punishment of spies, terrorists, and other criminals.

Compare that system with the judicial system that the Founding Fathers established: the presumption of innocence, the right to be formally advised of criminal charges, preliminary hearings, grand-jury indictments, no coerced confessions, no unreasonable searches for evidence, the right to an independent and competent attorney, the right to bail, the right to a speedy trial, the right to trial by jury (as compared to a kangaroo tribunal), and so forth.

What conservatives fail to realize, however, is that the only way to truly determine whether Gross is guilty of that Cuban law is with a trial. And not just any trial, but with a trial by jury of regular citizens, where the jury can acquit Gross if they think the law is a bad, immoral one.

By the same token, the only way to determine whether the people are the U.S. side of Cuba are guilty of terrorism is, again, with a trial, and not just any trial, but rather a trial by jury consisting of regular citizens, not a kangaroo tribunal.

The Constitution brought into existence the greatest criminal-justice system in history. Of course, it has its faults and can be improved upon. But Americans will rue the day they permit conservatives to ditch it in favor of the type of judicial system employed by Fidel Castro and his communist cronies.

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

Friday, March 5, 2010

U.S. Government Confirms Sanctions Don’t Work
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Even while employing sanctions against Iran, the U.S. government is confirming that sanctions do not work.

The Chinese government has threatened to impose sanctions on the United States if the U.S. government persists in its decision to sell weapons, including F-16s, to Taiwan. According to the New York Times, the threat was issued by a top Chinese military official, who did not specify what the sanctions would be. However, a possibility would be the wholesale dumping of U.S. government securities onto the international financial markets. Those instruments represent the enormous amounts of money that China has loaned the U.S. government to fund its enterprises in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Notwithstanding the U.S. government’s steadfast insistence that its sanctions will induce Iranian government officials to submit to U.S. demands regarding its nuclear program, the U.S. government is steadfastly refusing to succumb to China’s threat to impose sanctions on the United States.

Wouldn’t you think that U.S. officials would want to use this opportunity to show the world that sanctions really do work? Imagine: U.S. officials could announce, “Given China’s threat to impose sanctions on our country, we have decided to not go forward with our plans to sell weaponry to Taiwan.” What better way to show that sanctions work than that?

But we all know that that isn’t going to happen. U.S. government officials are a proud bunch. They’re not about to let Chinese government officials push them around.

But what about China’s ability to dump all those U.S. debt instruments onto the market. Surely U.S. officials realize that such an action could cause untold monetary havoc for the U.S. dollar and, thus, severely threaten the financial well-being of the American people.

It doesn’t matter. U.S. officials would never bow to the demands of China’s government, no matter how high the cost to the American citizenry.

But the obvious questions arise? Why wouldn’t Iranian officials be expected to react in the same way? Why would anyone expect them to succumb to demands of U.S. officials? Aren’t they just as proud as U.S. government officials are? Wouldn’t they be just as willing to sacrifice the well-being of their citizenry as U.S. officials are?

The fact is that the citizenry of any country are viewed simply as pawns by both their own government and the foreign government that is imposing the sanctions.

For example, as I pointed out here, the U.S. sanctions against Iran have caused several plane crashes, killing hundreds of Iraqi citizens. Yet, that hasn’t persuaded the U.S. government to lift the sanctions, just as it hasn’t induced the Iranian government to bow to U.S. demands. The Iranian citizenry are considered expendable by both governments.

Recall the brutal sanctions that the U.S. government enforced against Iraq for more than 10 years. Every year, they were causing the deaths of thousands of Iraqi children from infectious illnesses, malnutrition, etc. Those deaths didn’t cause Saddam Hussein to leave office, which is what the U.S. government wanted. Equally important, U.S. officials were indifferent to the deaths of all those Iraqi children. In fact, the official U.S. position was that those deaths were “worth it,” the term used by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright when asked about the deaths by “Sixty Minutes.”

Or consider the brutal embargo that the U.S. government has enforced against Cuba for decades. It has produced untold economic harm to the Cuban people. U.S. officials couldn’t care less. They steadfastly maintain that one of these days the embargo will finally succeed in persuading Fidel Castro (and his brother) to give up power and permit a U.S.-approved ruler to be substituted in his stead. Not surprisingly, the Castro brothers have reacted to the decades-long U.S. embargo in the same way that the U.S. government is responding to China’s threat to impose sanctions on the United States — by refusing to succumb to U.S. demands no matter how much the Cuban people must suffer as a consequence.

With its refusal to bow to China’s threat of sanctions, the U.S. government is confirming that sanctions simply don’t work. Given the great harm the U.S. government has inflicted on foreign citizens with its own sanctions, it’s time for U.S. officials to lift their sanctions against Iran, Cuba, and everyone else.

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

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Will the Looted Just Shrug?
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The statist reaction to Republican Sen. Jim Bunning’s temporary block of a welfare bill shows what the welfare state has done to the American people.

Everyone knows that federal spending is out of control. The feds are spending $1.4 trillion more than what they’re collecting in taxes. And that’s just for this year.

Where are they getting the difference? They’re borrowing it, adding to the massive and ever-growing debt of the federal government. How is that debt going to be paid off? By U.S. taxpayers. Your individual, average share as of right now is about $40,000. It’s growing every day because the feds are running up your credit card, which has no limit.

So, Bunning blocks a welfare bill on the ground that the federal government shouldn’t be borrowing any more money. If it can’t afford to be providing the welfare, Bunning said, then it shouldn’t be spending more money.

The statist crowd went ballistic. The attacks were the standard ones whenever anyone objects to any welfare-state scheme: “He’s selfish, self-centered, and greedy. He hates the poor and loves the rich. He’s just grandstanding. The bill is only a small percentage of total spending and so it doesn’t make any difference in the larger scheme of things.”

But the statist reaction to Bunning’s move goes much deeper than that and is a perfect reflection of what the socialistic welfare state has done to the American people. Having been born and raised under the welfare state, American recipients of welfare largess, including those on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment, education grants, mortgage guarantees, and bailout and stimulus monies, honestly believe that they are entitled to continue receiving it for as long as they “need” the money.

That’s why they call much of this junk an “entitlement.” What the entitlement crowd is saying is: “I am entitled to your money because I want it and I need it. If you object, my statist associates and I will go on the attack against you and expose you for being a vicious, no-good, selfish hater of the poor and lover of the rich.”

This is what the welfare state has done to America. It has produced a real war among the American people — between those who produce and own their wealth and those who are trying to get their hands on other people’s money through the force of the state. The 19th-century French legislator Frederic Bastiat put it well when he indicated that under the welfare state, the government becomes a great fiction by which some people try to live at the expense of other people.

Almost as bad has been what the welfare state has done to the mindsets of the American people. It has made so many Americans dependent on the government, not just financially but also emotionally and psychologically. People are on the dole have convinced themselves that they could never survive without their dole. And they absolutely freak out whenever someone talks about ending their dole. Even worse, they look upon the government as their daddy or, even worse, as a beloved deity.

What is happening, not only here in the United States but in Greece, Portugal, Spain, England, and other welfare-state countries, is that there isn’t enough wealth among the taxpayers to plunder to fund the massive, ever-growing number of people on the dole.

Meanwhile, panicky over the potential crack up of the welfare state, liberals are blaming the economic woes on “freedom, deregulation, greed, the bankers, and free enterprise,” and they’re proposing their standard statist solution — more socialism and Keynesianism. They’re saying that the feds should just keep spending, spending, and spending, no matter how much they have to borrow or inflate to do so. The notion is that more spending will put unemployed people back to work, whose taxes can then fund the voracious and ever-growing wants of the parasitic sector of society.

But as we libertarians have been saying for decades, ultimately the welfare-state house of cards is going to crack apart, just as it did in Cuba and the Soviet Union. God has created a consistent universe, one in which immoral means will beget bad ends. The crack up has obviously already begun in such heavy-duty welfare-state countries as Greece, Portugal, Spain, and England, where the base of wealth to plunder and loot is more limited than it is in the United States.

But even here in the United States there is a limit to how much socialism the private sector can bear. And don’t forget: there is always the possibility that those who are being plundered and looted might just decide to go on strike, refusing to produce any more wealth and just “shrugging.”

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

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sheldon Richman’s Economic Liberty Lecture
by Jacob G. Hornberger

We had a great time on Monday evening at FFF’s Economic Liberty Lecture Series, which we sponsor in conjunction with the George Mason University Econ Society, a student-run group whose members are mostly libertarians and advocates of Austrian economics.

Sheldon delivered a great, informative, and provocative talk to about 75 attendees, mostly students, entitled “Capitalism vs. the Free Market.” In his lecture, Sheldon questioned the use of the world “capitalism” to describe a genuinely free market, i.e., a market that is free of government control or regulation.

Sheldon’s talk is now online.

After the talk, we adjourned to Brion’s Grill, where we were joined by noted economics professor Walter Williams, the Cato Institute’s Dan Mitchell, and FFF policy advisor Jim Bovard and a big bunch of students and others. Everyone had a great time discussing Sheldon’s talk, politics, libertarianism, and economics. There were actually lots of the world’s problems that got solved!

Attending Sheldon’s were GMU economics professors Larry White and Bryan Caplan. Bryan posted an interesting blog on Sheldon’s talk at Liberty Fund’s website, which has produced lots of interesting comments. You might enjoy reading Bryan’s blog and the comments here: http://tinyurl.com/yfsqjzz

A special thanks to all the donors of The Future of Freedom Foundation, including the couple who sent us an extra donation to cover the price of the free pizza we served to everyone at Sheldon’s talk. It’s your financial support that enables us to advance liberty with programs such as this. By the way, at Sheldon’s talk we gave away lots of copies of our new booklet “Economic Liberty and the Constitution” by Jacob G. Hornberger.

If you would like to make a (tax-deductible) donation to help us with our work, please go to this link: www.fff.org.

The next Economic Liberty Lecture will be held on Monday, April 5, and will feature Richard M. Ebeling, whose talk is entitled “America’s New Road to Serfdom — and the Continuing Relevance of Austrian Economics.” We hope to see you there, but if you can’t make it the talk will be streamed live and we’ll also be later posting it online.

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

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Panic Time for Liberals
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Liberals seem to be getting bent out of shape over the fact that increasing numbers of people are challenging their statist paradigm. They’re suggesting that anyone who questions their beloved welfare-state socialism must be crazy, insane, irrational, greedy, selfish, and evil.

What’s starting to frustrate them is that they’re realizing that for the first time since the New Deal, people are not automatically accepting the liberal siren song for socialism and the standard liberal excuses for the economic woes facing our nation (e.g., greed, free enterprise, selfishness, big business, OPEC, capitalism, speculators, etc.).

From the first grade on up, for example, liberals have told Americans that the Great Depression was caused by the failure of America’s free-enterprise system and that the solution was Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, which were “socialist and fascist to the core.

Now, I’m not suggesting that liberals sold the New Deal by arguing the purported virtues of socialism and fascism. On the contrary, liberals were smart enough to realize that average Americans would never overtly embrace socialism and fascism.

So, what FDR and his statist cohorts did is couch their socialist and fascist programs in terms of “saving America’s free-enterprise system.” In that way, they were able to induce Americans to support a wholesale transformation of American life — from one based on the principles of economic liberty to one based on the principles of welfare-state socialism.

Consider Social Security. What do liberals say? They claim that this much-vaunted program simply evolved out of America’s free-enterprise system. It’s a retirement program, the statists say, one in which people deposit their money into a retirement fund, which earns interest, and then is available for withdrawal on retirement.

Yet, it’s all just a lie and a delusion. The Social Security program is nothing more than a straight socialist transfer program, one in which the government takes money from the young and productive and gives it to old people (and keeping some of it for itself).

The principle is the same, of course, with Medicare and Medicaid, which liberal icon LBJ, inspired by FDR’s Social Security program, brought into existence. Medicare and Medicaid are nothing more than socialistic programs than entail forcibly taking money from some people and giving it to others. Yet, it’s sold as just part and parcel of America’s “free-enterprise system”

This life of the lie — this life of delusion — is the same with respect to the Great Depression. But thanks to libertarians, Americans are learning that the Great Depression wasn’t caused by the failure of free enterprise at all. Instead, it was caused by monetary manipulation by the Federal Reserve, a governmental enterprise.

And they’re learning from us libertarians that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the entire panoply of welfare-state programs are not part and parcel of free enterprise but instead socialist violations of free enterprise.

So, give the manifest failure of socialism all over the world, why should it surprise anyone that socialism has failed here at home too? A defective system is a defective system, regardless of who’s running it.

According to an article entitled “Will the USS Budget Go Down? A Titanic Budget in an Ocean of Icebergs” by Jo Comerford, “59 percent of the budget’s spending is dedicated to mandatory programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Unemployment Insurance, Social Security, and now Pell Grants. 34% is to be spent on ‘discretionary programs,’ including education, transportation, housing, and the military.”

So, isn’t the solution to America’s woes rather obvious? Abolish (don’t reform) all those socialist and interventionist programs, bring all the troops home and discharge them, and dismantle the military-industrial complex. That’s 93 percent of the budget right there. Wouldn’t that constitute a considerable savings in spending, one that would even enable Americans to abolish the federal income tax, a tax that our American ancestors lived without for more than 100 years?

Sure, liberals would go ballistic, just like conservatives would. But what better way to solve the woes of socialism and imperialism the statists have foisted on our country, along with the soaring spending, debt, taxes, and inflation, than to restore America’s heritage of economic liberty and a limited-government, constitutional republic to our land?

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

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Caliphate Position Is Fringe Nonsense
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Yesterday’s New York Times had an interesting news story about a young Pakistani man named Umar Khundi, who was recently killed in a shootout with police. He had been attending medical school but he ended up becoming a militant who participated in terrorist attacks in Pakistan.

The element in American society that claims that terrorism has nothing to do with U.S. foreign policy would undoubtedly point to Kundi’s terrorist activity as proof that Muslims are engaged in a worldwide campaign of violence in the quest to establish a global caliphate, as required, they say, by the Koran.

Yet, when one gives a careful read to the Times’ story, a different, more realistic picture emerges, one that is consistent with what libertarians have been saying for years: that Islamic terrorism, including both the 1993 attacks on the World Trade Center and the 9/11 attacks, is “blowback” or retaliation for U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.

Why did the 29-year-old Kundi abandon medical studies to become a terrorist?

NYT: “Al Qaeda has harnessed their aimless ambition and anger at Pakistan’s alliance with the United States, their generation’s electrifying enemy.”

Now, notice that there’s nothing in that sentence about wanting to establish a worldwide caliphate or that the Koran requires Muslims to embark on a quest to conquer the world. Notice also that the anger is directed toward their own government — a Muslim government — and because of its alliance with the United States.

NYT: “Such jihadi groups had become part of mainstream society in Pakistan in the 1980s, when the United States was financing Islamic radicals fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, and when an American-supported Pakistani general, Muhammad Zia al-Haq, empowered hard-line mullahs and injected Islam into school textbooks.”

Now, that’s an important paragraph because it raises a point that the Caliphate Crowd never addresses and actually just ignores when one brings it up. When it was the Soviet Empire that was occupying Afghanistan, that didn’t sit well with the U.S. Empire. So, the U.S. Empire partnered with Osama bin Laden and other Islamic extremists who were determined to oust the Soviet occupiers from Afghanistan. In fact, that U.S. foreign policy intervention actually sowed the seeds for what ultimately became al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups who many years later were just as determined to end the U.S. Empire’s interventions as they were to end the Soviet Empire’s interventions.

Was the Caliphate Crowd opposing the U.S. Empire’s partnership with bin Laden and other Islamic extremists? Were they saying, “Don’t do this. The Muslims are trying to establish a worldwide caliphate, with the U.S. as their headquarters. The Koran requires them to do this.”?

No, they were either fully supportive of the partnership or remained silent about it. The Caliphate/Koran/Conquest position didn’t arise until the militants began opposing the U.S. Empire’s interventions and retaliating against such interventions with terrorist attacks.

Moreover, re-read the part about the U.S. government’s support of Pakistani President Zia. He took power in a coup. That made him a dictator — a military dictator — one who brutalized his own people and was fully supported by the U.S. Empire.

NYT: “Despite [Kundi’s] zeal for jihad, it was a relatively quiet time in Pakistan. The war against the Soviets was long over, and most of the country’s jihadi groups were drifting. All that changed when the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001, jolting young Pakistani jihadis who saw it as a war against Muslims.”

NYT: “‘That was the beginning,’ said a security official in Karachi. ‘They went from small local targets, to a much bigger global one, the United States.’”

NYT: “When Al Qaeda came to Pakistan, Mr. Kundi did not have to go far to find it. The American invasion had pushed many of its leaders over the border, including Abu Zubaydah, a member of Osama bin Laden’s inner circle. In 2002, he surfaced in Allied Hospital in Faisalabad, where Mr. Kundi was working. He was seeking treatment and preaching against Pakistan’s government for supporting the United States. His audience loved it, Muhammad said.”

The good news is that the Caliphate/Koran/Conquest position remains the fringe position in America. After all, not even the U.S. Empire takes the position that Muslims are engaged in a Koran-mandated holy war of conquest against the world. The Empire’s justifications for its interventions in the Middle East are partly based on its purported love and concern for the well-being of Muslims. The sanctions, invasions, occupations, and embargoes, Empire officials say, are intended to bring “freedom and democracy” to Muslims, or at least those who survive the interventions. Moreover, let’s not forget that the Empire continues to provide millions of dollars in foreign aid to regimes in Muslim countries, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt. Would the Empire be doing that if it bought into the Caliphate/Koran/Conquest position?

The better news is that increasing numbers of Americans are now embracing the libertarian position on foreign policy, one that is fully consistent with the NYT’s story about Umar Khundi and his fellow militants. U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, both before and after 9/11, has produced the anger and hatred for the United States among Muslims, which has manifested itself in the form of terrorist retaliation. As Kundi himself would have said had U.S. foreign policy not diverted him from a medical career to the life of a militant, arriving at a correct prescription for a problem inevitably depends on arriving at a correct diagnosis of it.

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

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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.