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Statism and the Washington Post


Washington Post editorial about Cuba yesterday depicts perfectly the mindset of statism that afflicts the mainstream media.

The editorial commented about the horrific economic conditions in Cuba, which has caused Cuban leaders to launch what the Post called “half measures.” Such half measures include the laying off of 500,000 Cuban government workers, in a society in which the government employs about 95 percent of the work force.

The Post defended the Obama administration’s decision to ease some of the travel restrictions to Cuba but also its decision to continue the U.S. government’s decades-old embargo, which has brought untold misery and suffering to the Cuban people.

The Post said that such a half measure is the best response to Cuba’s half measure. “Fundamental” changes by the U.S. government should await fundamental changes by Cuban authorities, the Post said.

The Post stated: “When average Cubans are already allowed the right to free speech and free assembly, along with the right to cut hair and trim palm trees, it will be time for American tourists and business executives to return to the island.”

The operative statist word is “allowed.”

Freedom for statists is when the government allows people to exercise their rights, including freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and the right to freely engage in occupations and economic activity.

In fact, notice the significance of what the Post is saying: The U.S. government is correct not to allow Americans to exercise their right to travel and trade and spend their own money the way they want. Allowing them to do such things in the future will depend on whether the Cuban government allows the Cuban people to exercise their rights.

In other words, under statism “freedom” for Americans is dependent on “freedom” in Cuba.

When the Post says that such activities as cutting hair and trimming palm trees should be allowed, it’s referring to occupational licensure, the process by which the state allows people to engage in occupations and professions.

Here in the United States, thanks to the statists, people must secure a license from the government in order to cut people’s hair or to trim their trees. In other words, they may do these things only if the government allows them to do so. See here and here.

This is the statist concept of freedom — when the government allows the citizenry to exercise fundamental rights. Presumably, the Post will be also happy when the Cuban authorities issues licenses to newspapers and groups who wish to peaceably assemble.

Contrast statism with libertarianism. Libertarians, unlike statists, hold that man has been endowed by nature and God with fundamental, inherent rights that exist independently of government. Since such rights do not come from government, people don’t need to get governmental permission to exercise them.

What are such rights? Not only the right to publish or read whatever you want or to peaceably assemble with others, but also the right to sustain your life through labor, to engage in economic activity, to engage in any occupation or trade, to trade with others, to accumulate the fruits of your earnings, to travel wherever you want, and to do what you want with your own money. And all without governmental permission.

The U.S. government’s control over the American people’s ability to freely travel to Cuba and spend money is no different, in principle, from the Cuban government’s control over the economic activities of the Cuban people.

Statists see nothing wrong with that. Libertarians abhor it.

While the Post pooh-poohs the layoff of 5 percent of the Cuban government’s labor force as a “half measure,” who doubts that the newspaper would go ballistic if anyone were to propose the same for the U.S. government or were to propose a dismantling of such socialist and interventionist programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schooling, welfare, or the drug war, all of which are as sacred to Cuban statists as they are to American statists.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.