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The Washington Post Condemns the Libertarian Dance Protestors


Last week the Washington Post published an editorial condemning libertarians for violating a rule against dancing at the Jefferson Memorial. The Post said that the violation of the rule really didn’t constitute real civil disobedience because it didn’t involve a protest in support of some grand and glorious cause.

Permit me to explain to the Post what else might be going on here.

It isn’t so much that libertarians care about some ridiculous rule against dancing at government-owned memorials but rather that libertarians are sick and tired of the entire regulated-society, welfare-state, and warfare-empire way of life that statists have foisted upon our land.

That way of life necessarily entails hundreds of thousands of stupid rules and regulations that interfere with people’s peaceful pursuits, as well as the massive confiscation of people’s hard-earned money to redistribute to others, including Middle East dictators, and to support an overseas military empire that kills and maims people, including children, on a regular basis in unconstitutional (i.e., undeclared) wars in faraway lands.

But we all know what happens if libertarians engage in civil disobedience against the things that go the heart of the welfare-warfare state. The federal government, with the full support of the mainstream statist press, will come down hard on the protestors with the same vicious spirit that guides the U.S. government’s Middle East dictatorial partners.

Consider drug laws, quite possibly the most inane, immoral, failed, and destructive government program in history, even more so than Prohibition against booze.

What would happen if libertarians protested the drug war by appearing on the National Mall and smoking dope or snorting cocaine? Would not the D.C. cops go ballistic? Of course they would. They would swoop in against those peaceful protestors with batons and tasers and haul them away to the hoosegow. And then to teach the drug-war protestors a lesson, D.C.’s federal judges would throw the book at them with maximum sentences and fines.

Never mind that drug users would not be initiating violence against anyone and that, at most, they would be hurting only themselves with drug consumption. The statists would respond that the state owns people as much as it owns its memorials and thus can punish them all it wants for engaging in purely self-destructive behavior.

Better yet, what would happen to libertarians who protested D.C.’s tyrannical gun-control laws, which rival those in Syria, Egypt, and other Middle East dictatorships, by openly carrying firearms to defend themselves inside the murder capital of the world? We all know what would happen. The D.C. cops and the federal cops would arrest them immediately, perhaps even turn them over to the military as suspected terrorists, where they could be incarcerated forever without trial and waterboarded 150 times or so. In those cases where the president and the military permitted the federal courts to handle the prosecution, there is no doubt that the protestors would be facing several years in a federal penitentiary, again to teach them a lesson.

Consider such socialist programs as Social Security and Medicare, both of which are bankrupting our nation and inculcating in people a mindset of hopeless dependency on the federal government. Suppose young libertarians send a protest letter to the feds on April 15 stating that they are hereby renouncing all claims to these two welfare-state programs when they reach retirement age and, in return, are no longer going to be paying the taxes that fund them.

What would happen to those protestors? Scared to the death at the prospect that their beloved welfare state would have diminished funding, the feds would quickly convene a grand jury, secure criminal indictments, and prosecute the protestors for felony refusal to pay their just share of federal taxes. “You don’t have a choice with respect to your retirement and healthcare,” they would be told. “This is a free country and you’re free to do what we tell you to do. You’re part of the Social Security and Medicare system, like or not.” At the same time, the feds would be seizing their property in civil proceedings, with garnishments, levies, attachments, and foreclosures.

What would happen if libertarians were to protest the unconstitutional wars in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, and who knows where else by refusing to pay their federal income taxes? Again, the feds would go on the attack, viciously. The IRS would claim that the protestors owe 10 times more than they really do and start seizing assets without any judicial review whatsoever. Federal prosecutors would secure criminal indictments and convictions. U.S. Marshalls, and if necessary, the FBI and the ATF, and possibly with the assistance of the military, would enforce judicial orders. Just ask the survivors of Waco and Ruby Ridge.

Most everyone acknowledges that America’s many wars are being waged without the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war. While statists seem overly concerned about enforcing the rule against dancing at the Jefferson Memorial, isn’t it a shame that all too many of them don’t have the same level of concern for violations of constitutional rules — that is, the rules that we the people have imposed on government officials. In the mind of the statist, the Constitution’s declaration-of-war rule imposed on the president is picayune compared to the gravity of the federal government’s no-dancing rule imposed on the people.

The price of protesting against core features of the welfare-warfare, regulated-society way of life is obviously very high, which is why libertarians might be reluctant to engage in civil disobedience by violating them. But protesting against a stupid rule against dancing helps to let off steam without risk of severe punishment, and it puts statists in the ridiculous position of calling for harsh enforcement of one of its stupid rules. Of course, if the feds were to make dancing a felony offense carrying a mandatory-minimum sentence of 10 years, libertarians might well find some other stupid rule to protest.

By the way, when the dancers returned to the Jefferson Memorial to protest the arrests for illegal dancing that had been made a few days before, this time the feds left them alone. That’s a victory for common sense, a rarity in D.C.

As a aside, wouldn’t it be nice if the mainstream media was as vigorous about going after federal officials for plunging our nation into bankruptcy, moral debauchery, and a loss of liberty, while wreaking death and destruction overseas with lies and deception and violations of the Constitution, as it is investigating sex lies and exclaiming against violations of a stupid rule against dancing?

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.