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Replacing the Welfare-Warfare State with a Free Society


The following is a non-verbatim rendition of a talk entitled “Replacing the Welfare-Warfare State with a Free Society” that FFF president Jacob Hornberger delivered to the Fairfax County, Virginia, Young Republicans on June 19, 2013:

Thank you. It’s very nice to be here to share ideas on liberty with the Fairfax County Young Republicans.

Everywhere you look, there is a crisis.

Social Security. There isn’t a fund, there never has been a fund, and there never will be a fund. The system is busted, bankrupt.

Medicare and Medicaid. Healthcare costs continue to soar. Doctors are retiring early in disgust over the medical system. This program is busted too.

The war on immigrants. A perpetual series of crises. In fact, I thought they told us that that long, expensive Berlin Fence that they were constructing on the U.S.-Mexico border was going to finally bring an end to never-ending immigration crises. Yet, here we are, in the midst of another big crisis.

The war on drugs. Decades of warfare and all we have are the same mantras and the same death, destruction, and ruination of lives. You’re too young to realize that the mantras you’re hearing today are the same ones that they were using when I was your age. When I went back to my hometown of Laredo, Texas, to practice law, the very first case I handled was a criminal case in federal court involving drugs. The DEA agents and the prosecutors were saying the same things that theirs successors are saying today. It’s just one great big federal machine that continues grinding on despite its manifest failure, death, and destruction. How many dead people are there in Mexico now? 60,000 in the last 6 years alone. That’s due to the drug war, not drugs.

There’s also the terrorist crisis. And the crises in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. Torture, assassination, and now the NSA crisis, arising out of the government’s attempt to keep us safe –safe from the very threats that the government itself produces with its foreign policy.

And let’s not forget the dollar crisis, one in which the Federal Reserve has debased the value of our currency over a period of several decades.

Out of control federal spending. That’s a crisis most everyone is aware of.

And there’s the debt-ceiling crisis which pops up every few years. The ceiling tells us that too much government debt is a bad thing. Yet, they keep raising the limit and adding to the debt. Their attitude is: Why worry? Just pass it on the young generation. That’s you they’re talking about.

We’re told that all these crises are a normal and essential part of living in America, of living in a free society.

But they’re not normal. They are aberrant and bizarre. And they have absolutely nothing to do with a free society.

The question naturally arises: Why do we have all these ongoing crises?

The answer is simple: We live under a governmental system that is rotten to the core. Notice that I didn’t say that the people working within the system are rotten. I said that the system itself is rotten.

Consider the role of the federal government in our domestic lives. Its primary role is to take money away from those to whom it belongs and give it to people to whom it does not belong. That’s what such welfare-state programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, farms subsidies, education grants, food stamps, public housing, and aid to foreign dictators are all about—taking money from those to whom it belongs to give it to those to whom it does not belong.

If I were to do that on a private basis, everyone would recognize the fundamental immorality of my conduct. Suppose I rob everyone in this room and use all of the money to help the poor to get healthcare and an education. Would I be considered a good, compassionate person? On the contrary, I’d be considered a thief. If I pointed out how I had used the money to help the poor, your response would be: “Tell it to the judge at sentencing. You had no right, morally or legally, to take our money and be good with it. You should have used your own money. Or you could have asked us for a donation, a request that we would have the right to decline.”

Yet, as soon as the federal government enters the pictures, people’s attitudes change. That’s because they have come to view the federal government as an idol, one that can magically convert an immoral act into a moral act. The entire welfare state is based on forcibly taking money from those to whom it belongs and giving it to people whom the government feels deserve it more.

And it’s all considered to be moral, compassionate, and caring. In fact, Republicans call themselves “compassionate conservatives” for their support of the welfare state. Like liberals, they think that the welfare state reflects what a good, caring, and compassionate society in which we live.

Who are the saints in a welfare state? The IRS agents that terrorize people into paying their taxes? The bureaucrats who distribute the money? The members of Congress who enact the programs? The president, who signs the welfare-state bills into law? The taxpayers? The voters? The citizens?

The answer is: None of the above. Caring and compassion is antithetical to force, and it’s force that drives the welfare-state and the taxes that fund it. When people are forced to care for others, care and compassion disappear from the scene. The only genuine meaning of care and compassion is when it comes from the voluntary, willing heart of the individual, not when it comes through the force of government.

That’s why Americans are besieged with perpetual crises. They have embraced a system that is antithetical to basic principles of morality and fundamental religious principles. Moreover, they have abandoned the founding principles of America, a country that once rejected such socialist and interventionist programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, farm subsidies, education grants, aid to dictatorships, immigration controls, drug laws, and economic regulations.

In fact, the term “free enterprise” meant something entirely different to our American ancestors than it does to modern-day Americans. Today’s Americans think that “free enterprise” means enterprise that is regulated by the government. Our ancestors understood that the term meant “enterprise that is free of government regulation, control, or taxation.”

When you’ve embraced a rotten governmental system, you’re going to reap what you sow. God has created a consistent universe, one in which a bad tree is going to bear bad fruit.

And it doesn’t matter one iota how convinced Americans are that all this is “freedom and free enterprise.” In fact, one of my favorite parts of going to watch the Washington Nationals is what happens in the third inning or so. Most everyone stands and, with a tear in his eye, reverently sings, “Thank God I’m an American because at least I know I’m free” as they praise the troops for “protecting our freedom” by killing people thousands of miles away from American shores.

It’s what might be called the “life of the lie” or “the life of delusion.” The plight of the American people is best summed up in the words of the German thinker Johann Goethe, who said, “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”

How can people honestly be considered free when the government has the power to take whatever amount of their income it wants and give it to others? With the income tax, people’s income has effectively been nationalized. The government decides how much people are going to be permitted to keep. It’s no different from an allowance that a parent gives a child.

Or consider drug laws, perhaps the clearest manifestation of the serf-like existence of the American people. We can all understand why a murderer, robber, or rapist should be punished by the state. But imagine a person quietly sitting in the privacy of his own home drinking booze, smoking cigarettes, smoking dope, snorting cocaine, and injecting heroin. The government wields the authority to bust his door down and punish him for engaging in purely self-destructive behavior. The notion is that he belongs to society. He belongs to the collective. He exists to serve the greater good. He must be fixed so that he can be made to be a healthy and productive member of society.

It would be difficult to find a clearer violation of the principles of freedom than that. Freedom doesn’t entail the right to do the correct or responsible thing. It entails the right to do the incorrect or irresponsible thing, so long as it doesn’t involve the initiation of force against someone else. When a person can be jailed and punished by the state for engaging in self-destructive behavior, there is no rational way that that can be considered a free society.

And believing that one is free, when it just isn’t so, doesn’t change reality. It just engenders psychosis. In fact, my hunch is that one of the big reasons why there is such a big drug problem in America is precisely because people honestly believe that they live in a free society. It is so despairing to them that a “free” society entails a bizarre life of perpetual crises that they turn to drugs to escape it.

The warfare state, of course, is no different. We live under a governmental system in which the president, the military, the CIA, and the NSA now wield powers that the greatest dictators in history have wielded. The powers to assassinate people, to indefinitely detain people without due process or trial by jury, to kidnap and rendition people, to torture people, to subject people to LSD experiments, to invade and occupy foreign countries, to support coups in foreign lands, to install, train, maintain, and support brutal dictatorial regimes, to spy on and monitor the activities of people everywhere. In other words, the dark type of things that Americans used to complain that communist or totalitarian regimes were engaged in. It’s all become a normal part of American life.

Oh, and it’s all considered “freedom” too. “Thank God I’m an American because at least I know I’m free.” Praise the troops for defending our “freedom.”

Never mind that it’s the national- security state itself engenders the threats that they then use as the excuse to “temporarily” deprive us our rights and freedom. They go abroad with their foreign military bases, sanctions, embargoes, invasions, occupations, assassinations, regime-change operations, kidnappings, and support of brutal dictatorial pro-U.S. regimes. Then, when victims retaliate with terrorist strikes, U.S. officials cry, “We’ve been attacked because foreigners love our foreign policy but hate us for our freedom and values.” We now have to have ‘temporary’ emergency powers to ‘keep you safe.'”

It’s one of the oldest rackets in history. Produce the threat and then convince people to surrender their rights and freedoms, “temporarily” of course, all the while convincing them of how tyranny constitutes freedom when it comes at the hands of their own government that loves them, takes care of them with welfare, and keeps them “safe” from the dangers it produces, all the while convincing people that the Founding Fathers and the Framers were wrong to suggest that the federal government constitutes the biggest threat to the freedom and well-being of the American people.

So, what can be done about all this?

One option is to accept and embrace the welfare-state way of life. Just acknowledge that this is the system that you have been born and raised in and that it is here to stay, as a permanent part of American life. Dream about when you get to be 65 when you can say to yourself, “Finally I get the chance to plunder and loot people in their 20s, just like people in their 60s were doing to me when Jacob Hornberger gave that talk to the Fairfax County Young Republicans some 35 years ago.”

You can spend your life, your energy, and your money trying to fix or reform the system. But I think that after 20 or 30 years going down that road, you are going to discover that you have wasted a large part of your life and your money. A rotten system cannot be fixed or reformed. In fact, any reforms inevitably produce new and bigger crises, which then necessitate bigger, more expensive and more intrusive reforms, as we have seen with Social Security, healthcare, immigration, drug laws, and the rest of the welfare-regulatory state.

But if you decide to go down the reform route, at least don’t call it “freedom” or “free market approaches,” as we often hear proponents of things like school vouchers, Medical IRAs, or Social Security reform plans refer to their proposals.

Think about it like this: Imagine that you were living in 1850 Virginia. I come to you and say, “Slavery is a rotten system.” You agree and devote your life to getting a 5-day work week for the slaves, 50-hour work days, and families get to stay together. I say to you: You’re doing fine work improving the life of the slaves. But please don’t say to me or teach your children that the slaves are now free and living in a free society or that your reforms constitute a “free-market approach” to slavery. What you have done is improve the plight of the slaves, but that is not freedom.

The same applies to efforts to reform the welfare-warfare state. It might, or might not, improve the lives of the American people. But it is not freedom.

Genuine freedom entails a dismantling — repeal — of the welfare state and the warfare state, including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and the entire national-security state apparatus that was grafted onto our constitutional order without even the semblance of a constitutional amendment. Socialist and interventionist programs as well as an enormous standing army, a vast military-industrial complex, the CIA, and the NSA are antithetical to a genuinely free society.

So, you have another choice — to lead America and the world out of the statist muck in which our country and the world is stuck. I’m challenging you to rise to the occasion — to join the ranks of people who brought us Magna Carta, the Petition of Right, the Declaration of Independence, habeas corpus, the Bill of Rights, religious liberty, and economic liberty.

People tell you that you are the key to future. I say: You are a key to the present.

No generation can bind you into accepting their particular economic or political system. The older generations have chosen socialism, interventionism, militarism, and imperialism.

That doesn’t have to be your choice. You can choose individual liberty, free markets, and a constitutionally limited republic. You can change the system and bring an end to the never-ending crises. You can restore freedom, harmony, prosperity, and normality to the lives of the American people, including your own.

The country and the world are crying out for leadership. The choice is yours.




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.