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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Let’s Do Some Separating


The standard approach toward the never-ceasing crises that arise from socialistic and interventionist programs is “reform.” The idea is that such programs are a given — that is, that Americans should just consider them a permanent part of American life (under the false guise of “freedom and free enterprise”) and devote their efforts to refining, improving, and modifying them with “reforms.”

One problem with that approach, however, is that the reforms inevitably make matters worse, producing new crises which then produce calls for new reforms.

That’s what comes when you have an inherently defective system. All efforts to fix it just make the situation worse.

Another problem — a much bigger one in my opinion — is the fundamental immorality of socialistic and interventionist programs. For one, socialistic programs involve the forcible taking of money from people to whom it belongs and giving it to people to whom it does not belong. Proponents call that “compassion.” I call it stealing.  For another, interventionist programs involve punishing people for engaging in purely peaceful, voluntary behavior, which cannot be reconciled with fundamental principles of individual liberty.

So, if reform isn’t the answer, what is? I say: separation is the answer.

Consider the following four major areas of our lives: economy, education, charity, and healthcare.

What we should do is separate those four areas of activity from the state, as our ancestors did with respect to religious activity.

We don’t have state churches or mandatory-attendance laws that require children to attend church. We don’t fund churches with taxation. We don’t have regulations, regulators, and regulatory bureaucracies for churches.

That’s because our ancestors bequeathed to us a system based on the separation of church and state. It’s a system that is based on the following principle: No law shall be enacted respecting the establishment or regulation of religious activity or abridging the free exercise thereof.

Are there problems within the churches? Of course there are. But unless there is a criminal offense involved, the state butts out. That’s the way we want it.

So, how would that translate over to those other areas of our lives? I propose the following three amendments to the Constitution:

1. No law shall be enacted respecting the regulation of economic activity or abridging the free exercise thereof.

2. No law shall be enacted respecting the establishment or regulation of educational activity or abridging the free exercise thereof.

3. No law shall be enacted that provides for or regulates retirement, housing, healthcare, food, subsidies, grants, foreign aid, or any other form of welfare or abridging the free exercise of private charity.

Would there be problems that arise in these private-sector activities? Of course there would be, just as there are in the realm of religious activity. But those would be left for the private sector to work out, just as they are in the religious sector. And there would be no more thousands of regulators, departments, and agencies, and endless reform proposals, just as there aren’t in the area of religious activity.

Could the American people secure the enactment of these three amendments? Why not? If our ancestors could secure the enactment of a constitutional amendment separating religious activities from the state, why can’t Americans living today secure constitutional amendments separating economic, educational, charitable, and healthcare activities from the state?

It would be the greatest gift that Americans living today could ever give to both themselves and their posterity, at least as great as the gift of religious liberty that our ancestors gave to us.

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.