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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Failure, Failure Everywhere


Those of us living today have been accorded the opportunity to witness the manifest failure of the America’s welfare-warfare state, as evidenced by three of the most important welfare-warfare programs of the federal government: the “war on poverty,” the “war on drugs,” and military empire and foreign interventionism.

The war on poverty was declared by President Lyndon Johnson, a man who became president notwithstanding his crooked stuffing of ballot boxes in South Texas to win his U.S. Senate seat and his crooked bribery schemes that were virtually certain to send him to the penitentiary had President Kennedy not been assassinated.

After 50 years of poverty warfare, what do we hear welfare-statists now saying? They’re saying that it’s more important than ever to keep the war on poverty going.


It seems to me that if someone hasn’t won a war that has lasted for 50 years, then that is fairly persuasive evidence that the war has failed to achieve its purported ends. After all, we are talking about 50 years—i.e., five decades. That’s half-a-century. That’s a long time to defeat poverty.

But the war on poverty didn’t succeed in defeating poverty. Instead, it did the exact opposite. It exacerbated poverty.

How could it be otherwise? The war on poverty was based on two simple-minded notions: (1) Using the federal government to take money from those to whom it belonged and give it to those to whom it did not belong, and (2) Using government regulations, such as minimum-wage laws, to forcibly put more money into the pockets of the poor.

If defeating poverty was that simple, every nation on earth would be a paradise of wealth and prosperity. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how to enact a welfare program or a regulatory law.

As long as there is a big pool of wealth in a society, the early days or even early decades of a welfare state seem like a great big party for welfare statists. Lots of wealth to confiscate and redistribute. Lots of mansions, gold, and businesses to nationalize.

The problem, however, is that inevitably the wealth-producing part of society goes belly-up. Firms go out of business. Ultimately, there is no more pie to confiscate and redistribute. Everyone is equal. Everyone has nothing.

Minimum-wage laws have doomed the poor to permanent unemployment and a life of welfare dependency. Imagine: a chronic, permanent 30-40 percent unemployment rate among black teenagers! The law makes it illegal to hire them at less than the mandated minimum and then sends them onto the welfare rolls for a life of governmental dependency, under the rubric of “care and compassion” for the poor.

Other costly economic regulations protect rich, well-established firms from competition from new companies started by the poor. Licensing laws ensure that the poor can’t break into a large array of occupations that are protected from competition.

What about the war on drugs? Is there anyone at all who claims that that war has been any more successful than the war on poverty? If there is, check what that person is smoking. After 40 years of drug warfare, all we hear is how important it is for the federal government to keep on waging the war on drugs.

But doesn’t the same point about the war on poverty apply here in the war on drugs? If the war on drugs hasn’t been won after 40 years (or longer) of drug warfare, isn’t that fairly persuasive evidence that the war has failed to achieve its purported ends?

Look around you. All you see is gang violence, murders, kidnapping, robberies, thefts, burglaries, exorbitant jail sentences, police and judicial corruption, asset confiscation, racism, bashing down doors, arbitrary searches and seizures, and ruined lives.

For what? For nothing, except, of course, to continue the income streams of those who depend on the drug war itself, such as drug lords, drug-enforcement agents, judges, clerks, police, and those taking bribes.

Foreign interventionism? Al-Qaeda just took control of Fallaja in Iraq, which, along with Afghanistan, is a model hellhole for the world. After all, after more than a decade of U.S. military and CIA invasion and “rebuilding” of Iraq and Afghanistan, would you take your family for a fun vacation to those two countries? Why, not even the members of Congress, the U.S. military, or the CIA would do that. The reason? They’d get killed or kidnapped.

Every American family who lost a loved one in Iraq and Afghanistan has to be asking himself the same question that the families of those 58,000 American men who died in Vietnam asked: What did he die for? Indeed, all the soldiers who have come back maimed or all screwed up in the head are undoubtedly asking themselves the same question.

Here’s the answer. He or she died for nothing. Your loss of your legs or other limbs and your mental instability were for nothing. I’m sure that that’s not a pleasant thing to consider or accept, but it’s the truth.

The Iraq invasion and occupation never had anything to do with WMDs or “defending our rights and freedoms” or “keeping us safe” or ensuring that we could watch the Super Bowl. It was always about ousting a recalcitrant dictator from power (a dictator who had served as a loyal partner, friend, and ally of the U.S. Empire during the 1980s) and installing a friendly pro-U.S. regime in his stead. That’s what U.S. soldiers killed for and died for in Iraq, and even that aim wasn’t achieved given the pro-Iranian sentiment within the Iraqi government.

Afghanistan? You couldn’t find a better example of a perpetual terrorist-producing machine. The more people they kill, the bigger and more perpetual becomes the terrorist threat.

They say that it is necessary to stay in Afghanistan to prevent al-Qaeda from establishing a base of operations there. Oh? But al-Qaeda is in Falluja, which is in Iraq, not Afghanistan. Didn’t it ever occur to them that al-Qaeda didn’t have to stay in Afghanistan but could move around, even making plans in the basement of someone’s home in any country anywhere in the world?

On the one hand, they say that it’s necessary for “national security” for U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan. On the other hand, they say that if Afghan President Hamid Karzai fails to sign off on the deal, all U.S. troops will leave the country. Really? But then what about that grave threat to “national security”? Does that mean that the continued survival of our nation depends on President’s Karzai’s decision? If that’s the case, I’m sure they’ll just double or triple the amount of cash that the CIA brings into his office on a regular basis and he’ll finally agree to sign off on the deal.

Let’s face it: After 12 years of “Operation Enduring Freedom,” Afghanistan is nothing but a hellhole of violence, headed by a crooked, corrupt regime with totalitarian powers. Moreover, it was a military intervention that has been a major factor in producing a constant threat of terrorist retaliation that, in turn, is used to justify a perpetual “war on terrorism.”

Come to think of it, hellhole pretty much describes Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and other parts of that area of the world that U.S. military empire and intervention were supposed to turn into a paradise of peace, prosperity, harmony, and freedom. It didn’t work.

Now is the time for Americans to do some serious soul-searching, especially with respect to the welfare-warfare state apparatus that was grafted onto our governmental system in the 20th century. That apparatus has obviously proven to be a failure and a disaster. Rather than focusing on electing “better” people to run this failed, crooked, and corrupt apparatus, Americans would be better off dismantling it and restoring the principles of free markets and a limited-government constitutional order to our land. Anything less than that will only result in more failure, more death, more destruction, more poverty, and more loss of freedom.


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.