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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Is Life So Dear?


There really isn’t anything shameful about being a serf. What is shameful is the willingness to accept one’s serfdom for the sake of being kept safe and secure.

That’s the trade that unfortunately all too many Americans have made, with respect to both the warfare state and the welfare state.

On the warfare state side of things, people are willing to let the government wield totalitarian powers, which, needless to say, infringe on freedom. They’re willing to let the government have the power to spy on them, keep track of their telephone calls, listen to and record their telephone conversations, read and copy their emails, sneak and peek into their homes, delve into theikr personal financial affairs, incarcerate them in military installations, torture them, assassinate them, and do many of the other things that totalitarian regimes do.

Why are they willing to sacrifice their freedom for democratic totalitarianism?

“I just want to be kept safe, Jacob. That’s what matters to me. If the government can keep the terrorists, communists, drug dealers, illegal aliens, and other scary people from coming to get me, I don’t care what they do. For all I care, they can install video cameras in my home if it makes me more safe and secure.”

It’s no different with respect to the welfare state. All too many people are willing to let the government wield the omnipotent power to seize their income and wealth in order to give it to the poor, the needy, the destitute, Wall Street firms, middle class farmers, giant corporations, brutal dictators, large campaign donors, and anyone who has political clout.

They’re also willing to let the government punish them, through a felony conviction, incarceration, and fine, for ingesting drugs that the government doesn’t approve of.

They’re willing to let the government punish them, both civilly and criminally, for engaging in economic trade with Cubans, North Koreans, Iranians, and others on the federal black list.

They’re willing to let the government control the most minute aspects of their economic and monetary affairs.

And why are they willing to let the government wield these omnipotent powers, which, needless to say, infringe on economic freedom?

“I just want the government to take care of me and everyone else, Jacob. I don’t want the responsibility to decide what I should do with my own money. I wouldn’t donate to the poor and the needy, the Wall Street firms, the big corporations, the middle-class farmers, and the foreign dictators, and neither would anyone else. We need the government to ensure that we are good, caring, and compassionate. Otherwise, people would be dying in the streets. We also need the government to punish us for ingesting harmful substances. Otherwise, everyone would be a drug addict. And without minimum-wage laws and other economic regulations, life would be filled with rapacious and greedy businesspeople who would grow wealthy while driving everyone else into destitution.”

Here’s how libertarians feel about all that.

We don’t want to sacrifice even one iota of freedom, not for any reason whatsoever and especially not so that the government can watch over us, take care of us, and protect us from all those scary creatures that inhabit the earth.

We believe that people in a genuinely free society and free-market system can be relied upon to produce an ever-increasing standard of living for everyone and to contribute ever-increasing amounts of donations to worthy causes. But we understand that there are no guarantees. We’re willing to take that chance. For us, freedom is what matters. That’s why we favor a total dismantling of the welfare-state, regulatory economy way of life and an end to the evil, immoral, and destructive drug war.

We also believe that many of the threats that the government supposedly protects us against, such as anti-U.S. terrorism, are produced by the imperialistic and militarist overseas policies and programs of the military and the CIA. That’s one reason we stand with the Founding Fathers in their antipathy toward standing armies and agencies like the CIA and NSA. They are antithetical to a free society and should be dismantled, not reformed.

But even given the terrorist threat (or the threat of communism, drug lords, illegal aliens, etc.), we libertarians are willing to take our chances. We don’t want to give up one single bit of our freedom, even if by doing so the government is able to keep us safe and secure (from the threats that its very own policies produce).

Moreover, as our American ancestors understood so well, the greatest threat to people’s freedom and well-being lies not with communists, terrorists, drug dealers, or illegal aliens. Instead, it lies with one’s very own government. That’s why there is a Constitution and a Bill of Rights — to protect us from the federal government. History has shown that those societies in which people surrender their freedom for the sake of security end up losing both of them. People who trade their freedom for the siren’s song of safety and security ultimately learn that they have done nothing more than put the fox in charge of watching over the chickens and keeping them safe.

“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains or slavery?” Patrick Henry asked? “Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take but as for me; give me liberty or give me death!”


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.