Yesterday I had the opportunity to deliver a talk via the Internet on the American police state to the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) chapter at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. I always loving giving talks to YAL members because the audience is always filled with young people who are knowledgeable about libertarianism and Austrian economics and, equally important, filled with a passionate love for liberty.
I thought I would share with you the points I made. Since my talk was extemporaneous, the following won’t be a verbatim transcript of what I said but it will capture the essence of what I imparted to the audience.
We now live in a country in which the president and his military and CIA forces wield the powers:
(1) to grab people anywhere in the world, including Americans, incarcerate them indefinitely in a military/CIA dungeon or concentration camp, and subject them to brutal torture. That’s what the Jose Padilla case confirmed. Padilla is an American citizen who was suspected of terrorism and started out in the federal court system. The president and the military told the federal judiciary that they wanted him, and the federal judiciary deferred to their authority. Padilla spent the next three years in a military dungeon, where he was subjected to brutal torture that damaged his mental capabilities. The federal courts upheld what the national-security establishment did to Padilla. What that means is that the president, the military, and the CIA officially wield the power to do what they did to Padilla to every other American.
(2) to assassinate anyone anywhere in the world, including Americans. We see that power being exercised on a regular basis in countries like Yemen and Pakistan. That such power extends to Americans was definitely confirmed with the assassinations of Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman. Since this is a “global” war on terrorism, the power to assassinate naturally extends to American soil.
(3) to engage in top-secret surveillance of everyone, including the monitoring of emails, telephone calls, and Internet activity. That’s what Edward Snowden’s revelations confirmed.
It’s important to recognize that these powers to kidnap, incarcerate, torture, assassinate, and spy on people are omnipotent. No trial. No due process of law. No notice. No hearing. No lawsuit for wrongful death. No depositions. No judicial review. Simply the raw, unrestrained power to kill, incarcerate, torture, and spy on people with impunity.
We also live in a country where the federal government uses its decades-long drug war to bust into people’s homes in the middle of the night and kill its inhabitants who mistake them for burglars, throw grenades into baby cribs, kill family pets, and terrorize everyone in the home.
Law-enforcement officers are also using the drug war to steal money from people on the highways. Most of the victims are never charged with a crime. The victims are told: If you don’t like it, sue us. But most people don’t sue because they can’t afford it. It’s a pure case of highway robbery. Since the money goes into the coffers of the cops rather than the city, county, or state, the robberies are enabling the cops to gain a large measure of independence from the budgetary process. All too often, they’re using the money to further militarize their police departments.
The drug war is also the legal means by which racially bigoted cops harass African-Americans and Hispanics with arbitrary stops, pat-down searches, frame-ups, and even killings. The drug war is arguably the greatest Jim Crow device since slavery.
In the decades-long war on immigrants, the federals have established highway checkpoints in the American southwest, where people traveling entirely in the domestic United States are required to stop and provide evidence of citizenship. They’re also subject to being fully searched for drugs or other contraband, with no search warrant whatsoever. White Anglos are usually, but certainly not always, waived through with nary a problem. But dark-skinned Hispanics, especially those driving older vehicles, must carry their passports or other official identification with them. Otherwise they are subject to being seized, incarcerated, and deported. If anyone resists answering questions, providing proof of citizenship, or having his vehicle searched, he is subjected to having his window shattered and being pulled out of his vehicle and beaten up.
None of this was what the Framers had in mind when they called the federal government into existence with the Constitution. If our American ancestors had had any indication that that was the type of federal government the Constitution was calling into existence, they never would have approved it.
In fact, the deep concern that our American ancestors had about approving the Constitution was precisely that the federal government might begin doing these types of things — the types of things that the British government was doing in 1775 to British colonists in America — the types of things that the enumerated powers in the Constitution and, equally important, the Bill of Rights, were intended to prohibit.
The fact that not all these powers are being exercised widely against Americans right now is irrelevant. The test of a free society is not whether the rulers of a regime are behaving benevolently. A free society necessarily entails the absence of such powers. After all, once people realize that such powers are able to be exercised when the right crisis comes along, many of them will adjust their behavior accordingly, becoming more docile and deferential to the authorities.
There is no way to reconcile these powers with the principles of a free society. These are powers that are inherent to all totalitarian regimes.
The great success of America’s warfare state has been in inculcating a conviction among the American people that while these omnipotent powers are bad in totalitarian regimes, they are good when part of the American system. They’re there to keep us safe … and free, they say. That’s why at big sporting events so many American are, with tears in their eyes, thank the troops for “their service.” The plight of the American people can be summed up with the words of Johann von Goethe: None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.
The truth is that it’s the troops and the CIA — that is, the entire national-security state apparatus — that has produced the dangers —e.g., terrorism— that are then used as the excuse for the assumption of these totalitarian-like powers. That’s what all those invasions, occupations, partnerships with dictators, foreign aid, foreign intervention, sanctions, and embargoes have done. The U.S. national-security state is the greatest terrorist-producing machine in history.
In principle, it’s no different with the never-ending drug war and war on immigrants. Like the “war on terrorism,” the wars on drugs and immigrants produce a constant environment of chaos and crisis and death and destruction, which is then used as the excuse to destroy the freedom and security of the American people — all in the name of keeping them “safe” from the “dangers” that the U.S. government’s very own policies produce.
That’s where libertarianism enters the picture. We are the solution to all this. What distinguishes us from liberals and conservatives is that while they want to engage in endless interventions and reforms to fix the problems their statism has brought us, we libertarians know that more interventionism and more reform are a fool’s errand. They only make matters worse.
There is but one solution to all this mess: Dismantle the national-security establishment, close all the overseas military bases, bring all the troops home and discharge them, end the foreign interventionism and foreign aid, abolish the CIA and NSA, legalize all drugs, end the war on immigrants, and restore America’s heritage of individual liberty, free markets, and a limited-government republic to our land.
Libertarianism is the only way to get us out of the darkness and into the light of a peaceful, harmonious, prosperous, and free society. It is up to you to lead our nation and the world out of this statist morass and to the highest reaches of freedom that mankind has ever seen.