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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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I Don’t Know What a Leppo Is Either



  1. I’m speaking at Ron Paul’s conference on peace and prosperity tomorrow (Saturday, September 10) at the Marriott Hotel near Washington Dulles airport. The title of my talk is “Republic, Not Empire.” According to the Ron Paul Institute’s website, the conference is sold out.
  2. Next week I’m speaking on the drug war to students at Northwood University in Midland, Michigan.
  3. On September 20-22, I’ll be out in Phoenix to share ideas on liberty with four groups: a long-time libertarian discussion group, the Young Americans for Liberty at Arizona State University, and two economics classes at ASU.

Yesterday morning, as we searching the Internet for libertarian-oriented articles to post in our FFF Daily, a colleague stumped me. He asked me (orally, not in writing), “What would you do about a leppo?”

I didn’t hesitate. I responded, What the heck is a leppo?

And he said, “You don’t know that Aleppo is a city in Syria where people are dying?”

Cute. Not the funniest joke in the world. But cute.

Well, it turns out that I’m not the only one who fell for that word game.

So did Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate for president. In fact, that’s how my colleague got the inspiration to play the trick on me.

Johnson was being interviewed on MSNBC by a group of very serious-looking, grave-faced mainstream journalists, one of whom asked him, “What would you do if elected about a leppo?”

Johnson was as perplexed as I was, and he answered in the same way I did: “And what is a leppo?”

The serious-looking, grave-faced MSNBC journalists were shocked, absolutely shocked, that Johnson didn’t know what a leppo is. The one who asked him the question proceeded to inform him that Aleppo is a city in Syria, which he said is “the epicenter of the refugee crisis.”

Cute. A nice little journalistic trick. But in its own way also quite juvenile and quite idiotic.

In fact, one can easily imagine those serious-looking, grave-faced MSNBC journalists planning this silly ambush. I’ll bet that when they were planning the interview, they were absolutely giggling with delight when one of them very likely suggested, “Let’s ask him what he would do about a leppo, and when he responds by saying that he doesn’t know what a leppo is, we’ll make him look really dumb when we point out that we’re actually referring to Aleppo.”

Johnson handled the matter with courtesy and aplomb: “Okay, I got it” and then he proceeded to explain to those serious-looking, grave-faced MSNBC journalists how the deadly and destructive mess in Syria was a direct consequence of U.S. interventionism, including the concept of regime change, which has been a core element of U.S. foreign policy since the inception of the national-security establishment in the 1940s.

But you see, that’s not what mainstream journalists want to hear. Mired in the paradigm of interventionism, what they want to hear is how candidates are going to make interventionism work. The last thing they want to hear is someone telling them that interventionism itself is the problem and that the solution is for the U.S. government, especially the Pentagon and the CIA, to stop intervening in the affairs of other countries.

That’s the thing to keep in mind about libertarianism. It doesn’t pretend to offer ways to make socialism and interventionism work. It’s an alternative paradigm, one that calls for the dismantling of the socialist and interventionist paradigm and replaces it with a paradigm that is based on economic liberty, private property, and free markets.

That’s why libertarianism is such a threat to the Washington establishment, the two major political parties, liberalism and conservativism, the national-security establishment, and to many in the mainstream press who are wedded to their socialist and interventionist paradigm. What libertarians are telling people is: Their system is a bad one and it needs to be replaced with a good one.

Like mainstream political candidates, many mainstream journalists are unable to think and analyze at that level. They’re easily able to deal with candidates who are mired within the socialist/interventionist paradigm and who are debating and discussing ways to make socialism and interventionism work. But when a libertarian comes along and doesn’t play that game, instead challenging the entire paradigm itself, many mainstream journalists find themselves flummoxed and perplexed.

That’s when they decide resort to cute, gotcha type word games like, “What are you going to do about a leppo if you’re elected president?”

Let me give you another example of this phenomenon. Take a look at this editorial in Wednesday’s Los Angeles Times. It castigates Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for the manner in which he is waging the war on drugs, which entails killing suspected drug-law violators without due process of law and without a trial.

So, what does the Times recommend as a solution? It says that the U.S. government should “push Deterte into compliance with international standards on both human rights and due process” and that it could start by “withholding aid for training and mentoring the Philippine National Police until the killing campaign is investigated.”

Do you see the problem? The people at the Times, like most other mainstream journalists, cannot break out of the statist box, which is why their “solutions” to problems caused by socialism and interventionism inevitably involve reform measures that will never work. They can’t see that their system itself is inherently defective and, therefore, that nothing can ever be done to make it work.

What do libertarians say about what his happening in the Philippines?

First, the United States should lead the world by ending the drug war here at home. It’s an immoral, vicious, deadly, destructive, corrupt interventionist program that is incapable of working. Duterte is simply doing what U.S. officials have been trying to do for decades, with such things as mandatory minimum sentences, asset forfeiture, drug raids, and illegal searches: Like them, he’s trying to “win” the war on drugs.

Second, don’t use foreign aid as a way to get foreign regimes to do the bidding of the U.S. government. Instead, simply discontinue all foreign aid to every regime. It’s just a form of political welfare designed to get foreign dole recipients to obey U.S. orders and commands.

Third, end the war on terrorism, whose assassination program is based on the same principles of denial of due process and trial by jury that Durtere’s war on drugs is based. Again, lead by example.

Fourth, butt out of the Philippines and everywhere else, including a leppo, I mean, Aleppo. It’s time for the U.S. government to simply mind its own business.

But you see, those are the types of things that the mainstream press does not want to hear, consider, or think about because it challenges the legitimacy of their entire paradigm. For that matter, it’s also what the mainstream Washington political establishment doesn’t want the American people to hear, consider, or think about, which is precisely why they will come up with every political trick in the book to keep Gary Johnson from participating in the presidential debates.

Don’t forget, after all, that in the upcoming debates, Trump, Clinton, and the mainstream commentators who will be asking them the questions are all loyal devotees of the decades-long war on drugs and the decades-long policy of foreign interventionism. It’s Gary Johnson (and libertarians) who is challenging both the drug war and foreign interventionism, which is precisely why the powers-that-be will not permit him to be in those debates.

I’ll conclude this piece by asking my readers a question: Do you know what a new is? I know what your answer is: “Jacob, a new what?” And I say, “A gnu! You really don’t know what a gnu is? That’s amazing! Here is a picture of a gnu.”

Funny, uh? Try it out on a five-year-old. It’ll go over really well!

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.