For the last year, the American people have had their fun, what with all those presidential candidates catering to them, being nice to them, offering them goodies, and saying all sorts of nice things about them.
Tomorrow, however, the roles reverse once again. Either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will be in charge. One of them will assume his or her role as America’s newest democratically elected dictator.
The people will reassume their roles as serfs.
That term — democratically elected dictator — undoubtedly shocks lots of Americans. That’s because they have been inculcated with the belief that democracy is freedom. When people are free to elect their president, the notion goes, that shows that they are free.
But nothing could be further from the truth. Freedom is determined by the nature of the power that the government wields over the citizenry, not by the manner in which a ruler becomes a ruler.
For example, let’s assume that a foreign ruler wields omnipotent power over the citizenry of his country. That is, he can do anything he wants to them. He can grab people, jail them, torture them, execute them, or assassinate them. He can take seize their money, property, and other assets whenever he wants.
We would call that a dictatorship, right?
But let’s assume that every four years there is a national election in which the ruler of that country is democratically elected. Let’s also assume that the election is honest and legitimate.
Does that then mean that the newly elected ruler is no longer a dictator? Of course not. He is still wielding those omnipotent powers. He is every much a dictator as the unelected military general who takes power in a coup and who wields the same powers. It’s just that in one case the dictator is elected and in the other he isn’t. But the situation, insofar as the freedom of the citizenry is concerned, is the same.
Like or not, admit it or not, that’s the situation we now have in the United States. Whoever is elected president will wield omnipotent power over the American people. Tomorrow, President Clinton’s or President Trump’s position as master and our position as serfs becomes reality once again.
What are those omnipotent powers that Clinton or Trump will wield over the American people? The power to round people, put them in concentration camps or military dungeons, torture them, execute them (with perhaps a “trial” by a military tribunal), or just assassinate them. Also the power to secretly monitor people’s emails, telephone calls, and activities—to “keep them safe,” of course.
It’s all part of the “war on terrorism,” the “war” that came into existence after the 9/11 attacks, the war where President Bush, with the full support of the conservative movement, assumed “emergency” totalitarian powers.
And it’s all been affirmed by a compliant, submissive federal judiciary, whose primary aim is not to enforce the U.S. Constitution but rather to protect “national security,” the two most important words in the American political lexicon in our lifetime.
Of course, neither Clinton nor Trump will be the ones actually doing the arrests, torture, killing, and surveilling. That’s what the national-security establishment, which came into existence to wage the First Cold War, is for. Make no mistake about it: When either Clinton or Trump issues orders, the troops, the CIA, and the NSA will obey and carry them out, especially when the president tells them that “national security” is at stake.
For its part, the national-security establishment will continue ginning up crises in the Middle East, Ukraine, South China Sea, Korea, and elsewhere. Crises are the coin of the realm. They keep people scared. When people are scared, they are eager to trade their freedom and prosperity for the sake of “safety” and “security.”
Meanwhile, to keep the citizenry docile, submissive, and compliant Trump or Clinton will take whatever steps are necessary — including exorbitant taxation enforced by the IRS, which wields totalitarian powers to collect taxes owed, or rampant money-printing by the Federal Reserve — to ensure that the American people continue receiving their welfare, including Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, farms subsidies, and all the rest. When people are dependent on the federal dole, it is a virtual certainty that they’re not going to make much trouble.
Does all this mean that the cause of freedom is lost and that libertarians should submit to depression, despondency, depression, and defeat, as some libertarians might suggest?
On the contrary, there is no better time than now to redouble our efforts for freedom, especially since we have an excellent opportunity to achieve major breakthroughs for freedom in two big areas: the drug war and foreign interventionism, notwithstanding Trump, Clinton, or the power of the national-security establishment.
Begin with the power of ideas on liberty. Consider the drug war. Thirty years ago, it was only libertarians calling for drug legalization. The establishment was totally against us. Today, people on our side are coming from all walks of life. The drug war is teetering. If we can succeed in pushing it over, it will be a major breakthrough for liberty, peace, and prosperity. Violence in American society in particular will plummet.
Consider foreign interventionism. As Ron Paul points out today, Americans are sick and tired of constant, perpetual warfare, especially in the Middle East. That includes many of the troops and their families, many of whom are recognizing that they are sacrificing for nothing.
Imagine if we can succeed in bringing the troops home from the Middle East and elsewhere. No more anti-American terrorism. No more color codes. No more “war on terrorism.”
How then would Clinton or Trump and the national-security establishment justify their extraordinary dictatorial powers? How would they justify their ever-growing budgets?
How many people who now oppose the drug war and foreign interventionism are libertarians? While all libertarian oppose the drug war and many (but unfortunately not all) oppose foreign interventionism, my hunch is that most people who oppose the drug war and foreign interventionism would not call themselves libertarians.
But why should that matter. What matters is achieving a free society. If that entails people of different ideological bents aligning to eliminate destructive government programs, what’s wrong with that?
The point is this: For libertarians who believe that the way to achieve freedom is through the election of a libertarian president or a libertarian Congress, yes, they have every reason to feel depressed, despondent, defeated, and doomed.
But for those of us who believe the free society can be achieved through the power of libertarian ideas — even if that doesn’t mean that a libertarian president or Congress is ever elected — we have every reason for optimism, especially since we are definitely on the verge of achieving two major breakthroughs for liberty in which many non-libertarians are aligned with us — ending the drug war and ending foreign interventionism.
If we can achieve these two thing — and I’m convinced we are close to achieving both of them — then other libertarian positions will inevitably become topics of debate and discussion — issues relating to economic liberty and free markets vs. socialism and economic interventionism. When people see the peace, prosperity, and harmony that ending the drug war and foreign interventionism have brought our land, they will be more than willing to at least listen to and consider other libertarian positions.
That’s why we need to just keep keeping on — presenting an uncompromising case for liberty on all fronts: the drug war, foreign interventionism, the national-security state, and economic liberty and free markets. Despite the election, we still have a great chance to achieve a free, prosperous, peaceful, and harmonious society.