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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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A Strong Government Equals a Weak Nation


Among the worst adverse consequences of everyone’s having been born and raised in a welfare-warfare state is that people grow up honestly believing that the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA, along with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, are essential to their freedom, security, and economic well-being. Unfortunately, that mindset stays with many of them until their dying days.

President Trump has just proposed an increase of 10 percent in military spending. Many Americans, especially conservatives, celebrate Trump’s proposal while the most liberals/progressives are doing is opposing the increase. That’s because both conservatives and liberals honestly are convinced that an all-powerful military equates to a strong and powerful nation.

But the truth is that it’s actually the exact opposite. A big and powerful goverment equates to a weak and insecure nation.

We see this phenomenon especially here in the United States, which has an enormously strong government and a very weak, frightened, and dependent people — people who, out of fear, have proven eager and willing to sacrifice whatever freedoms they have left for the sake of being kept safe from the terrorists, the Muslims, the drug dealers, the  communists, and the illegal aliens.

Think back to World War II. It is often pointed out that the United States, regrettably it is said, was unprepared for war. But then ask yourself: Once the United States got into the war, whose military was the most powerful and the most dominant? The reason for that was because the United States wasn’t prepared for war when the war came.

The reason for this counter-intuitive phenomenon is that when government is weak, the private sector is strong. In the 1940s, the welfare state had still not become an extremely strong force in American life. Remember: the conversion of the United States to a welfare state originated with Social Security in the 1930s. By the 1940s, it still wasn’t an enormous social welfare program that was sucking untold amounts of money out of the working class. And Americans were still not saddled with Medicare and Medicaid and most of the rest of the modern-day welfare state.

By the same token, although the federal income tax and Federal Reserve had come into existence in 1913, neither of them had yet become the enormous confiscators of income and wealth that they are today.

Thus, when WWII began, Americans still had an enormously strong private sector, one that had been built on more than a century of sound money (i.e., a gold-silver coin standard) and no income taxation. Once the war began, that enormously strong private sector was able to be converted to wartime use.

Now, think about the opposite: Suppose the United States had prepared for another world war at the end of World War I. The next 20 years would have been characterized by an enormous military establishment that would have sucked trillions of dollars out of the private sector, which would have meant a much weaker private sector when the war finally came.

There is also the welfare-state factor to consider within the context of America’s warfare state.

Notice that there are no massive demonstrations or protests against the ongoing, never-ending U.S. wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan. This is rather shocking, especially given that most of the protestors against the Vietnam War are still alive today. If it hadn’t been for the Vietnam protestors, U.S. forces would probably still be fighting and dying in Vietnam today in yet another ongoing, forever war.

Yet, today most of those 1960s protestors are silent or even supportive of these never-ending wars, as are their children.

What gives? Why have all those protestors become like their parents — weak, passive, submissive, and blindly loyal supporters of the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA, their never-ending wars, their ever-growing budgets, and their ever-increasing infringements on people’s freedom and privacy?

My hunch is that they’re scared. They have now become Social Security recipients. They are on the dole. They have become dependent on the federal government. Their retirement lifestyles depend in part on that Social Security check. I think those seniors, who bravely took on the military-industrial complex 50 years ago when they were teenagers or in their early 20s, are now scared to death of antagonizing the government for fear that the government will take away their dole.

This is where the welfare state and the warfare state form a disastrous combination against liberty and economic well-being. The welfare state keeps people dulled and dependent, much like heroin addicts, so that the warfare state can continue to wreak havoc around the world and thereby justify its ever-increasing power and budgets.

There is also the regulated economy and the surveillance state that we should consider in analyzing the submissiveness and passivity of the American people.

While the NSA is chagrined over the disclosure of its mass surveillance of the American people, the disclosure actually solidified the national-security state’s power over the American people. Notice that not one single major CEO is taking a strong public stance against the national-security establishment’s forever wars? Is it reasonable to think that all these CEOs really favor these forever wars? Surely some of them are astute enough to recognize that forever wars cannot be good for business, especially given the ever-growing taxation and inflation used to fund them.

So, what explains their silence?

They know that if they come out publicly against the warfare state, they’ll be hit with regulatory violations (e.g., insider trading laws). Income-tax audits, and possibly the disclosure of highly personal parts of their lives (e.g., an adulterous affair) that the NSA might have “inadvertently” discovered through is mass surveillance schemes to “keep us safe.” My hunch is that America’s CEOs have decided that discretion is the better part of valor.

Today, there is no possibility that the United States could be invaded by any other nation state. Not Russia. Not China. Not Vietnam. Not Iran. Not Cuba. Not North Korea. No nation has the remotest military capability or even the interest of crossing the oceans and invading the United States.

That means that the American people don’t need a warfare state. They don’t need a big standing army, a military-industrial complex, a CIA, and a NSA. They don’t need to have the totalitarian government structure known as a national-security state. It’s all a waste of money and a tremendous infringement on the lives, liberties, and privacy of the American people.

The challenge, of course, is: How do we restore a constitutional republic to our land, which was the type of government the Framers bequeathed to America with the Constitution, when the federal government is so strong and the people are so weak, passive, submissive, and dependent on the dole?

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.