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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 Powerful Government, a Weak Nation

  1. COME TO CHARLESTON! The Ron Paul Institute and The Future of Freedom Foundation are co-hosting a conference on U.S. foreign policy in Charleston, SC, on Sunday, April 29, from 1-5 pm. Speakers: Ron Paul, Dan McAdams, Richard Ebeling, and Jacob Hornberger, with special guest Congressman Mark Sanford. Details here.


The common perception among American conservatives has long been that a powerful government equals a powerful nation. Actually, it’s the exact opposite. The more powerful the government, the weaker the nation. Contrariwise, the weaker the government, the more powerful the nation.

Of course, we see this economically and financially. The bigger, more powerful the government, the higher the federal spending, taxes, and debt, all of which inevitably weaken a nation. Spending, taxes, and debt are what have brought down governments and nations throughout history.

But there is another factor that needs to be taken into account: The more powerful the government, the weaker, the more frightened the citizenry.

Consider the fact that the United States has the most powerful government in history, as manifested mainly by the Pentagon, the military-industrial complex, the CIA, and the NSA. Military installations and bases all across the United States and also around the world. Omnipotent power on the part of the CIA to undertake assassinations, coups, torture, kidnapping, and other crimes. Massive secret surveillance on the part of the NSA, with the power to spy on everyone in the world to protect “national security.”

And then there are Border Patrol agents with the power to conduct warrantless searches. DEA agents with the power to confiscate money from people who are not charged with crimes. TSA agents with the power to search and abuse people at airports. Homeland Security. The EPA. The SEC. And much more.

Like I say, the most powerful government in history.

And yet — and here is the irony — the most frightened, terrified people in the world. After all, who in the world is more frightened and terrified than Americans, many of whom are convinced that someone somewhere is coming to get them, which motivates them to call on their all-powerful federal government to do whatever is necessary to “keep them safe,” even if it means trading their rights and freedoms for the aura of “safety and security.”

But it really isn’t ironic. It’s cause and effect. Big, powerful government inevitably produces a weak, frightened, terrified citizenry.

A good example of this phenomenon occurred this past week among American conservatives, many of whom went into a classic panic attack over reports that a “caravan” of around a thousand Honduran poor people had crossed Mexico’s southern border and walking north.

The conservative Fox News swung into action, telling its viewers about the caravan of illegal immigrants that was headed to the United States. The conservative movement quickly shifted into high-anxiety panic mode, with some referring to the impending “invasion” of America and calling on President Trump to send U.S. troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to defend our country from the approaching army. One notable conservative, Richard Viguerie, even suggested that the President should consider interdicting the army that was headed to the United States. He didn’t explain what he meant by interdiction but he might have meant bombs and missiles.

Now, keep in mind that what we are talking about is a group of poor people from Honduras who are protesting the horrific conditions in their country. Why are things so horrible in Honduras? One big reason is the drug war, which the U.S. government has foisted on countries in Latin America and the rest of the world. Drug gangs are killing innocent people in Honduras, just as they are in Mexico and other parts of Latin America.

So, here are people who are protesting and demonstrating against the horrific conditions in their country, including the possibility of being killed in the U.S.-government-inspired drug war. On top of that are the horrible economic conditions within their country. Like people throughout history, they dream of a better life, especially here in the United States, where they would like to apply for asylum as refugees from the U.S.-government-inspired drug war (which, needless to say, has long been a favorite statist program of conservatives).

It’s worth mentioning that this peaceful demonstration takes place every year and ultimately breaks down in the southern part of Mexico, almost a thousand miles away from the southern border of the United States.

But this time, the annual demonstration threw Americans conservatives into a full-blown panic attack. Viguerie wrote:

What does a normal country do when its border and sovereignty are threatened by a hostile army? It sends troops to defend its border, and in some cases, it may even interdict the hostile army before it can breach the border.

This is the situation the United States finds itself in today as a hostile army, variously estimated at one to two thousand – and growing – is crossing Mexico headed toward the United States – and they are not merely a ragtag mob, they are organized….

And the invading army is well organized. The Daily Mail reports it is divided into groups of 10 to 15 people, with a leader heading each group. Five groups make up a sector.

Think the traditional military organization of squad, platoon and company and you have the idea.

Viguerie wasn’t the only one. The conservative group Americans for Legal Immigration (ALIPAC) sent out a press release stating:

If Trump does not defend America from this illegal alien caravan’s rape of our nation, we will call on American citizens to utilize all of our freedoms in the Bill of Rights to quickly organize and uphold Article 4 of the Constitution. We will call this effort “Operation American Shield.” Either Trump uses the military to repel this invading caravan or we will call on U.S. citizens to do it.”

It’s worth mentioning that when these breathless statements were made, this “invading army” (which, by the way, was unarmed and walking) was in Matias Romero, Mexico, which is located about 800 miles from Brownsville, Texas. The demonstration broke apart down there.

It’s also worth mentioning a report from NBC News:

The caravans are referred to in Spanish as Via Crucis Migrantes, or Migrants’ Way of the Cross. They are fashioned after the Stations of the Cross processions celebrated by Latin American and Latino Catholics to mark and “re-enact” the final days of Jesus from prosecution to his burial in a tomb.

Of course, this isn’t the only example of conservatives being convinced that foreigners are coming to get them and calling on the federal government to do whatever is necessary to keep them safe.

Remember the deep fear after the 9/11 attacks, when conservatives were convinced that the terrorists were coming to get them and cart them away, which motivated them to unconditionally support the U.S. invasion and war of aggression on Iraq, military tribunals, torture, rendition, denial of due process, secretive surveillance, Gitmo, and assassination.

Later, that fear morphed into the Muslims, who, it was believed, were coming to make the U.S. part of a worldwide caliphate and force everyone to study Islam.

And then there was the fear that ISIS was coming to get us and behead us.

And don’t forget the Cold War, when conservatives were convinced that the communists were coming to get us and run our socialist programs, including public schooling, Social Security, Medicare, the Federal Reserve, and the Interstate Highway System. Coming to mind are the Reds in Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba, none of which ever attacked the United States.

And then there was the fear of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who, conservatives maintained, was coming to get us with WMDs and mushroom clouds.

There are two important things to note about all this. First, the fear, although irrational, is genuine. Second, in their fear, many conservatives are all too willing to surrender our rights and liberties to the federal government to “keep us safe” from what they fear.

It’s what big, powerful government does to people. It makes them little, weak, frightened, and terrified, which in turn causes them to call for even more powerful, more oppressive government.




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.