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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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Which Is It for You: Liberty or “Security”?


Liberty is a scary thing. There is no doubt about it.

Just think about what could happen if drugs were legalized today. That would mean that every single person in the United States could go on heroin and cocaine tomorrow. Surgeons, commercial airline pilots, schoolteachers, and bus and train operators. You can’t deny it: All of them could be toked up first thing tomorrow morning.

You see what I mean? Freedom really is scary. In fact, maybe we libertarians ought to take the approach that conservatives take: to wait until we are absolutely certain that Americans are able to handle freedom before we permit them to be free.

Consider Social Security and Medicare, the two socialist programs that are the crown jewels of America’s welfare state way of life. If they were abolished today, you cannot deny that that could  mean that millions of people would be dying in the streets tomorrow from starvation or illness. In fact, liberals (i.e., socialists, progressives, leftists) say that that is precisely what would happen if these two programs were repealed today.

Maybe that’s why conservatives embrace these two socialist programs as much as liberals do. Indeed, maybe that’s why so many libertarians, whose philosophy stands in stark opposition to socialism, are scared to death to call for the immediate repeal of these two socialist programs.

Immigration? If we were to abolish America’s system of immigration controls, whose central planning mechanism is another variation of the socialist concept, the whole world could suddenly decide to move to the United States. Yikes!

In fact, if you really want to get scared, think about the possibility that every single American could suddenly decide to move to New York City, which already seems to be pretty crowded. You can’t deny that that scary scenario is a possibility. Maybe we should play it safe and enact a law that enables President Trump to control the number of Americans who can move into the Big Apple. Just in case. Better to be safe than sorry, right?

What every American, and especially every libertarian, has to decide at this point in his life is: Do you want to be free or not?

In order to answer that question, a preliminary question has to be asked: Does a free society entail living under socialist programs?

Every libertarian knows the answer to that second question. There is no way to reconcile the genuine principles of freedom with socialism. It’s either one or the other. Take your pick. You can’t have both. If you say, “Jacob, I’m really sorry, but I just can’t let go of my commitment to socialist programs,” you are essentially saying, “Jacob, I’m really sorry, but I’m not picking freedom. I’m picking socialism.”

Why would anyone, especially libertarians, choose socialism over freedom? The answer is easy: Because socialism brings the aura of “security.” Freedom is dangerous. Freedom is scary. Socialism promises us “security.” It promises to keep us “safe.”

That’s what the drug war is all about. It is the “safety net” to guard against the possibility that everyone will go on heroin or cocaine or at least marijuana the first thing tomorrow morning if drugs were legalized today.

That’s what Social Security and Medicare are all about. They are the “safety net” to guard against the possibility that a free people will turn their backs on their parents, grandparents, and senior citizens.

That’s what immigration controls are all about. They are the “safety net” to guard against the possibility that the whole world will suddenly pick up stakes and move to the United States tomorrow and, even scarier, convert America into a Third World country, maybe even a Muslim or a communist one.

But as people throughout history have learned, when people choose “security” over liberty, they end up with neither. That’s why I put the word “security” in quotation marks. Always and inevitably, when people choose “security” over liberty, they end up with a police state, which is, needless to say, the opposite of a free society.

That’s why we are all now living under a drug-war police state. And an an IRS police state. And an immigration police state. That’s what happens when people, including libertarians, choose “security” over liberty.

Is a free society possible? Of course it is. But it takes a critical mass of people who are able to conquer their fears of scary scenarios of what could happen in a genuinely free society and who have a deep and abiding belief and faith in freedom, themselves, and others.

How do you choose? Liberty or “security”?

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.