The driving mantra for the Trump administration, the one that energizes every Trumpster and Trumpista, is MAGA — Make America Great Again.
The problem arises in how Trump defines national greatness. For him, it means a gigantic military-intelligence establishment — i.e., the national-security state, consisting of the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA. The more powerful this branch of the federal government, the greater the nation in the eyes of President Trump.
That’s why Trump is committed to expanding the amount of tax money that is devoted to the national-security establishment, especially the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex. That’s also why Trump was especially excited about having a giant military parade in Washington, D.C. His and his supporters’ devotion to militarism is what defines for them the greatness of a nation.
Yet, when you think about it, Trump is really just reflecting the mindset of the entire conservative movement. From the time that the federal government was converted into a national-security state after World War II, conservatives have always ensured that the tax money flowed freely into the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA, without any real accountability as to how the money was being spent. The conservative mindset has been the same as Trump’s: the stronger the military (and the CIA and NSA), the greater the nation.
Over the years, liberals (i.e., progressives, leftists, socialists, etc) have periodically complained about the amount of tax monies allocated to the national-national establishment but, by and large, they too have favored a big and powerful military-intelligence-surveillance apparatus.
What distinguished the left, however, is that that they have always measured the nation’s greatness by the amount of tax monies that are allocated to the welfare-state part of the federal government. The more monies that are allocated to welfare programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, agriculture, and the like, the greater the nation, as far as liberals are concerned.
Now, that’s not to say that conservatives oppose the welfare state any more than liberals oppose the warfare state. On the contrary, conservatives support Social Security, Medicare, and the overall philosophy of the welfare state just as much as liberals do. And liberals support the Pentagon, CIA, and NSA every bit as much as conservatives do.
It’s simply a matter of emphasis. While both conservatives and liberals favor the welfare-warfare state way of life, conservatives say MAGA by increasing the amount of tax monies spent on the national-security establishment. Liberals say MAGA by increasing the amount of tax monies spent on the welfare state.
Libertarians, of course, are opposed to both the welfare state and the national-security state. What matters to us is liberty, and we know that there is no way that people who live under a welfare state or a national-security state can legitimately be considered free.
A welfare state is based on mandatory charity, which isn’t really charity at all. To be charity, the donation has to come from the willing heart of the individual. Mandatory charity, including Social Security and Medicare, is based on state coercion. Anyone who is being forced by the state to be good and caring is not being good and caring. He’s being robbed in the name of forcing him to be good and caring.
A national-security state is a type of governmental structure that entails the wielding of omnipotent powers, such as conscription, indefinite detention without trial, military tribunals, torture, secret surveillance, kidnapping, and assassination. There is no way that a person living under that type of totalitarian-like structure can genuinely be considered free.
A genuinely free society, therefore, necessarily entails one in which people are free to keep everything they earn and decide for themselves what to do with their own money — save, spend, donate, or invest it. That is, a free society is one in which there is no mandatory or coerced charity, including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
A genuinely free society also requires a governmental structure known as a limited-government republic, one that is opposite to a national-national state. That is, no Pentagon, no military-industrial complex, no CIA, and no NSA. And no power to assassinate, torture, indefinitely detain, or conduct secret surveillance on the citizenry.
Thus, what we libertarians want is different from what conservatives and liberals want. While they want to MAGA by expanding the power and tax money given to the welfare state or the warfare state, we libertarians want to MAFA — Make America Free Again — by dismantling both the welfare state and the warfare state.