In July 2010, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Initiative (NSI), launched the “If You See Something, Say Something” national campaign to raise “public awareness of the indicators of terrorism and terrorism-related crime, as well as the importance of reporting suspicious activity to state and local law enforcement.”
The national campaign was originally “implemented and trademarked” by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and is licensed to the DHS “for the purpose of creating a nationwide campaign.” The DHS campaign is limited, and therefore “cannot be used for any purposes besides those related to terrorism and indicators/behaviors that may be reasonably indicative of terrorism-related crime.” It cannot even “be used by schools for anti-bullying purposes and communities cannot use it to combat an increase in local drug use.”
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is the division of the DHS that conducts the security theater at airports across the country. The TSA idea of “suspicious activity,” as pointed out by investigative journalist James Bovard, is based on a secret list of “behavioral indicators” that include exaggerated yawning, excessive complaining, gazing down, rubbing one’s hands, wearing improper attire, and whistling as one approaches the screening process. But the DHS is careful to remind us that the “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign “respects citizens’ privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties.”
For many months now, we have been inundated by the news media, government officials, and health organizations with other slogans that are not licensed from an organization or limited in their application: “stay at home,” “unessential businesses,” “flatten the curve,” and “maintain social distancing.”
During the early part of the COVID-19 government-instituted panic, state governors all across the country, of both political parties, and with few exceptions, ordered the residents of their states to stay at home or shelter in place. In my state of Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, first issued an executive order (20-83) urging the elderly and those with serious underlying medical conditions to stay at home. Included also was “a public health advisory against all social or recreational gatherings of 10 or more people.” It was followed by another (20-91) directing “all persons in Florida” to “limit their movements and personal interactions outside of their home to only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities.” In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, declared, “We’re not allowing any kind of gathering, period. I don’t care if it’s 20 people or a hundred people or a thousand people, it’s not going to be allowed. So the point is, if you gather, NYPD is coming there to give you a summons and if you resist, to arrest you, period, across all communities.”
One reason that it was possible for state governors to get their residents to comply with their stay-at-home orders is that they also ordered all “unessential” businesses in their states to close. Which businesses were deemed essential or nonessential varied from state to state. In Florida, the governor, by executive order (20-68), first restricted the operation of bars and restaurants and limited access to the beaches. Then he issued another order (20-71) shutting down bars, restaurants, and gyms, followed by another (20-72) banning all “medically unnecessary, non-urgent or non-emergency procedure or surgery” and directing all dentists to cease performing “elective services,” followed by another (20-87) suspending all “vacation rental operations.” In most states, most churches were closed while liquor stores were generally open. In all states (except Massachusetts) where recreational marijuana was legal, marijuana merchants were declared to be an essential business.
The purpose for the state governors’ stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders was supposed to be to flatten the curve of coronavirus cases; that is, to slow the spread of the epidemic so that the peak number of people requiring hospital care at any one time was reduced so as not to overwhelm the health-care system. For many months now, Americans have been bombarded with instructions from the government to wash their hands regularly; to use hand sanitizer; to wear a face mask; to avoid shaking hands; to not hug anyone; to avoid touching their mouth, nose, and eyes; and to stay away from other people when they are sick. Celebrities and sports figures have even been enlisted or encouraged to make posts on social media extolling the virtues of staying at home and listening to the health experts.
Another way that the government tried to flatten the curve of coronavirus cases was to tell everyone to maintain social distancing, although the term was apparently first used in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory memorandum in 2007:
Social distancing refers to methods for reducing frequency and closeness of contact between people in order to decrease the risk of transmission of disease. Examples of social distancing include cancellation of public events such as concerts, sports events, or movies, closure of office buildings, schools, and other public places, and restriction of access to public places such as shopping malls or other places where people gather.
Most people, however, had never heard the phrase until governments popularized it during the early stages of the coronavirus insanity. Now the CDC describes social distancing as “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately six feet or two meters) from others when possible.”
It is time that the government got a taste of its own medicine, and especially the federal government, since it is not following its own Constitution. The Fourteenth Amendment says that “no State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Why is the federal government silent in the face of the tyranny of state governments? What follows is a four-point plan for government based on its own slogans: “stay at home,” “unessential businesses,” “flatten the curve,” and “maintain social distancing.”
Stay at home
The government’s telling people to stay in their homes or shelter in place is the hallmark of a totalitarian state, not a free society. Those terms were sometimes referred to as lockdown orders. Those are terms usually found in the context of locking down prisons when there is a disturbance of some kind. But I guess it is appropriate, since Americans were basically put under house arrest. What else can you call it when healthy people are quarantined? The term “shelter in place” actually originated in U.S. Civil Defense regulations in the context of a possible nuclear attack. It never had anything to do with infectious diseases. Things should be the other way around. When it comes to the subject of U.S. foreign policy, Americans should be telling the U.S. government to stay at home. It is the U.S. military that should be locked down and quarantined.
U.S. foreign policy is reckless, belligerent, and meddling. The history of U.S. foreign policy is the history of hegemony, nation building, regime change, and jingoism. In a word, it is a history of interventionism. The U.S. military is a global force for evil. Rather than defend the country, the military engages in offense in other countries. The heritage of the military is one of invasion, destabilization, occupation, subjugation, oppression, death, and destruction. Instead of the U.S. military’s defending our freedoms, it has been at once the world’s policeman, fireman, bully, social worker, and busybody. Instead of existing to defend the country, U.S. troops exist to serve as the president’s personal attack force, ready to obey his latest command to deploy to any country for any reason.
According to the latest edition of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Base Structure Report, “The DoD manages a worldwide real property portfolio that spans all 50 states, 8 U.S. territories with outlying areas, and 45 foreign countries. The majority of the foreign sites are located in Germany (194 sites), Japan (121 sites), and South Korea (83 sites).” The DOD owns, leases, or controls 47,288 buildings occupying 481,651 acres on foreign soil. Thanks to the work of Nick Turse and the late Chalmers Johnson, we know that the number of official U.S. military bases on foreign soil is close to 1,000. According to David Vine, author of Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Overseas Harm America and the World (2015), only eleven other countries have bases in foreign countries, and most of those are Russian bases in former Soviet Republics.
According to the official DOD document “Number of Military and DoD Appropriated Fund (APF) Civilian Personnel Permanently Assigned by Duty Location and Service/Component,” there are 34,674 U.S. military personnel in Germany, 55,165 U.S. personnel in Japan, and 26,184 U.S. military personnel in South Korea stationed on those foreign sites. There are a total of 174,956 active duty U.S. troops overseas and 20,791 guard and reserve troops “permanently assigned for duty” in more than 170 countries. And that doesn’t even include “personnel on temporary duty, or deployed in support of contingency operations” (foreign wars).
Nothing in the Constitution authorizes the U.S. government to engage in foreign wars, maintain an empire of troops and bases across the globe, intervene in the affairs of other countries, police the world, or go abroad seeking monsters to destroy. U.S. troops stationed in foreign countries are not defending the country, fighting for our freedoms, keeping Americans safe from terrorists, supporting and defending the Constitution, protecting Americans from credible threats, serving the country, or fighting “over there” so we don’t have to fight “over here.”
Part of the U.S. military presence overseas is “necessary” because the United States has committed itself to defending scores of countries. Those commitments are the epitome of the entangling alliances the Founding Fathers warned against making. Each country should provide for its own defense. All foreign bases should be closed and all U.S. troops should come home and stay home. U.S. foreign policy should be a foreign policy of neutrality and nonintervention. As our third president, Thomas Jefferson, famously said, “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none.” The military should be strictly limited to the actual defense of the United States. The vast oceans that act as a buffer between the United States and most of the rest of the world actually make that quite simple.
Eliminate unessential programs
In a market economy, every business is essential. Every type of industry relies on, stimulates, and necessitates other industries. And of course, every business is essential to the owner of the business, the family of the owner, the employees who work at the business, and the customers who patronize the business. And as Ron Paul has well said, “Governments have no right or authority to tell us what business or other activity is ‘essential.’ Only in totalitarian states does the government claim this authority.” Instead of the government’s telling businesses to close because they are unessential, it is the government that should be eliminating its unessential programs and agencies.
The United States was set up as a federal system of government where the states, through the Constitution, granted a limited number of powers to the national government. As future president James Madison explained in Federalist No. 45, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State Governments are numerous and indefinite.” There are about thirty powers given to Congress throughout the Constitution. None of them has anything to do with education, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, charity, safety nets, retirement, health care, business operations, discrimination, housing, welfare, agriculture, security, employment, gun control, licensing, food, insurance, nutrition, disabilities, research, exploration, labor relations, poverty, disease, communications, or job training.
That means that all or the great majority of what the federal government’s programs, departments, agencies, corporations, boards, programs, administrations, foundations, bureaus, authorities, and commissions do is unconstitutional. And if they are unconstitutional, then they should be eliminated for being unessential. No subsidies, grants, loans, handouts, or federal flood insurance. No TANF, WIC, LIHEAP, CHIP, AFDC, SNAP, NSLP, or SSI. No departments of Energy, Education, Health and Human Services, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, Homeland Security, or Agriculture. No
USAID, EEOC, ATF, DEA, FCC, NEA, CPB, NEH, FHA, FTC, FEMA, or TSA. No Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, Head Start, unemployment benefits, or housing vouchers. No minimum-wage laws, no war on drugs, no occupational licensing, no anti-discrimination laws, and no federal background checks for gun purchases.
Flatten the growth curve
A greater threat to the health, safety, and welfare of the American people than the spread of any disease is the growth of the federal government. Instead of the government’s telling Americans what to do in order to flatten the curve and slow the spread of COVID-19, Americans ought to be seeking not to receive government handouts, bailouts, stimulus plans, and subsidies, but to flatten the curve and slow the spread of government. They should be trying to shrink the federal government’s “carbon footprint.”
In the budget he submitted to Congress for fiscal year 2021 (Oct. 1, 2020–Sept. 30, 2021), Donald Trump proposed that the federal government spend $4.829 trillion. The federal budget didn’t reach $4 trillion until 2017, was “only” $2 trillion in 2002, and didn’t reach the trillion dollar mark until 1987. The budget deficits for fiscal years 2019, 2020, and 2021 were each around $1 trillion. For fiscal year 2021, Trump’s proposed budget has a deficit of almost a trillion dollars. The national debt increased by almost $4 trillion during Trump’s first three years as president. But what is sure to make all of those numbers much worse is that they were all compiled before the coronavirus pandemic. We know that before the fiscal year’s end the federal government will certainly spend much more, have a much higher budget deficit, and boost the national debt even higher.
Only one-fourth of the federal budget is for so-called discretionary spending for domestic and military programs. About three-fourths is for what is termed mandatory spending: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other entitlement programs; that is, the welfare state.
Keep your distance
Americans live in a nanny state. The government is involved in every facet of their lives and businesses. On the federal level, as explained in a book by attorney Harvey Silvergate, some Americans have the potential to commit three felonies a day without even realizing it, thanks to overbroad and vague federal criminal laws. The federal government reads our emails, listens to our phone calls, records our transactions, and tracks our movements. Instead of the federal government’s telling Americans to practice social distancing, it is Americans who need to tell the federal government to keep its distance.
Americans don’t need the government to keep them safe and healthy. They don’t need the government to make sure they act moral and virtuous. In a free society, Americans would go about their business without government licenses, regulations, restrictions, standards, intervention, oversight, surveillance, or interference. As long as people’s actions are peaceful, their associations are voluntary, their interactions are consensual, and they don’t violate the personal or property rights of others, the government should keep its distance and just leave them alone. As H.L. Mencken put it, “Let people do whatever they please, so long as they do not invade the right and freedom of other persons to do the same.”
Before around 1900, our ancestors were free to keep the fruits of their labor because there was no income tax or payroll taxes. Their wealth was not redistributed because all charity was private. They were free to engage in occupations and professions without government license, certification, or permit. There was no EPA, OSHA, or EEOC to harass businesses and subject them to stifling regulations. There were no minimum-wage or price-gouging laws. The federal government had nothing to do with public education, because education was a private or state matter. Likewise, the federal government had nothing to do with health care or insurance. The free market was truly free. There was no war on drugs. The first federal economic regulatory agency, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), was not established until 1887. The only federal departments in existence were State, Treasury, War, Justice, Interior, Agriculture, and the Post Office. Indeed, unless they were in the military, the only contact most Americans had with the federal government was with the post office.
For years now, and especially since 9/11, the federal government has been able to get away with doing anything in the name of national security. For years now, and especially since the advent of the coronavirus insanity, government at all levels has been able to get away with doing anything in the name of public health. We are living through the greatest power grab by government at all levels (federal, state, county, city) in all of American history. By decree alone, governments have criminalized heretofore legal activities, violated civil liberties worse than in wartime, and destroyed private property rights.
The only possible legitimate functions of government are defense, judicial, and policing activities. There is no justification for any government action beyond keeping the peace; prosecuting, punishing, and exacting restitution from those who initiate violence against the person or property of others; and constraining those who would attempt to interfere with the peaceful actions of others.
As early nineteenth-century Jeffersonian William Leggett put it, “All governments are instituted for the protection of person and property; and the people only delegate to their rulers such powers as are indispensable to these objects. The people want no government to regulate their private concerns, or to prescribe the course and mete out the profits of their industry. Protect their persons and property, and all the rest they can do for themselves.”
This article was originally published in the September 2020 edition of Future of Freedom.