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Fight Socialism with Freedom in North Korea


For the last three years, up to 2 million people have died of starvation in North Korea. The U.S. government has been the biggest provider of aid, contributing 220,000 tons of food. The Clinton administration is now considering sending an additional 300,000 tons of food.

American officials refer to this assistance as “humanitarian.” But is it really? Unlike a private business, the U.S. government does not generate its own wealth. Instead, it taxes wealth. And, as everyone knows, the income-tax process is not a voluntary one. If an American refuses to pay his taxes, he is met with threats of IRS levies, liens, fines, and even imprisonment.

Once the IRS takes our money, other government officials decide what to do with it. Am I a humanitarian when they decide to send food to North Korea? It’s hard to see how I am. If it had been up to me, I would have kept my income-tax money and used it for some other purpose. I certainly don’t feel more saintly just because my government has sent food relief to North Korea.

What about the government officials who send the money? Are they humanitarians? It’s hard to see how they are. They have simply been good with tax money that has been forcibly taken from others. How can that transform a person into a saint?

If I meet you on the street and rob you of your hard-earned money, we’d both agree that I’m a thief. But wait a minute – what if I send your money to North Korea before the police arrest me? Doesn’t that now make you a humanitarian? Doesn’t that make me one too? Shouldn’t both of us be rewarded for our act of kindness and charity?

We’re told that North Koreans are starving because there have been three years of drought and flooding. Isn’t it interesting that drought and flooding cause massive starvation only in socialist countries?

The real reason that people are starving to death in North Korea is that socialism doesn’t work. It produces economic chaos, misery, and starvation. Central planning, especially in North Korea, has proven to be one big economic bust. And, of course, it would be difficult to find a better modern-day example of socialism than North Korea.

No one likes to see starving people, but doesn’t U.S. government aid only reinforce North Korea’s socialist system? For one thing, like all welfare programs, the assistance is likely to fall into the hands of government officials rather than those who truly need it, especially in North Korea, where the government owns everything and controls everyone, including the farms and the farmers, indeed the entire agriculture industry. Moreover, if our government continues to subsidize the North Korean government, what incentive do the North Koreans have to finally abandon the whole idea of socialism?

To combat the disastrous effects of socialism overseas, our nation ends up adopting a similar socialist concept here. It takes control over a large portion of the income of the American people and plans and directs how it is to be used. To make matters worse, under the Trading with the Enemy Act, the U.S. government makes it a criminal offense for Americans to engage in private trade and commerce with North Koreans. How is that supposed to help the starving people of North Korea? How is that type of government control different in principle from that which the North Korean government exercises over its citizens?

Morality and humanitarianism are ultimately matters of the individual heart. Americans should be free to keep their own money and to decide for themselves whom to help. Only when people are free to choose in that way can morality and humanitarianism mean anything at all.

Moreover, all trade restrictions on the American people, including those that prohibit trade with North Korea, are violations of the freedom of the American people. They should be repealed.

A nation that prides itself on capitalist principles should be fighting socialism with freedom, not socialism.

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    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.