Ludwig von Mises observed that government intervention inexorably leads to more government intervention until the point comes that government assumes total control over the affairs of the citizenry. The idea is that since government interventions always produce perverse consequences, government officials will inevitably enact new interventions designed to fix the problems resulting from the earlier ones. The cycle repeats itself until government control becomes complete.
No principle could better describe the U.S. government’s long-time policy of foreign aid and foreign intervention. Over time, the perverse consequences of each new intervention have produced an ever-increasing array of new interventions designed to fix the problems resulting from the earlier ones.
For example, our government’s foreign policy has often included financial assistance to foreign regimes that have used the money or the weapons to oppress and brutalize their own citizens. Moreover, for decades, our government has interceded on one side or the other in conflicts that have involved long, deep-seeded hatreds and animosities.
What better breeding ground for terrorism against the United States could you have than that? And wouldn’t such terrorism produce more government interventions?
Indeed, our government’s long-time interventionist paradigm now comes with a hefty price tag for the American people consisting of (1) “perpetual war for perpetual peace” against terrorists all over the world; (2) the now ever-present threat of terrorist attacks on the American people; (3) wide-open spigots of federal government spending, which will support the call for more and higher taxes, which will constitute a permanent threat to the economic well-being of our nation, as it has with empires throughout history and (4) ever-increasing, severe infringements on the civil liberties of the American people in the name of “security from terrorism.”
Most important, it is impossible to reconcile a perpetual “war on terrorism” — and all that such a war entails — with the principles of a truly free society. As in any war, the discussions and debates will revolve around the nature and extent of government controls on the citizenry, not freedom.
And things are only likely to get worse.
I repeat: All of this is now part and parcel of the ordinary lives of the American people and our government’s foreign-interventionist paradigm. For those who remain committed to the foreign-interventionist paradigm, there is no other alternative.
But let it not be said that there isn’t an alternative that would restore a normally functioning and free society within our lifetime. There is, but it involves abandoning the old paradigm of foreign intervention (and its hefty price tag) and adopting a new paradigm based on a policy of nonintervention.
Here are the principles of the new paradigm: (1) Reorient and limit the U.S. military to its legitimate role of protecting the United States from invasion or attack. (2) Prohibit the president from waging war without a congressional declaration of war. (3) Prohibit the U.S. government from engaging in foreign interventions and foreign wars. (4) Prohibit the disbursement of foreign aid, both economic and military. (5) Open the U.S. borders to the free movement of goods, services, money, and people.
Ending foreign aid and foreign intervention would tend to diminish the hatreds and antagonisms of those foreigners who suffer, either directly or indirectly, from the effects of the U.S. government’s foreign policy.
The other part of the paradigm would free Americans to interact with people all over the world. Why is that so important? Why not prohibit foreign intervention and, at the same time, restrict trade and immigration, as U.S. isolationists have long advocated?
First, because an essential aspect of freedom is the right to travel freely, to associate with whomever one wishes to associate, and to enter into mutually beneficial exchanges with anyone anywhere in the world.
Second, as the 19th-century French free-market advocate Frederic Bastiat observed, interaction between the citizens of different lands creates friendships and interrelationships that operate as a disincentive to war. The American people, not U.S. government officials, are the greatest and friendliest diplomats our country has, as foreigners often attest.
Thus, to restore a free, peaceful, harmonious society within our lifetime, it is necessary to end our government’s role as international cop and welfare provider and also to free the American people to do what they do best — establish friendships and business relationships with foreigners all over the world. That would be the greatest gift we could give to ourselves and to the world.