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Jimmy Carter’s Freedom


Jimmy Carter’s remarks during his recent trip to Cuba are a perfect reflection of the muddled mindset that characterizes both Democrats and Republicans when it comes to the subject of freedom. Carter raised the importance of four aspects of liberty during his trip—political liberty, civil liberty, economic, and educational liberty.

With respect to political liberty, Carter rightfully criticized Cuba’s totalitarian dictatorship and emphasized the importance of such things as free and open elections in which people have the right to elect their political leaders. Most Democrats and Republicans would agree with Carter’s remarks.

With respect to civil liberty, Carter emphasized the importance of fair and open trials. Many Republicans, however, even while condemning Fidel Castro as a Communist, would sympathize with how Castro deals with suspected criminals. In Cuba, there are no jury trials, and accused criminals are tried by military tribunals. There are no independent defense attorneys, no right to counsel, no right to confront and cross-examine witnesses, and no right of appeal. In fact, there are none of the protections in criminal cases provided in the U.S. Bill of Rights that Republicans often condemn as “constitutional technicalities.”

But it was Carter’s remarks about economic liberty and educational liberty that caught both Democrats and Republicans flat-footed and silent. On the first day of his visit, Carter said, “Our people are completely free to form their own businesses, to hire other people to work, and make a profit.”

Excuse me? Completely free? Carter’s words might describe Americans in 1890 but they bear absolutely no resemblance to America today. In order to form such businesses as law, medicine, hairdressing, shoeshine, restaurant, and many more, Americans must first secure a license from the state (just as Cuban citizens must do) and if they fail to secure such permission, they’re put in jail (just as Cuban citizens are). If Americans hire illegal aliens, both the employer and employee are subject to being incarcerated and fined (just as they are in Cuba). Employers and employees are legally prohibited from entering into a labor contract that calls for a wage lower than the legally established minimum (just as they are in Cuba). Finally, profits are strictly controlled by the amount of income tax levied by the Internal Revenue Service (just as they are in Cuba).

To Carter’s credit, even while claiming that Americans have economic liberty, he did seem to recognize what Republicans refuse to recognize: that the U.S. government’s decades-long embargo against the Cuban people itself is a violation of the economic liberty of the American people. Here is what Carter said, “The embargo freezes the existing impasse, induces anger and resentment, restricts the freedoms of U.S. citizens and makes it difficult for us to exchange ideas and respect.” Unfortunately, for decades the U.S. government has embraced socialist controls on the American people in the purported attempt to free the Cuban people from a communist dictator.

The most humorous aspect of Carter’s pronouncements, however, involved his praise of Castro’s socialist economic and educational system, comments that neither Republicans nor Democrats would dare touch with a ten-foot pole. Carter said, “The Cuban government is dedicated to providing superb education, health care, and equal opportunities to all the people” and “We have struggled unsuccessfully to guarantee the basic right of universal health care for our people.”

Whether he realizes it or not, Carter is effectively saying that socialism is great in the areas of education and health care and that Americans should continue moving in that direction! Which Republican or Democrat would disagree? The only difference is that Democrats and Republicans honestly believe that such things as Social Security, public schooling, Medicare, and Medicaid are “freedom and free enterprise,” while Castro and his communist cohorts correctly recognize them as 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.