November 23, 2014

Libertarians to Chris Christie: Is life so dear, or peace so sweet?

TAMPA, July 27, 2013 – Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) introduced an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill that would have defunded the NSA’s blanket collection of metadata and limited the government’s collection of records to those “relevant to a national security investigation.”

It terrified New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who lashed out at those who supported the bill and libertarianism in general.

“As a former prosecutor who was appointed by President George W. Bush on Sept. 10, 2001, I just want us to be really cautious, because this strain of libertarianism that’s going through both parties right now and making big headlines, I think, is a very dangerous thought,” Christie said.

Yes, it is dangerous, but to what? It is dangerous to the bloated national security state, which tramples the liberty and dignity of every American under the pretense of protecting them from what Charles Kenny recently called the “vastly exaggerated” threat of terrorism.

Chris Christie shamelessly invoked the image of “widows and orphans” of 9/11 in an attempt to discredit any resistance to the federal government’s complete disregard for the Bill of Rights. He then echoed former NYC Mayor Rudy Guiliani in claiming some imagined authority on the matter because he is the governor of the state “that lost the second-most people on 9/11.”

Newsflash to Governor Christie: You have no more moral authority on this subject than the U.S. Congress had legislative authority to pass the Patriot Act.

Read the rest of the article at Communities@ Washington Times…

Even convicted felons have a right to bear arms

TAMPA, January 11, 2013 ― Supposedly, a philosophical debate is going on between “right and left” over the natural right to keep and bear arms. As usual, both sides are wrong.

The right to keep and bear arms is inseparable from the right to life. Here in the real world, arming oneself is the only practical way to exercise the right to life, which is properly defined as the right not to be killed by another human being.

Banning guns removes an individual’s ability to exercise the right to life. It places his life at the discretion of anyone who would take it away. Life is no longer a right, but a privilege, exercised at the discretion of criminals. Sometimes, the criminals wear government costumes.

When is this ever justified?

The only reasonable answer would be when an individual has wrongfully taken the life of another person. Even then there is room for an argument. If manslaughter does not carry a lifetime prison sentence, why does the perpetrator permanently surrender his right to life?

There is no justification for prohibiting gun ownership for virtually any other crime. Perhaps egregious assaults or child molestation also qualify, but that is still a tiny percentage of the population.

Even conservatives cast the net far wider. Standard conservative talking points go something like this. “We defend the 2nd Amendment rights of law abiding citizens who are not mentally ill to keep and bear arms.”

Virtually every word of this statement is wrong. And this is the “pro-gun” side.

Read the rest of the article…

To the People of Texas: Concerning the Republican Presidential Primary

It is no accident that so many of the books and movies about the Old West are set in Texas. There is something about Texas that stirs the soul. It is the yearning for freedom.

From before its birth as a republic or a state within this union, Texas has been a place where people have gone to be free. As an isolated state in the Mexican republic, Texas provided a sanctuary for all who wished to live their lives without interference from a distant capital. When the Mexican government attempted to exert centralized, despotic power over your ancestors, they fought with Santa Anna and the federalists. When that general later repudiated liberty and betrayed the Texans, they stood against him and won their freedom again.

Americans have always thought of Texas as an independent state that only reluctantly joined the union, with one foot out the door ever since. It is not that Texans are unpatriotic. On the contrary, Texas is the last place in America where the principle of federalism still seems to live. None doubt that Texas will support and defend her fellow states. However, Americans have always fondly imagined Texas’ stance towards the federal government to be, “Don’t push us too far or we’ll leave. We’re quite capable of taking care of ourselves.”

In an age where centralized power has reached into every aspect of our lives, only Texas exudes a spirit of resistance. When Americans think of a well-armed, independent populace, they invariably think of Texans. If the federal juggernaut is ever to be checked, who better to lead?

The limits on government power have been under attack since the birth of the republic. Now they are all but gone. The government no longer protects your life. It claims the power to kill you without trial. It no longer protects your property, but loots it to fund its failed social programs and foreign adventures. Worst of all, it no longer recognizes your God-given right to liberty. It believes that it can tell Texans what they can eat, what they can drink, how they must run their businesses, what they can and cannot do on their own property, and even what they can think.

Sadly, most Americans have forgotten how abhorrent these ideas are. Many of us like to think that Texans have not forgotten. Have you? You have an opportunity to answer that question during this election year. There is one man running for president that opposes everything that is wrong with America. It is no mistake that he comes from Texas.

For Texas Republicans, every election must bring back the sting of Santa Anna’s betrayal. Republican politicians are elected specifically to cut the size and scope of government. They never do. The Democratic Party openly admits that it seeks to expand government at all levels. At least they are honest. The Republicans claim to oppose that agenda, but have expanded government whenever they have been in power.

This election year is no different. Certainly, Barack Obama makes no promises to shrink the government. He believes that all economic growth originates from some sort of government intervention. He believes that the purpose of government is to redistribute wealth. He opposes the basic ideals that made America great. He makes no secret of this. At least we know where he stands.

It is the Republican candidates that represent the potential for another betrayal. As usual, they say that they intend to cut federal spending and power, but they will not name one specific program that they will cut. None of them, that is, except Ron Paul.

Congressman Paul has stood alone for decades against the unchecked growth of government and is the only candidate committing to cut it. He has already published a budget that cuts $1 trillion from the federal budget during his first year as president. It eliminates five federal departments, not only saving money, but reestablishing the principle that the federal government has no business regulating education, housing, commerce, energy, or “the interior.” These are all powers properly left to the states or to the people. His opponents do not make similar promises because they do not truly believe in these principles.

You may have been told that Ron Paul is “unelectable” because of his foreign policy. What is that policy? It is that only the American people may decide to go to war, through their elected representatives in Congress. Ron Paul insists that no president or general may usurp that power. If war is truly necessary, then there should be a debate in the Congress and a declaration of war. When America followed this constitutional process, we won wars. Since America has abandoned it, we have never really won a war.

We instead send our soldiers to far-off lands with no definition of victory. Their hands are tied with confusing rules of engagement that prevent them from winning and allow the wars to drag on. This benefits those who profit from war, but not those who give their lives or are forced to pay. How much longer will we go on like this? Sixty years later, what is the U.S. military’s mission in Korea and when will it end? Germany? Japan?

Ron Paul will end those missions now and recommit our military to defending this country. Most importantly, if war should comes during his presidency, he will have it properly declared by Congress and will allow our military to win it. Do you truly believe that any of the other candidates will do likewise? Make no mistake, Ron Paul is the only president that will win the next war.

Our nation is on the verge of socio-economic collapse. Every reasonable person recognizes that the federal government is the root of the problem. Who will stand up and oppose it? Every media outlet is arranged against Ron Paul and anyone else that suggests pushing back. Americans are bombarded daily with propaganda supporting the status quo. The Republican Party leadership doesn’t oppose it at all.

Ron Paul is our last hope. A vote for anyone else is a vote for more of what has led us here. Time is running out on the option to reverse course. Courageous people in many states have already cast their votes for liberty in large numbers, but they have not yet given Ron Paul a victory.

You can change that when you hold the Texas Republican Primary. You will have an opportunity to strike a blow for freedom. Texas commands 155 delegates. A Ron Paul win in Texas can prevent another big government elitist from clinching the Republican nomination. Most importantly, it sends a message that a large and prominent state has rejected the unnatural form of government that we have adopted. It says to the federal government what our forefathers once famously said to the British, “This far shall you go and no farther.”

It is the responsibility of every individual to defend his or her own liberty. It is the responsibility of every state government to defend the limits on federal power. Texas cannot do it for the other states, but she can lead by example. The stand against tyranny must begin somewhere. If not in Texas, where else? If even Texas does not resist, who will?

There is a yearning for freedom within every American heart. Ron Paul has reawakened it in millions. The forces of tyranny recognize this and are uniformly aligned against him. They despise freedom and independence. They thrive on dependence and control. One side is going to win. Freedom can only prevail with Texas leading the way. Do not let us down. Give Ron Paul a victory in the Texas Republican primary.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

 

America’s Choice: Ron Paul or Unlimited Government

No matter how acrimonious the Republican primaries get, all of the candidates agree on one thing: Barack Obama must be defeated in November 2012. For 3 of the 4 remaining candidates, that is virtually the only important issue in the Republican primary race. Obama must be defeated and the only issue to resolve in the primaries is who has the best chance of doing so. Only Ron Paul asks the questions that should follow logically: Why is it so important to defeat Obama and what will you do differently from him?

In response, most of the Republicans offer only platitudes. “Obama believes in taking from one person and giving to another. He wants to turn the United States into a European social democracy with a massive welfare state, etc.” I happen to agree on these points with one caveat – the United States already is a European-style social democracy. That boat sailed many decades ago. With a welfare state measured in trillions that dwarfs the entire economies of most nations of the world, the United States is a poster child for social democracy and is now listed 10th on the Index of Economic Freedom.

However, assuming that Barack Obama is supportive of this and the Republican candidates are not, there must be fundamental philosophical differences between them and Obama that would translate into tangible policy differences. However, if one listens closely to what they actually say, none of the Republican candidates actually disagrees with Obama in principle on any single issue or identifies a specific power of the presidency that they would exercise differently – except for Ron Paul.

If Obama really is uniquely terrible as a president, there must be actual things he has done that make him worse than previous presidents. During the 2010 elections, the Tea Party movement focused on Obamacare. The Tea Party-fueled 912 Project was able to draw hundreds of thousands of people to Washington to protest this one program. Yet, with Medicare and Medicaid alone accounting for 1/3 of all healthcare spending in the United States and total government spending likely accounting for over half, why was Obamacare such a fundamental change?  Measured in terms of dollars, Obamacare was rather insignificant as an increase in government involvement in healthcare. If government-provided healthcare is really bad in principle, then opponents of it should object to all of the programs, especially Medicare, which costs about 6 times as much as Obamacare. But they don’t – except for Ron Paul, who has a clearly defined and funded plan to let workers entering the workforce opt out of Medicare.

Of course, there is one aspect of Obamacare that is different in principle and that is the individual mandate. Tea Partiers have made many eloquent speeches about how antithetical to freedom this central plank of Obamacare is. Again, I agree, but do the Republican candidates for president? Romney certainly doesn’t. Romney’s Massachussetts plan that inspired Obamacare is also centered around an individual mandate. Romney openly defends the principle to this day. His problem with Obamacare? That it is administered by the federal government and forced upon all 50 states. While his support for federalism might be admirable, Romney does not recognize any individual right not to be forced to purchase government-approved health insurance. If the state government imposes that obligation, Romney has no objection.

Gingrich doesn’t even object to an individual mandate at the federal level. While Santorum does seem to oppose this aspect of Obamacare, he has already voted for the prescription drug program, which expanded Medicare by as much in dollars as Obamacare costs in total. There is only one candidate that makes any argument or has any tangible plan to get the government out of the healthcare business completely – Ron Paul.

The same can be said for government spending in general. Yes, all of the Republican candidates rail against excessive spending, deficits, and debt. They decry Obama’s unholy deficits and say that they will cut spending and push for a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That’s all fine, but what exactly are they going to cut? This is where those striking differences from Obama start to dissipate. None of the candidates will actually name programs that they will cut beyond infinitesimally small ones like the National Endowment for the Arts – except for Ron Paul. Paul has already published the first budget that he will submit to Congress and it cuts $1 trillion during his first year as president.

This budget not only saves money but indicates the philosophical difference between Ron Paul and the rest of the candidates. By actually assigning funding of zero to the Departments of Education, Commerce, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, and the Interior, Paul makes two philosophical statements that the other candidates do not. The first is that the government should have no role whatsoever in the areas that these departments regulate. They represent areas of life that should be left to voluntary cooperation between free people, not coercive mandates from the government.

The second is that Paul recognizes that these are functions that the government has no legitimate authority to tax individuals to fund. For the rest of the candidates, there is nothing that the government cannot tax people for, as long as it fits in with their plan. They may suggest cutting unsubstantial amounts here or there, but none of them cuts these functions to zero. They all believe that individuals can be taxed to fund government regulation and/or subsidization of all areas of human activity – except for Ron Paul.

All of this is rooted in a fundamental difference between Ron Paul and any other candidate for president in 2012, Republican or Democrat. It concerns the role of government. Only Ron Paul actually uses the words “role of government” in speeches or debates. Why? Because only Ron Paul believes that the role of government in society is limited. You will hear the other Republicans use the terms “small government” or “smaller government,” but rarely, if ever, will you hear them say “limited government.” On this principle, there is no difference at all between Obama, Gingrich, Romney, or Santorum. Santorum has actually said this explicitly (about the 1:20 mark), while the others demonstrate it through their positions on the various issues. Only Ron Paul argues that there are limits on the power of the government. The rest merely argue about how that power should be exercised.

This concept of limited government is so absent from modern American political discourse that it is necessary to define it. If Americans still truly believe that certain rights are inalienable, then there are certain things that the government is simply not allowed to do, not even with the support of a majority vote. In other words, those inalienable rights cannot be voted away, because they do not belong to the majority. They belong to each individual. That is limited government. Only Ron Paul defends it.

Nothing illustrates this better than Ron Paul’s position on what is supposed to be the fundamental principle around which American society is organized, liberty. Ron Paul defends liberty unconditionally while his Republican opponents openly attack it, just as Obama does. Many of them use the term “individual liberty,” but once it comes to specifics they are in lockstep with Obama.

Liberty has a definition and it is not “the ability to do whatever you want.” There is a natural limit to liberty that precedes the government. It is not created by the government. The natural limit of liberty is the equal rights of others. In other words, an individual has the right to do whatever he pleases as long as he does not invade the person, liberty, or justly acquired possessions of others.

This means that the individual might do things that others don’t approve of, like use drugs, watch pornography, or practice a religion that is antithetical to their own. Others are free to disapprove of these activities, but they are not justified in using violence against the people who engage in them – and all laws are backed by the threat of violence. In fact, since these activities do not invade the person, liberty, or property of another person, individuals have an inalienable right to engage in them. Governments at all levels should be powerless to prohibit them. That is, if the society really is organized around liberty. “No man has a natural right to commit aggression against the equal rights of others ,and that is all from which the law ought to restrain him.” That was how the author of the Declaration of Independence defined liberty. You either agree with him or you don’t. There is no middle ground.

At the federal level, the defense of liberty is defined by the first 10 amendments of the U.S. Constitution, popularly called the Bill of Rights. If there is anything of substance that makes America freer – in the real world – than the average banana republic, it is these limits on government power. Yet even on these most basic principles, only Ron Paul takes a stand for liberty. The other Republican candidates agree with Obama that these protections can be sacrificed in the name of security.

Romney stated that he would have signed the NDAA bill which granted the government the power to detain U.S. citizens without due process. In explaining his position, Romney made the ludicrous, counterintuitive argument that Americans have a right to due process unless they commit acts of terrorism. Excuse me, Mitt, due process is the means by which we determine if the suspect committed the crime or not. That is the whole reason for due process – to determine guilt or innocence. Romney doesn’t undestand that or doesn’t care. This should horrify any lucid American.

Newt Gingrich made this same argument in a previous debate in defending the Patriot Act. In fact, he thinks that the powers granted to the federal government in that law should be expanded. Rick Santorum doesn’t substantively disagree. Make no mistake, these are not fine points of law that are being argued here. They are the fundamental constitutional principles that define America as a free country. They are under all-out assault by both the Obama Administration and every Republican presidential candidate except for Ron Paul. That the other candidates get loud cheers in debates when arguing to abolish these constitutional protections of liberty should send a shiver up the spine of every American. Recall the words of the Star Wars character, “So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause.” Without exaggerating, it has come to that.

Americans do have a choice in this election, but it is not between Obama and one of the other Republicans. There is no substantive difference there. The true choice is between Ron Paul and unlimited government, which is government under Obama, Romney, Gingrich, or Santorum. That means a government that can tax you for anything it wishes to, can detain and search you without warrant or probable cause, and can send soldiers to arrest you and imprison you indefinitely without legal representation, a hearing, or a trial. It is a government whose power knows no limits, that can forcefully control every area of your life and force you to pay for its domination of the entire globe. Whatever happens in the years ahead, Americans cannot say that they did not have an opportunity to choose liberty over tyranny. This may be their last chance.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

 

Earth to Rick Santorum: Libertarians Founded the United States

Andrew Napolitano recently showed a clip in which Rick Santorum explained his views on libertarianism. His comments are also instructive in understanding his animosity (politically) towards Ron Paul. Santorum said:

“One of the criticisms I make is to what I refer to as more of a Libertarianish right. They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues. That is not how traditional conservatives view the world. There is no such society that I am aware of, where we’ve had radical individualism and that it succeeds as a culture.”

As David Boaz pointed out in the interview with Napolitano, Santorum seems to oppose a basic American principle- the right to the pursuit of happiness. I agree with him on this, but there is something even more fundamental here than that. It has to do with the conservative philosophy itself. One of the statements that Santorum makes is true. “That is not how traditional conservatives view the world.”

There is a great disconnect between average Americans who refer to themselves as “conservatives” and the small group of politicians and politically-connected businessman who call themselves likewise. The members of the former group believe in the founding principles of the United States, including the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They believe that these rights are endowed by their Creator. In other words, they preexist the government. They are not created by the government. It is the government’s one and only job to protect those rights and when the government fails to protect them and instead violates them, it is the duty of the people to alter or abolish the government.

These inalienable rights are also referred to as “natural rights,” meaning that man possesses them even in the state of nature (the state without government). For Jefferson, whose philosophy was inspired by Locke, the reason that men formed governments was to protect these rights better than they could be protected otherwise.

Locke viewed man as capable of both good and evil. For Locke, man’s natural state was a state of reason, which meant that he respected the rights of other men and observed the natural law of non-aggression. “The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.”

For Locke and his philosophical heir Jefferson, this natural law of non-aggression was the basis of government power. By prohibiting aggression by one person or group against another, the government would preserve the natural rights to life, liberty, and property. Importantly, repelling aggression was also the limit of government power, for when the government exercised power for any other reason it was committing aggression itself and invading the rights it was meant to protect.

That this was Jefferson’s guiding political principle is clear from his many statements to that effect. In his first inaugural, he argued for,

“…a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.”

In a letter to Francis Walker Gilmer in 1816, he wrote, “Our legislators are not sufficiently apprised of the rightful limits of their powers; that their true office is to declare and enforce only our natural rights and duties, and to take none of them from us. No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another; and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him.”

Even on religious freedom, Jefferson based his position on the non-aggression principle. ““The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

The non-aggression principle defines liberty itself as Jefferson understood it. For him, as well as for the likeminded libertarians that led the secession from Great Britain, the word “liberty” as used in the Declaration of Independence had a specific definition. It meant the right to do what one pleases as long as one does not invade the life, liberty, or property of another human being. In other words, each individual was beyond the reach of government power so long as he committed no aggression against anyone else.

These are not conservative ideas. They are libertarian ideas. While Jefferson, Samuel Adams, and the others who espoused this theory may not have called themselves by that name, the basic tenets of their philosophy were the same. Today, the non-aggression axiom remains the fundamental basis for libertarian theory. Ron Paul bases his positions on it, as he said (about the 3:30 mark) when running for president on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1988.

Just as this non-aggression principle serves as the foundation and limit of government power between individuals within society, it is the foundation and limit of government power with respect to other nations. As all nations exist in a state of nature with each other, the natural law of non-aggression is the only one that governs them. As I’ve stated before, the non-aggression principle is the basis for the Declaration of War Power. The purpose of that power is for Congress to debate whether or not the nation in question has actually committed aggression against the United States. If it has, then a state of war exists and military action is justified. If it hasn’t, there is no state of war, no declaration, and no military action is justified. The use of military force in the absence of a state of war (previous aggression by another nation) violates the natural law.

The conservative philosophy rejects all of these ideas. There were conservatives in the 18th century just as there are today and their philosophy hasn’t fundamentally changed, either. The writer that most modern conservatives trace their philosophical ideas to was Edmund Burke. He has this to say about inalienable rights.

“Government is not made in virtue of natural rights, which may and do exist in total independence of it, and exist in much greater clearness and in a much greater degree of abstract perfection; but their abstract perfection is their practical defect. By having a right to everything they want everything. Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. Men have a right that these wants should be provided for by this wisdom. Among these wants is to be reckoned the want, out of civil society, of a sufficient restraint upon their passions. Society requires not only that the passions of individuals should be subjected, but that even in the mass and body, as well as in the individuals, the inclinations of men should frequently be thwarted, their will controlled, and their passions brought into subjection. This can only be done by a power out of themselves, and not, in the exercise of its function, subject to that will and to those passions which it is its office to bridle and subdue. In this sense the restraints on men, as well as their liberties, are to be reckoned among their rights. But as the liberties and the restrictions vary with times and circumstances and admit to infinite modifications, they cannot be settled upon any abstract rule; and nothing is so foolish as to discuss them upon that principle.”

While modern conservatives like Russell Kirk have pointed to Burke as their philosophical inspiration, one can clearly see that Burke is here merely restating ideas from the true father of modern conservatism, Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes asserted that in the state of nature man had “a right to everything,” even a right to one another’s bodies. Hobbes asserted, as Burke implies here, that man’s passions would always overcome his reason and because of this the state of nature was a state of war of “everyone against everyone.” For Hobbes, as for true conservatives today, man has to give up his natural rights upon entering society and accept those privileges to liberty and property that the government grants him.

For Hobbes, not only did man give up his natural rights upon entering society, but he also had to grant the “sovereign” absolute and undivided power. This was necessary in order to completely dominate man’s natural impulses, which would always lead him to harm his neighbor if they were not checked. This power must literally keep each individual “in awe,” to make him fearful of committing any unlawful act. To secure this absolute power, the sovereign needed control over the economy, which he consolidated through a privileged, wealthy elite. He also needed control over education and even the religious beliefs of the people. No individual could ever be allowed to follow the dictates of his own will, as it would inevitably lead him to harm his neighbor or the commonwealth in general.

On foreign policy, Hobbes also viewed all nations as existing in a state of nature. However, since he viewed the state of nature as equivalent to the state of war, he viewed all nations not under control of the sovereign as de facto enemies. In reading Leviathan, one can almost hear George W. Bush’s famous remark, “You are either with us or with the terrorists.” This is why conservatives support the deployment of troops all over the world. Like Hobbes, they believe that we are in constant danger from any nation that we are not completely dominating with the threat of force.

The reason that conservatism seeks to “conserve” the status quo is because its adherents do not believe that natural rights are inalienable. Upon entering society, man has to give up all of his natural rights, so the only rights that man has in society are those he has been given by government in the past. Thus, if you get rid of the past, you get rid of the rights. While the status quo might not be optimal, the conservative believes that to get rid of the status quo means returning to the awful state of nature, and necessitates reconstructing man’s rights – via government – all over again. Conservatives are always fearful that rights can be lost and never regained – as opposed to libertarians who believe that rights are inalienable.

The conservative tradition in America does not trace back to Thomas Jefferson or the Declaration of Independence. Its tenets are completely incompatible with the basic libertarian philosophy that informed Jefferson and that document. The conservative tradition in America traces back to Alexander Hamilton and the Federalists, who were the conservatives of their day. Hamilton sought to preserve the status quo, which was a central government with absolute power, along with its mercantilist economic system. The only change he sought was that the system be run by Americans rather than the British.

Hamilton was a Hobbesian on every issue, which is why he clashed so stridently with Jefferson. Hamilton also believed that the power of the federal government had to be absolute. Otherwise, the separate states would be in the state of nature with each other and inevitably at war. He often spoke of the “want of power in Congress” leading to the states “being at each other’s throats.” Economically, he wanted a central bank, high protectionist tariffs to enrich domestic manufacturer’s at taxpayer expense, and “internal improvements,” which meant the government using taxpayer money to build what we would today call “infrastructure.” While all of these policies were anti-free market, they served the agenda of securing the loyalty of a wealthy elite to the government. Hamilton went so far as to call the national debt “a national blessing” for the same reason. On foreign policy, Hamilton was an unqualified militarist who sought to lead an army in conquering an American empire, starting with the Western Hemisphere possessions of Spain.

He felt justified in all of these invasions of individual rights and violations of non-aggresion because he believed that what he called “national greatness” (today conservatives call it “American Exceptionalism”) trumped the rights of individuals. For Hamilton, as for conservatives throughout human history, the individual lived to serve the commonwealth, as opposed to the libertarian belief that the commonwealth only existed to serve the individual.

This conservative tradition can be traced throughout American history from the Federalists to the Whigs to the Republican Pary. The Republican Party was born as the party of big government, centralized power, and a mercantilist economy. Ironically, all that history remembers of the Republican Party at its birth in the 1850′s is its opposition to slavery – its one libertarian position – while ignoring its Hobbesian conservatism on all other matters. However, with slavery abolished, the Republican Party retained the rest of its philosophy through the next century and right up to the present day. One can hear it rehashed in any 2012 Republican presidential primary debate.

Today, conservative American voters wonder why the Republican politicians that they elect never seem to make the government smaller or less intrusive. They refer to elected Republicans who consistently grow the size and power of the government as “RINOS” (Republicans In Name Only). They believe these politicians are not “true conservatives,” because while they may belong to the Republican Party, they do not adhere to the principles of an underlying conservative philosophy that they imagine to exist. They are wrong. Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, George Bush, and the rest of the establishment Republicans are the true conservatives. The American voters identifying themselves as conservatives are really libertarians  – they just don’t know it yet.

Go to any Tea Party rally. This is where you will supposedly find “radical conservatives,” but you won’t find them carrying any signs quoting Alexander Hamilton. You won’t find speakers extolling the virtues of government spending on infrastructure. Instead, you see signs quoting Thomas Jefferson and speakers mocking the many “bridges to nowhere” that have resulted from attempting to put Hamilton’s conservative ideas into practice.

The one inconsistency is the Tea Party’s support of the U.S. government’s military empire. This false note in the otherwise libertarian movement is the result of cultural confusion. These conservatives don’t yet realize that they aren’t really conservatives. They are libertarians, and the warfare state is inconsistent with the rest of their philosophy. They support it because they have been told all of their lives that it is the conservative position, which it is. However, limited government, inalienable rights, free markets, and individual liberty are not.

Contrary to Rick Santorum’s assertion that no society based upon radical individualism has ever succeeded, the libertarian, radically individualist principles upon which the United States was founded were precisely why it succeeded so spectacularly. It was libertarianism that made America different from any society before or since – what made it the “shining city on the hill” as Santorum calls it. It was the collectivist conservative philosophy that helped bring it down – with a lot of help from a third philosophical movement called Progressivism. Neither more conservatism nor more progressivism – nor any combination of the two – can solve the problems that America faces today. If Americans want to see liberty and prosperity restored in the United States, then restoring libertarianism is their only hope.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Free Chapters – A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America

Kindle edition now available here!

Paperback here!

Hello friends,

Americans are waking up to the reality that our once free republic is in serious trouble. They are searching for answers to what seem like unsolvable problems: economic depression, unending war, political corruption, and vanishing liberties. What if there were just one answer – freedom? The American republic was founded upon that principle, yet few suggest it is the solution to any of our problems,  much less all of them. But if freedom is the answer, we first must know what it is. Sadly, most Americans do not. That is why I wrote this book.

I hope you enjoy the Introduction and Chapter One: What is Freedom?, which I am making available for free below. The subsequent chapters discuss how freedom can solve the many challenges we face.

To read the rest of this book, you can get the Kindle Edition here.

I look forward to fighting with you to restore our liberty.  – Tom Mullen

Reviews

“Thomas Mullen is a knowledgeable and passionate libertarian and A Return to Common Sense is a valuable addition to the libertarian literature. Those new to the freedom movement will benefit from Tom’s introduction to both the practical and moral arguments for freedom. Long-time activists will benefit from Tom’s explanation of why strict adherence to principle is vital to the future success of the liberty movement.”

- Representative Ron Paul (TX-14)

Congressman and author of The Revolution: A Manifesto and End the Fed.

“A well written primer on economics, liberty, and government that even avid Austrians will enjoy. If you have been blinded by government and Wall Street propaganda, A Return to Common Sense will help open your eyes. I not only recommend that you add this book to your freedom library, but that you buy a few copies for your friends.”

- Peter Schiff, President of Euro Pacific Capital, Inc and author of Crash Proof: How to Profit from the Coming Economic Collapse.

Tom Mullen has written a thorough and useful book. Those for whom a discussion of liberty is a new experience will discover in A Return to Common Sense a clear, easy to understand guide to the nature of freedom, and why it is essential to our fondest hopes for a civil society of opportunity, peace, and prosperity. For those who already share these values, it’s a welcome resource for perfecting our own knowledge and advancing our cause.

- Charles Goyette, author of THE DOLLAR MELTDOWN: Surviving the Impending Currency Crisis with Gold, Oil, and Other Unconventional Investments and RED AND BLUE AND BROKE ALL OVER: Restoring America’s Free Economy

 

Free Chapters

Introduction:

The American Crisis

THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

 – Thomas Paine (1776)1

America finds itself in a time of crisis.  For several generations we have expressed dissatisfaction with government, whether with the Viet Nam war, the energy and economic crises of the 1970’s, the scandals of the 1980’s and 1990’s, or the present wars in the Middle East.  While a little dissatisfaction with the status quo is healthy, it has gone far beyond that now.  For anyone remotely in touch with the state of our republic, there is a growing sense of dread that whatever is wrong is getting much worse much faster.  They realize that what was once a desire for change has now become a dire need for change.  Yet, in as much as the voting public clamors for it, does anyone think for a moment that the majority of people in America actually know what changes are necessary, or even what changes they want?

The United States emerged from the 19th century during the most innovative period in the history of mankind.  The industrial revolution had wrought miracles that could barely have been imagined 100 years before.  After thousands of years of traveling on foot or on the backs of beasts of burden, automobiles carried Americans wherever they wished to go.  Steamships freed travel by sea from the vagaries of the four winds, and the telegraph and telephone made communication with distant locations instantaneous, when just a few decades earlier weeks or even months might be required for a single letter to arrive.  Electric light replaced gas lamps, and man’s most ancient dream was realized by Wilbur and Orville Wright.

With the explosion of technology came an explosion of wealth and prosperity.  Mass production and other improvements made manufactured goods cheaper, increasing their availability beyond the affluent to the common man.  Indeed, as significant as the fortunes that were made by famous captains of industry was rising living standards of the growing middle class and even of the poor.  For the first time in history, the common people were the prime market for the output of society’s production.  After thousands of years, children no longer had to toil with their parents just to ensure that the family had enough to eat.  The average American lived comfortably on the income produced by one member of the family and that family’s standard of living was constantly improving.  No challenge seemed too formidable for a people that had harnessed the power of lightning, conquered the air and seemingly made a servant of Mother Nature herself.  Finally, the end of poverty and want were in sight.

At the dawn of the 21st century, no such optimism prevailed.  The technology-fueled prosperity of the 1990’s had hit a serious stumbling block with the crash of the NASDAQ index. A recession was just getting underway when America welcomed a new president.  In the midst of economic doldrums, socio-political disaster occurred.  Commercial airplanes exploded into the World Trade Center as a nation and world looked on in horror.  The buildings fell down and the War on Terror began.

Over a decade later, the United States finds itself quagmired in that war beyond anyone’s expectations.  Despite the fact that the Democrats won the White House and the House has changed hands twice since 9/11, there is still no end in sight to the wars in the Middle East.  President Obama began his campaign as an anti-war candidate, but has made it clear that he will continue the U.S. government’s policy of military intervention in the Middle East.  As the budget deficits and loss of lives mount, Americans are left to wonder if we will be at war forever.

At home, we find ourselves in economic crisis.  The stock market has experienced another historic crash, and for the second time in the past century we are told that we face a Great Depression.  While 50 years ago, the average American family was comfortably supported by one income, both parents in that family typically work today, and a second job for at least one parent is not uncommon.  While doctor bills were once only a concern for those with unusual medical needs, the typical American family is more and more being forced to choose between healthcare and other basic necessities.  While past generations saved for a comfortable retirement, the average American today is deep in debt.

How could a century that started with such promise end with so much doubt?  Where did we go wrong?  Since her historic founding, America has been known as the “land of the free.”  Yet, the answers proposed for each of our problems involves Americans giving up some of that freedom.  However, if freedom is what made America great, why would less freedom make things better now?

We are told “the world changed on September 11, 2001.”  Is this true?  Is the world fundamentally different than it was?  Do evil people really hate us enough because of our freedom and prosperity to commit heinous acts of murder against us?  Or are there other reasons?  Do we really have to surrender some of our freedom in exchange for security against this new threat?  What if the threat continues to increase?

Similarly, we are told our economic crisis was caused by too much laissez faire capitalism and too little regulation.  Can too much economic freedom really harm us?  Will the massive new government programs and “reregulation” promised by our new President solve our problems?  What if they don’t?  Will even less freedom be the answer then?

This book will set out to answer those questions.  In order to do so, we must take a sober look in the mirror.  In order to know what has put America in decline, it is necessary first to understand what made her great.  At a time when most people are confused and searching for answers, we must shine the light of clarity on every aspect of our society.  At times, that light may reveal truths we are not ready to face, including the part each of us has played in bringing about our nation’s decline.

We must question institutions we have long ago come to think of as unquestionable.  The past 100 years in America has been a time of significant change.  Of course, the 20th century was a time of astounding technological advancement.  However, we have also made ideological changes that have made America into a much different kind of society than the one our founders built.  Were those changes improvements, or have we moved away from the principles that made us great?  Are we still the “land of the free?”  Are we still the “land of opportunity?  Do we really know what those cherished words mean?

During the past few decades of apparent prosperity, very few of us wished to be bothered with the endless partisan bickering of our politicians, despite our frequent expressions of dissatisfaction with them.  While we may not have agreed with much about the direction in which our leadership was taking our country, we did not connect what was happening in Washington, D.C. with our own lives or the lives of our families.  We have been in a kind of slumber, believing that a free and open society of opportunity and prosperity is guaranteed in America, regardless of the decisions of politicians that determine what kind of society we are.

One thing is certain.  We are out of time.  In past decades, we have talked about issues we feared may present significant problems for the America of the future.  That future is here.  It is no longer enough to wistfully talk about the America we will leave to our children.  Everything we hold dear about America is in jeopardy, and the time has come to act.

 

Chapter 1

What is Freedom?

And what is this liberty, whose very name makes the heart beat faster and shakes the world?”

 – Frederic Bastiat1 (1850)

If there is one thing uniquely associated with America, it is freedom.  From the moment Cornwallis surrendered to Washington at Yorktown, America has been a symbol of liberty to the entire world.  Since the end of World War II, when the United States assumed a worldwide leadership role, it has been the leader of the “free world.”  At sporting events, standing crowds begin their ovation when the vocalist singing the national anthem gets to the words, “O’er the land of the free.”  Even in everyday conversations, scarcely a day goes by that one does not hear someone say, “Do what you like, it’s a free country.”

Although we all agree that America is the “land of the free,” there are questions about freedom that might be more difficult to answer.  What is freedom?  How is it defined?  What makes America the land of the free?  How would we know if we were to lose our freedom?  What is it that our soldiers die for and our politicians swear to defend?

We have been told a lot of things about what freedom is not.  From the end of World War II until 1991, most Americans understood that freedom was not communism.  For almost three generations, Americans lived in the “free world” during its cold war with the communist Eastern Bloc.  Without further thought or instruction, many children of the 20th century think of freedom merely as the antithesis of communism.  In some ways, this is not completely untrue, although it hardly provides a complete answer to our question.

Certainly, the mere absence of communism doesn’t necessarily guarantee freedom.  The 18th century British monarchy wasn’t communist, but the American colonists nevertheless considered it tyrannical enough to rebel against.  Likewise, the Royal House of Saud may be an ally of the U.S. government, but most Americans would not regard Saudi Arabia as a “free country.”

In addition to monarchies, there are plenty of dictatorships around the world that don’t enforce a communist system but are nevertheless oppressive.  While they also may be allies of the U.S. government, they certainly aren’t free countries, either.  So, a society is not free merely because it is not communist.

On the other hand, monarchy doesn’t seem to necessarily preclude freedom, either. Great Britain has been a relatively free country throughout much of its history, even when the monarchy was much more than a figurehead.  The American Revolution notwithstanding, Great Britain was at that time one of the freest societies in the world.  Therefore, rather than conclude that no freedom is possible under a monarchy, one might instead conclude that monarchies neither guarantee nor necessarily exclude freedom. Freedom or tyranny seems possible under almost any system of government.

Perhaps we can define freedom more easily by looking at its antithesis.  Merriam-Webster Dictionary lists slavery among antonyms for freedom.  Surely, we have found a start here.  Most people would agree that slavery is the complete absence of freedom.  Who can we imagine that is less free than the slave?  This is helpful in beginning to try to frame an answer, but freedom cannot be merely the absence of slavery.  Surely our founding fathers bled to give us a higher standard than this!

If we are told anything about what freedom is, it is that freedom is democracy.  If you ask most Americans, this is the answer you will get.  This is reinforced ad nauseum by politicians, media, and teachers in our public schools.  When Iraq held its first elections after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, politicians and journalists universally celebrated the Iraqis’ “first taste of freedom.”

Certainly, democracy is a vast improvement over the autocratic rule of a dictator. But does democracy automatically mean freedom?  If democracy is rule by the majority, what about the minority?  What if 51 % of the people voted to oppress the other 49%?  Would that society truly be free?

Most Americans would be quite surprised to learn what our founding fathers thought about democracy.  Any objective analysis would conclude that their feelings lay somewhere between suspicion and contempt.

James Madison said, “Democracy is the most vile form of government … democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention: have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property: and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths,”2

In a letter to James Monroe, he also said,

“There is no maxim, in my opinion, which is more liable to be misapplied, and which, therefore, more needs elucidation, than the current one, that the interest of the majority is the political standard of right and wrong.”3

While often extolling the virtue of majority rule, Thomas Jefferson nevertheless wrote,

“…that the majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society.”4

Can this be true?  The founding fathers were ambivalent about democracy?  For many people, this is tantamount to sacrilege.  More shocking still is what the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution say about democracy: nothing.  Nowhere in our founding documents will you find the word “democracy” or the assertion, implicit or explicit, that our government is a democracy.  How can this be?

Despite what we are taught virtually from birth, the United States of America has never been a democracy.  As only contrarians point out these days, it is a constitutional republic.  We choose our leaders using the democratic process of majority vote, but that is the extent to which the United States involves itself with democracy.

Like monarchy, democracy neither guarantees nor necessarily prohibits freedom.  Our founders actually feared that democracy poses a danger to freedom.  Apart from the pure heresy of the idea, it leaves us with a problem.  We are no closer to defining freedom.  If even democracy is not freedom, perhaps freedom doesn’t really exist!  If we are not to find freedom in democracy, where else can we look?

We certainly won’t learn what freedom is from our politicians.  While terrorism, healthcare, unemployment, gay marriage, and a host of other “major issues” dominate public debate, freedom is just too quaint, too academic, or too forgotten to get any airplay.  Yet, as we shall see as we explore the different subjects of this book, freedom is the fundamental issue.  In fact, despite what we perceive as a myriad of different problems facing the United States of America today, freedom is actually the only issue.  That may be hard to accept, given the decades of shoddy history, obfuscation, and plain old bad ideas we’ve been bombarded with.  Nevertheless, our greatest challenges and their solutions revolve around freedom.  If freedom is really that important, we’d better be absolutely sure we know what it is.

In order to answer the question posed by Bastiat at the beginning of this chapter, we will have to go back to the beginning.  Our founding fathers faced no such quandary about the definition of freedom. They knew exactly what it was.  They were children of the Enlightenment, and derived their ideas about freedom directly from its philosophers, especially John Locke.  While these philosophers were powerful thinkers and their ideas were (no pun intended) revolutionary at the time, the principles of liberty are relatively simple.  They are, as the namesake of this book concluded, common sense.  It was an understanding of these revolutionary ideas by average American colonists that inspired the revolution that gave birth to a nation.

The idea that opens the door to the true meaning of freedom is individual rights.  Despite the emphasis today on the “general welfare” and the “common good,” the American tradition of liberty has nothing to do with either.  Instead, the founders believed each individual was born with natural, inalienable rights.  The Declaration of Independence states,

“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” 5

This passage is quoted widely in popular culture.  Invariably, the words emphasized are “that all men are created equal.”  Certainly, these are fine words and worthy of veneration.  However, the rest of this passage is equally important.  Every human being, because of his equality with all other human beings, has rights no earthly power can take away.  These rights are “unalienable,” so that governments, even democratically elected governments, have no power to revoke them.  To the founding fathers this was self-evident.  It was true based purely upon man’s existence itself.

This idea is drawn directly from the philosophy of John Locke, who wrote,

“A state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another; there being nothing more evident, than that creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature, and the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst another without subordination or subjection,”6

While these rights are endowed by a Creator, the founders did not specify who the Creator was.  Too often, those arguing for the ideals of our republic make the fatal mistake of basing the natural rights upon belief not only in God, but specifically upon the Christian God.  While the founders were by no means opposed to Christianity, belief in it or even in God is not a prerequisite for the existence of the natural rights.  The beauty of this idea is that it transcends religion and thus welcomes members of all religions, and those with no religious beliefs at all.  Therefore, the first building block of freedom, individual, inalienable rights, can be claimed by Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, by every person on earth.

So what are these inalienable rights, which cannot be taken away?  The Declaration goes on to say, “That among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”7

At first glance, this statement might be a bit deceiving, maybe even a little disappointing.  Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness?  Is that all?  Surely we have more rights than these!  Of course, the Declaration says “among these,” so it does not limit the natural rights to these three.  But these three are important.  It is worthwhile to determine the meaning of each.

The right to life is pretty easy to understand.  Most civilized societies have laws against murder.  Each individual has a right not to be killed by another human being, except in self-defense.  So far, so good.  What about the other two?  We are in the midst of trying to define liberty, or freedom, so let us put that aside for the moment.  The third right listed is “the pursuit of happiness.”  What does that mean?  Does it mean nothing?  Or does it mean everything?  What if it makes me happy to steal cars or blow up buildings?  Surely, I don’t have a right to pursue happiness like that!

No. There is a natural limit on liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Again, we can find the answer in Locke,

“To understand political power right, and derive it from its original, we must consider, what state all men are naturally in, and that is, a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man.” 8

While people are free to do what they want, they must do so “within the bounds of the law of nature.”  What is the law of nature?  Locke goes on to tell us,

“The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and Reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions…” 9

Finally, we have some indication of what freedom is, rather than what it is not.  Liberty is not the unlimited ability to do whatever you want, nor is it confined to the arbitrary limits placed upon people by governments.  Contrary to the spurious argument that unfettered liberty would result in chaos, we see that the law of nature, Reason, very clearly and unambiguously prohibits some actions, even for people in a state of absolute liberty.  They are:

1.   Initiating the use of force or violence

2.   Infringing upon another person’s liberty

3.   Harming them in their possessions.

This last limit upon the actions of free individuals is important.  Locke spends an entire chapter of his Second Treatise talking about it.  It is related to property, which is arguably the most important right, while at the same time the least understood.  Property is important enough that we will spend the next chapter examining the subject.  To do this we will have to come to a clear definition of property, including how it is acquired, how it is exchanged, and what right the owner has to it.

More importantly, we have arrived at a definition of liberty.  It is the right of any person to do as they please, as long as they do not violate the equal rights of anyone else.  The latter half of this definition is generally referred to as the “non-aggression principle.”  Political activists associate this principle with libertarians, while intellectuals associate it with Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism.  Certainly both movements recognize and venerate it, but it is important to realize that neither is its source.  In fact, the non-aggression principle has been articulated with very little variation by all writers in the liberal tradition, including Locke, Jefferson, Paine, Bastiat, Mill, and later Rand and other 20th century writers and thinkers.

By applying this principle, the most complicated societal issues become astoundingly simple.  The ambiguous becomes unambiguous.  The answers become clear.  Virtually every problem facing America today can be solved by applying the principle of freedom.

There are a few points we should review for emphasis.  First, the rights mentioned in the Declaration of Independence and drawn out of Locke’s philosophy are inalienable.  They cannot be taken away by any power on earth, including a majority vote.  The reason the founders were suspicious of democracy was because of their fear that the majority would oppress the individual by voting away the individual’s rights, especially property rights.  This was the reason for the separation of powers and the limits on government authority.  Even a majority vote can be a threat to freedom.

The difference between a right and a privilege is a vital concept to understand.  A right is something you are born with, that you possess merely because you exist.  A privilege is something that is granted by another person, group, or a government.  Our country was founded upon the principle that all people have inalienable rights that cannot be taken away, not privileges granted by their government.  As John Adams so eloquently put it,

“I say RIGHTS, for such they have, undoubtedly, antecedent to all earthly government, — Rights, that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws — Rights, derived from the great Legislator of the universe.”10

There is no need to be “thankful for the rights we have in America.”  All people have those rights and gratitude is neither necessary nor appropriate.  Rather, people are justified in demanding their rights, and any violation of them should be recognized as an act of aggression.

Second, in any conflict between individual liberty and the will of the majority, individual liberty prevails without compromise.  The majority has no right to violate the rights of the individual.   This is to some extent merely making the first point in reverse, but it is important enough to say in more than one way.  Society doesn’t have rights; individuals do.  Society is nothing more than a collection of individuals, so protecting each individual in society protects society.

Despite these seemingly undeniable truths, individual liberty is today under constant attack because of its perceived conflict with the common good or “the needs of society.”  While living together and agreeing not to initiate aggression against each other seems astoundingly simple, our politicians would have us believe there is something incredibly complicated about it.  They create a world in which civil society is a maze of moral dilemmas that only their astute guidance can lead us safely through.  Once liberty is properly understood and applied, all of these supposed dilemmas disappear.

End Notes

Introduction: The American Crisis

1 Paine, Thomas The American Crisis “The Crisis No. 1” December 19, 1776 from Paine Collected Writings edited by Eric Foner Literary Classics of the United States, Inc. New York, NY 1955 pg. 91

Chapter 1: What is Freedom?

1 Bastiat, Frederic The Law 1850 from The Bastiat Collection 2 Volumes Vol. 1 Ludwig Von Mises Institute Auburn, AL 2007 pg. 79

2 Madison,James Federalist #10    http://www.foundingfathers.info/federalistpapers/fedi.htm http://www.foundingfathers.info/federalistpapers/fed10.htm

3 Madison, James Letter to James Monroe October 5th, 1786 James Madison Center, The http://www.jmu.edu/madison/center/home.htm Phillip Bigler, Director, James Madison University Harrisonburg, VA http://www.jmu.edu/madison/center/main_pages/madison_archives/quotes/supremacy.htm

4 Jefferson, Thomas To Dupont de Nemours from Jefferson Writings edited by Merrill D. Peterson New York, NY: Literary Classics of the United States, 1984 pg. 1387

5 Declaration of Independence, United States 1776 National Archives and Records (website) http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html

6 John Locke Second Treatise on Civil Government from Two Treatises of Government C. and J. Rivington, 1824 (Harvard University Library Copy) pg. 132

7 Declaration of Independence, United States 1776 National Archives…

8 Locke Second Treatise pgs. 131-32

9 Locke Second Treatise pg. 133

10 Adams, John A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law 1765 Ashland Center for Public Affairs (website) Ashland University  http://www.ashbrook.org/library/18/adams/canonlaw.html

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Is the Patriot Act Unpatriotic?

Republican presidential hopefuls Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul had an interesting exchange at the National Security Debate hosted by CNN on November 22nd. Not surprisingly, Gingrich supported the Patriot Act, going so far as to say that it should be “strengthened.” Paul argued that “the Patriot Act is unpatriotic,” because the legislation undermines American liberties. He thinks it should be abolished. Both men did well making their points and each got enthusiastic applause from their supporters. But who was right?

At first glance, it might have seemed as if Paul had stumbled into a “gotcha” by bringing up Timothy McVeigh. In supporting his assertion that one must never give up liberty for security, Paul argued that Timothy McVeigh, the terrorist who blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, was prosecuted, convicted, and executed under the existing laws, without the “tools” that the Patriot Act provides to law enforcers. Gingrich replied:

“Timothy McVeigh succeeded. That’s the whole point. Timothy McVeigh killed a lot of Americans. I don’t want a law that says after we lose a major American city, we’re sure going to come and find you. I want a law that says, you try to take out an American city, we’re going to stop you.”

Paul responded:

“This is like saying we want a policeman in every house, a camera in every house, because we want to prevent child beating and wife beating. You can prevent crimes by becoming a police state. So, if you advocate the police state, yes, you can have safety and security and you might prevent a crime, but the crime then will be against the American people and against our freedoms and we will throw out so much of what our revolution was fought for. So don’t do it so carelessly.”

It is likely that uncommitted observers – those not passionately for Paul or Gingrich – thought that both men made good points and that the right answer is “somewhere in the middle.” To be moderate is always viewed as being more reasonable. But is that really true? I believe that the question debated here between Paul and Gingrich is a fundamental question and compromise is impossible. To use a well-worn but appropriate cliche, Gingrich wants America to cross the Rubicon. Once we do, there is no going back.

The crux of the matter is preemptive government. Not just preemptive war, but the ability of the government to act preemptively in any situation. Paul takes the libertarian position that is based upon the non-aggression principle. Government force may never be employed against anyone until that person has invaded the person or property of another. Gingrich takes the more Hobbesian-conservative position: if the government is not all-powerful, we will all be killed.

If “patriotic” means the love of one’s country’s ideals, the highest being liberty for Americans, then you have to agree with Paul. That’s because not only is non-aggression the libertarian position, it’s the founding principle underlying the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights. The meaning of the word “liberty” is to be free from coercion, which is free from other people initiating force against you. Once the government or anyone else is legally empowered to do so, rather than limited to responding with force in defense against an aggression that you’ve already committed, then liberty as Thomas Jefferson understood it is gone.

Non-aggression is the concept expressed in the statement that “no person shall be…deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” In other words, the government can’t use force against you until it is not only asserted but proven that you have committed an aggression against the person or property of someone else.

If you’re reading this to mean that the government is powerless against individuals until after they’ve committed a crime, then you’re correct. That is the price of liberty and there really is no way to compromise it. Force must always be initiated by someone. To be free means that it is never initiated against the innocent, at least not with the endorsement of the law. A person is innocent until they actually commit a crime. You cannot prosecute someone for what might be in his mind – at least not in a free country. As Paul argued, once you throw out the principle of liberty, you have invited the police state, complete with ubiquitous surveillance, unwarranted searches, curfews, and the rest. It is astounding how much of it is already in place in a nation that calls itself “the land of the free.”

The obvious concern with this line of reasoning is that it would seem that to be free, one must set oneself up as a sitting duck for criminals and terrorists, powerless to resist them until it is too late. Ed Meese cited the “42 terrorists attacks, amied at the United States…thwarted since 9/11,” and went on to say, “Tools like the Patriot Act have been instrumental in finding and stopping terrorists.”

I don’t know how Meese arrived at that number, but it doesn’t jibe with reality. I suspect that it includes all of the entrapment schemes that have been perpetrated by federal law enforcement officers, whereby an undercover agent poses as a terrorist and approaches a mentally unstable person for the purpose of convincing him to participate in a phoney terrorist plot. Once the hapless “terrorist” agrees, the undercover agent arrests him and charges him with a crime.

All of the attempted terrorist attacks that the American public know about since 9/11 have defeated the Patriot Act and other security “tools” insituted since that crime was committed. The shoe bomber and the underwear bomber were both overpowered by private citizens acting in their own defense, after the would be terrorists had defeated the security measures within the Patriot Act and the TSA. Even on 9/11, with the federal government already in charge of security, albeit without the “tools” of the Patriot Act, the only crime that was prevented was the one that would have been perpetrated using Flight 93. Again, it was private citizens acting in their own defense and defense of their neighbors that thwarted the attack. While they were unsuccessful in defending their own lives, they prevented the loss of many, many more.

This illustrates another fundamental element of liberty – the right of each person to be allowed to provide for their own defense. The right and duty of each individual to defend themselves to the best of their ability replaces absolute power in the hands of the government. Consistent with this idea, Paul has been a staunch advocate of the 2nd amendment, while Gingrich, although he supports the right to bear arms in rhetoric, also voted for the Lautenburg Gun Ban and the Criminal Safezones Act, sponsored by Nancy Pelosi.

Gingrich tries to qualify his position on the Patriot Act by drawing a conceptual line between criminal law enforcement and national security. He says that “criminal law – the government should be on defense and you should be innocent until proven guilty. National security – the government should have many more tools in order to save our lives.”

In other words, if the government decides that “national security” is threatened, you are  no longer innocent until proven guilty. He also says that Americans must “build an honest understanding that all of us will be in danger for the rest of our lives.”

Do the math.

This exchange between Paul and Gingrich represents a fundamental choice that the American people have to make. They can take personal responsibility for their security and take power back from the federal government or they can hand unchecked power to the federal government along with their liberty. There is no “centrist” or “moderate” position, because once the principle is conceded, liberty is gone.

As Benjamin Franklin warned, the choice between liberty and security is a false one. No, there were not nuclear weapons in 1755, but to think that the existence of nuclear weapons changes the principle is counterintuitive. Franklin spoke those words in 1755 because the same choice existed then as now. Those who sacrifice liberty in the hopes of greater security deserve neither and will get neither. The most immediate threat to one’s security is always the closest one – the government itself.

In deciding who was right in this debate, Americans are really deciding whether liberty is something they cherish or whether Franklin, Jefferson, Adams and the rest were wrong. If they were wrong or if we’ve decided that there is something fundamentally different today that trumps those timeless principles, let’s at least dispense with the notion that we live in the “land of the free.” At the next sporting event, let the singer end with “o’er the land of the secure, and the home of the safe.” It may not be pleasing to the ear, but neither is Gingrich’s plan for a “secure” America.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

© Thomas Mullen 2011

Response to Letter from Senator Bill Nelson Concerning Independence Day

I received a holiday message from one of my senators with the customary admonishment about how grateful I should be to the government and its soldiers for my supposed freedom. I felt compelled to remind the senator that freedom is an inherent, inalienable right, bestowed by my creator and not by any government, and to refute this preposterous claim that invading third world countries is somehow making me freer. As one forced to pay for all of this, I find the claim particularly distasteful on the 4th of July. So, in the spirit of the holiday, I reprint his letter and my response here, so that the facts can be submitted to a candid world.

July 3, 2011

Dear Thomas,

I gave my Fourth of July message in the Senate this past week, and would like to share it with you. 

Some 235 years ago this weekend, John Adams proclaimed that July 2 would mark the most memorable epoch in the history of America.  It was on that day the Continental Congress declared the 13 colonies free and independent of Great Britain’s crown.  It was two days after that when Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence was adopted.

And when did Americans first celebrate their independence?

Philadelphia is said to have thrown a big party on July 8, 1776, including a parade and the firing of guns.  George Washington, then camped near New York City, heard the news on July 9 and celebrated then.  But in 1781, Massachusetts became the first state to recognize July 4 as a state celebration.  Ten years later, the young nation’s celebration was dubbed Independence Day.

This Independence Day, I hope every American will stop and think for just a minute about our freedoms – and just how much we owe those who came here long before us and mutually pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.   And let us also remember the young men and women who have died in defense of those freedoms.

We traditionally observe the Fourth with fireworks and fanfare, pomp and parade.  But today we remain engaged in far-away struggles to promote and protect the rights of others who, like us, value freedom and independence.  Many of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are spending their Fourth in Iraq and Afghanistan and other parts of world.

I recently was reminded of the commitment and selfless sacrifice demonstrated by one of America’s World War II veterans, who lives in my state of Florida.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Rickel, of Boca Raton, served as a waist gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress.  Sgt. Rickel survived the daring bombing campaign of Schweinfurt, Germany in October 1943, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroism or extraordinary achievement.

Sgt. Rickel and all the military members and all their families knew the risks and sacrifices they were making were worth it.   As President Reagan once said, “Some things are worth dying for … democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man.”

Indeed, our democracy is something to celebrate.  I wish everyone a Happy Fourth of July.

Bill

July 4, 2011

Senator Nelson,

The founders of our republic considered democracy “the most vile form of government” (James Madison). They did everything they could to try to limit the power that the majority had over the individual. That’s why they founded “a republic, if you can keep it” (Benjamin Franklin). Obviously, we have failed.

They also objected to the existence of standing armies during peacetime and would likely be taking up arms again if they were taxed by their government for anything other than defense of their own property. While I respect the courage and sacrifice of the soldiers, it is apparent that they are grossly misinformed. There is no cause-effect relationship between the wars that the United States has been involved in, at least since WWII, and what freedom we have left, which diminishes every day. I challenge anyone advancing this sophism to explain exactly how Americans would be less free if we had not invaded Korea, Viet Nam, Somalia, Yugoslavia, Iraq, or Afghanistan. Of course any such explanation would be a list of non sequiturs and absurdities.

As a net taxpayer, I grow increasingly irritated by the ubiquitous exhortations by politicians and media figures to be “grateful to the troops for my freedom,” with the implicit accusation that I am not grateful enough. Even if one accepts the preposterous claim that these wars are making us freer, the gratitude should be directed at those who pay for all of this. I see no reason why I should be grateful to someone whose salary, expenses, education, and sometimes even retirement are all paid for by me – while I have to try to pay for all of those same expenses for myself and my family with what is left after the government’s rapacious taxation.

I for one will not be celebrating our democracy today. Rather, I will celebrate our lost republic in the hopes that it can one day be restored. I hope you will consider my thoughts on this matter and govern accordingly.

Best regards, 

Tom Mullen

Road to Independence Sets the Record Straight (Movie Review)

Today, we celebrate another 4th of July holiday with less understanding of what we’re celebrating than ever. For most 21st-century Americans, the 4th is simply a day off from work and an excuse to drink beer, eat hot dogs, and watch fireworks. Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with pursuing such happiness. However, an understanding of exactly what it’s all about could only add to the enjoyment of the festivities.

 If you want to do something different this year and discover the true meaning of the 4th, you would do well to watch Road to Independence – The Movie, directed by Sirius Radio personality Mike Church for Founding Father Films. This animated feature bills itself as a “Docudrama,” defined as a historically-accurate dramatic film. For the majority of Americans who have been taught an incomplete or distorted version of American history, this film is not only historically accurate but highly entertaining.

The film opens with a prologue focusing on 4th of July speeches by President’s Lincoln and Reagan, with voiceover narration warning that many U.S. presidents attempting to evoke the meaning of the Declaration of Independence “have gotten it so wrong.” The film thus sets up its purpose – to get the story right and allow the viewer to recognize past, present, and future departures from the ideals of the American Revolution by those leaders supposedly charged to uphold them. It is noteworthy that Church, known primarily for his conservative talk show dominated by criticism of the left, picked two Republican presidents as examples, demonstrating how pervasive the misunderstanding or distortion of those ideals has become.

After a clever animated sequence in which the film’s credits are written in script upon the parchment version of the Declaration itself, the film moves to an 1821 interview with Thomas Jefferson. His narration will frame the rest of the story, with frequent cutbacks to the interview to remind us that we are getting the story from Jefferson. However, while Jefferson’s autobiography and other writings were apparently one source for the content, the producers have obviously researched the events depicted in the film far beyond Jefferson’s own recollections.

Within the framework of Jefferson’s narration, the film also makes frequent departures from strict chronology in order to show the viewer how events in the characters’ pasts affected or were relevant to events happening in the present. For example, the film depicts the sad state of Washington’s army at Cambridge in January, 1776. Washington discovered upon taking command that not only was his army poorly fed, clothed, and equipped, but that they were also outrageously undisciplined, frequently drunk and infrequently bathed. From that scene, the movie flashes back to John Adams’ nomination of Washington for the command. At that time, Washington expressed reservations due to his modest military skills. He now finds that not only might he be inadequate to the task, but that his entire army might similarly be found wanting.

One of the film’s outstanding successes is the bringing to life of these iconic, quasi-mythical personalities. For most Americans, Washington, Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams are larger-than-life epic heroes. Other, equally important founders like George Mason and Richard Henry Lee are all but forgotten. Road successfully puts the importance of these characters in perspective and brings their personalities to life – showing how the different characters and temperaments of these historical titans affected the course of history. Particularly successful is the depiction of John Adams, at once brilliant and boorish, obnoxious (by his own estimation) and charismatic. As the Jefferson character relates in his narration, he was also a “colossus for independence,” without whom it may not have been accomplished.

In terms of historical facts, the film is chock full of them, both crucial and trivial. Among the latter category, the viewer learns that the Declaration of Independence was not in fact signed on the 4th of July by most of the Congress, but only by the president and secretary. Other members signed it in August. As to more important revelations, we are startled to learn that even upon the eve of the July 2, 1776 vote to declare the colonies independent states, there were still many colonies unwilling to take that step. Out of 13, only 9 were ready to declare independence. South Carolina and Pennsylvania were both against independence on July1, while Delaware was split and New York abstained. The film does an outstanding job of depicting the political wheeling and dealing at the zero hour, including Ben Franklin’s persuading John Dickinson to leave the Congress before the final vote on independence that led to its unanimous passage.

The reluctance of the colonies to take the final step of separation from Great Britain is part of a larger motif that runs throughout the film. As the film’s voiceover narrator explains at the very beginning, the struggle was about “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” In other words, the colonists were primarily concerned with securing their rights, with separation from England only one possible means of doing so. Throughout the film, we are reminded of the lengths to which the colonists were willing to go to obtain redress of their grievances without leaving the British Empire. The division at the end was really between those who believed that they had no other choice but to separate and those, led by John Dickinson in the Continental Congress, who believed that protection of their rights could still be restored without resorting to rebellion and war.

The viewer also learns that the Declaration of Independence itself was not a groundbreaking piece of philosophy born solely in the mind of Thomas Jefferson, but rather the culmination of a long philosophical tradition that took shape over centuries. Jefferson himself tells us that “Virginia led us to independence,” and one cannot help but note the similarity of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, written largely by George Mason, to Jefferson’s more famous Declaration of Independence. Indeed, we learn that it is inaccurate to attribute the Declaration solely to Jefferson, as it was heavily edited first by Adams and Franklin and then by the Continental Congress as a whole. Rather than the work of one brilliant mind, it was an expression of the general ideas about liberty shared by virtually all of the founders in 1776, put into words by one chosen for his brilliance with the pen.

The film sets out to set the record straight on the American Revolution in general and the Declaration of Independence in particular for Americans whose leaders have “got it so wrong.” It accomplishes its goal not with heavy handed pronouncements, but with the facts themselves. The viewer is left to ponder the questions, “What did President’s Lincoln and Reagan (and most other presidents) get so wrong? What have I learned here that corrects those errors?”

Assistance is provided by the young man interviewing Jefferson in 1821. He asks if the Declaration “defined America’s mission.” Jefferson responds emphatically to the contrary. The founders were not interested in founding an empire with a collective “mission.” Instead, they were men who sought to live in a state of liberty and who quite reluctantly, after exhausting all other alternatives, decided that leaving their country was the only way to do so. The film captures this brilliantly when depicting the grave expressions on the congressmen’s faces after passing the resolution to separate.

As the father of a five-year-old girl, the fact that the film is animated immediately piqued my curiosity as to whether it would be appropriate for young children. It probably is a bit beyond the early grammar school student, not because of any “mature content,” but because the ideas expressed are just too complex for that age group. However, this film would be a perfect supplement to any junior high or high school American history course or for homeschool students age 12 and older. Its entertaining style and rich factual content would provide a strong foundation in understanding this crucial period in American and world history.

Overall, Road to Independence is an overwhelming success. Despite Church’s reputation as a highly-opinionated conservative radio host, this film succeeds in teaching without preaching and letting the facts speak for themselves, leaving the viewer to draw his or her own conclusions. Resisting the temptation to embellish the facts or invent composite characters for dramatic effect, the film successfully tells a story that already has all of the drama that it needs. Rather than semi-legendary figures who live only in paintings or marble busts, the founders come alive in this docudrama as flesh and blood human beings, complete with strengths and weaknesses, individual quirks, and a wide range of personalities. We experience first-hand the real people, historical twist and turns, and evolution of ideas that culminated in the Declaration of Independence and founding of the united States of America. I would recommend this film to all students of American history, both young and old alike.

For more information about this film or to order your DVD copy, visit Mike Church’s Dude Gear Store here.

Check out Tom Mullen’s book, A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America. Right Here!

 © Thomas Mullen 2011