TAMPA, May 27, 2013 ― Today is the tenth day since Armed Forces Day. Ten straight days of “thanking the troops,” supposedly for the freedom we enjoy because of the sacrifices they’ve made.
Something needs to be said. It probably won’t be popular, but I have a sinking feeling there are more than a few people who have entertained the same heretical thought I have:
I’m sick and tired of being invited to “thank the troops,” especially for my “freedom.”
There is no disrespect intended towards the families of anyone who has died in one of the government’s wars. The loss of a child, husband, father or mother is a tragedy, regardless of the circumstances.
Moreover, it is hard not to respect the kind of courage it takes to actually go into combat, regardless of the reasons one may have enlisted.
But thanks is quite another matter. Thanks assumes that we have enjoyed some benefit as a result. We’re told that “freedom isn’t free” and the benefit we enjoy is our liberty. That begs an obvious question.
What is the cause and effect relationship between any war the U.S. government has prosecuted, at least since WWII, and whatever relative freedom Americans have left? Are we freer because our government invaded Iraq? Viet Nam? Afghanistan? How?
Asking those same questions in reverse reveals the absurdity of the whole mantra. Obviously, we would not be less free if the government didn’t invade Korea. There is no chain of events that would have followed resulting in you and I being less free to express our opinions or practice our religion. In fact, exactly the opposite is true.
In every war the U.S. has fought, Americans have become less free, especially while the war was going on. Every war president has persecuted war protesters, from John Adams to George W. Bush. Wars have brought taxes, rationing and conscription. Worst of all, American society has become permanently more militarized and socialist (but I repeat myself) with each new war.
Some argue the U.S. government has fought wars for justice, liberating people in other countries or protecting them from evildoers. That may or may not be true, but it begs two more obvious questions:
How did the American taxpayer become financially responsible for the liberty and security of every soul on the planet? When will this responsibility end?
The answer to the first question is a mystery this writer has been unable to solve. The answer to the second is obvious: When all resources are exhausted and all productive capability has been eliminated. That is the end of all military empires.
The American people have truly forgotten what a free country looks like. Worst of all are “small government” Tea Partiers who literally worship the military. Despite all of their talk about the Constitution, one has to wonder if they have ever actually read it’s authors. James Madison wrote,
“Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”
Free people do not worship the military establishment. They are suspicious of it. At one time the average American would not tolerate the existence of a standing army in peacetime. At the conclusion of Shay’s rebellion, John Adams and the U.S. Congress tripped over each other trying to take credit for disbanding the army.
How times have changed.
This is not a utopian vision. We live in a world of nation states, many of which could pose a threat to our liberty and security. There is a need for the means to defend ourselves if another nation besides the United States actually did show aggression. However, the present military establishment is orders of magnitude larger than any free country could possibly need or should tolerate.
The U.S. military employs approximately 1.4 million people. There is a reasonable argument to be made that all ground troops could be eliminated, given our air, naval, missile and nuclear capabilities. But let’s say for argument that 10% should be kept to train others if war broke out.
The rest are just on another government program that gives them free college, free housing, a guaranteed job and a guaranteed pension.
Meanwhile, the Forgotten Man (or woman), the one who pays for all of this, is reviled. He is never thanked. He is only ever told that he does not pay enough. Yet, it is he who actually makes us free, not by paying taxes, but by producing the wealth from which taxes are confiscated. He makes us free by allowing us to pursue our happiness, thanks to the goods and services he provides that we would otherwise have to produce ourselves. It is he who makes “society in every state a blessing.”
When is Taxpayer Day?
Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.