August 28, 2014

Dempsey’s Syria letter raises questions about entire Mideast policy

TAMPA, August 21, 2013 – Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. in an August 19 letter obtained by the Associated Press that the Obama administration is opposed to even limited military intervention in Syria because the rebels wouldn’t support American interests even if they won. Dempsey said that the U.S. is capable of destroying President Assad’s air force, but that it would plunge the U.S. into another Mideast war with no strategy for peace.

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

President Obama: Staying out of Gaza conflict your biggest test

TAMPA, November 16, 2012 – Dear President Obama,

Push may be coming to shove in Israel. There is only so long that one side can tolerate rockets being fired into its territory and the other can tolerate living under martial law imposed by a foreign power. The whole world hopes for a diplomatic solution, but one side or both may insist upon war.

If it comes to that, then you will face the biggest test of your presidency. Under enormous pressure to do otherwise, the right decision will be to do nothing.

The government you run is bankrupt and the nation is weary of war, especially the pointless kind we’ve waged in the Middle East over the past decade. History will eventually judge both of those wars U.S. defeats. A mighty empire invaded a third world backwater and was eventually expelled by guerilla “freedom fighters” defending their homeland. It’s an old story, but apparently neither voters nor world leaders learn much from history.

For now, the U.S. can declare victory in Afghanistan and withdraw and only good can come of that. What we cannot afford, economically or from a national security standpoint is to go right back into the Middle East, this time with world war a very real possibility.

There is already some speculation that a major offensive by Israel into Gaza may merely be a warm-up for a war with Iran. That may or may not be the Israeli government’s intention, but no rational person can deny that the situation has enormous potential to go there. At that point, it will be more important than ever to adopt the foreign policy that 24 consecutive U.S. presidents said was what made our nation wealthy and powerful: nonintervention.

U.S. citizens have been badgered for a decade with the tired argument that history has taught us not to “appease” a dictator. First Saddam Hussein and now Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have been the latest Hitler. Appease them, we are told, and they will not stop until they take over the world. Of course, no one stops to ask the obvious question: With what?

Let’s talk about Hitler and what we learned from history. Chamberlain’s infamous agreement is rather late in the game to pick up the story. Let’s rewind back to Hitler’s rise to power. It could never have happened without the economic hardship Germans suffered as a result of the Treaty of Versailles. That one-sided treaty would never have been signed had the U.S. not entered WWI and turned a stalemate that all countries wanted a way out of into a decisive Allied victory.

Sound familiar? It should, although there is a major difference here. Any war between Israel and either the Palestinians or Iranians – or even both of them together – would not be a stalemate. It would be a decisive Israeli victory that might lead to a lasting peace, if all of the players understand that they are on their own.

Continue at Communities@ Washington Times…

>Fighting For Our Freedom?

>To even question the active wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or the now-institutionalized worldwide military empire being maintained by the U.S. government draws tourrettes-like attacks from all who identify themselves as conservatives.  Not only are critics of U.S. foreign policy accused of being unpatriotic or even traitorous, but conservatives routinely go so far as to label them ungrateful.  The argument goes that critics of the empire enjoy the freedom of speech with which they criticize the government only because the military has fought to defend that freedom.  Therefore, those who oppose the present wars or our military presence around the world should be ashamed of themselves for “biting the hand that feeds them.”

Of course, this argument rests upon an assumption.  The assumption is that if the U.S. had not fought any of its past or current wars or had not maintained its military presence around the world, that we would have lost some or all of our freedom.  This fundamental assumption is never questioned (or I suspect even considered) by supporters of U.S. foreign policy, despite the fact that it completely disintegrates under even superficial examination.

Let’s give conservatives WWII for now, Pat Buchanan’s interesting arguments notwithstanding.  Is there any credible argument to be made regarding any of the major wars that the United States has waged since 1945 wherein one could conclude that not fighting it would have resulted in a loss of freedom for Americans?  What chain of events can any reasonable person construct whereby U.S. citizens would have lost their freedom if not for the invasions of Korea, Viet  Nam, Afghanistan, or Iraq?

The first two post-WWII wars were justified for ostensibly the same reason.  We supposedly had to prevent the communist governments of North Korea and North Viet Nam from taking over South Korea and South Viet Nam, respectively, because if we did not, communism would spread like a virus throughout all of Asia and eventually the world.  This was the so-called “Domino Theory.”  While anyone with a globe that is more or less correctly scaled can see through the ridiculousness of the argument in terms of Korea, one need not even resort to conjecture to refute this argument regarding the Viet Nam war.  History has shown in its case that the domino theory was completely untrue.

North Viet Nam did take over South Viet Nam.  The U.S. pulled out of Viet Nam in defeat and the very outcome that the U.S. had spent 14 years, the lives of 50,000 U.S. soldiers, and hundreds of billions of dollars attempting to prevent came to pass.  The communists took over all of Viet Nam.

Did American citizens lose any freedom as a result?  No.  In fact, as young men were no longer conscripted into the army to participate in this futile exercise, anti-war protestors were no longer being suppressed, and a huge chunk of government spending was eliminated (in theory, anyway), Americans were actually far freer once the war was lost than they were while it was being fought.

There is no argument to be made, no matter how far logic is stretched or how much disbelief is suspended, that Americans lost any freedom as a result of the loss of the Viet Nam war.  Therefore, the assertion that the troops fighting it were “fighting for our freedom” must be false.

Moreover, communism didn’t spread like wildfire beyond Viet Nam. After approximately 12 years, it imploded there just as it did in China at about the same time.  In the mid-1980′s, the Vietnamese began transitioning to a market economy, just as China did.  Today, both countries are arguably as capitalist as the United States, which unfortunately isn’t saying much.

As for Korea, the most generous conclusion one could come to regarding the “fighting for our freedom” theory is that the jury is still out – sixty years later.  U.S. troops are still stationed at the 38th parallel, supposedly keeping the communist barbarians from taking over South Korea as a stepping stone to the rest of the world.  Here speculation is certainly necessary, but not random speculation.  While it certainly would not be a postive outcome for South Koreans, can anyone seriously argue that if North Korea took over South Korea tomorrow that American freedom would be lost or even noticeably diminished?  How?

Fast forward 25 years and consider the present war in Iraq.  That war was started based upon on the assertion that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction that it was preparing to use against its neighbors to destablize the Middle East.  Let’s pretend for a moment that this assertion was not proven completely false.  Exactly how would another war in the Middle East, which would presumably resemble Iraq’s ten-year war with Iran, jeapordize the freedom of American citizens?  What cause and effect relationship could possibly be established between Middle Eastern politics and American freedom?  This question has to be answered before the “fighting for our freedom” assertion can be proven.

There is only one answer: none.  The Middle East has been unstable for thousands of years, and freedom has come and gone for countless western nations regardless of political devleopments in the Middle East, with the exception of the actual invasions of Western Europe by Muslim nations in the Middle Ages.  Those were ultimately defeated.  Certainly today the Middle Eastern nations pose no military threat to Europe, much less the United States.  To assert that Afghanistan could possibly threaten American freedom borders upon the absurd.

Putting the active wars aside for the moment, any objective observer would be even harder pressed to conclude that the U.S. military presence in the other 135 countries in which the U.S. maintains troops is contributing anything toward American freedom.  Can anyone seriously argue that if the U.S. government were to remove the 56,000 troops presently stationed in Germany that American freedom would somehow be jeopardized?  How?  The same question applies to  the 33,000 troops in Japan, the 10,000 in Italy, and so on.  There is simply no reasonable argument to be made that Americans would be one iota less free if all of these troops were to come home.

Warfare conducted for any purpose other than defending the borders of the nation does not make Americans freer.  On the contrary, it destroys freedom without exception.  More of Americans’ property is confiscated in taxes to support warfare.  Freedom of speech is curtailed.  Opponents of the war are rounded up and imprisoned or exiled.  Privacy is destroyed by the government in search of enemy spies or saboteurs.  These destructions of freedom have occurred during every war that the United States has ever fought, including all of the wars of the past 60 years.

Furthermore, America’s vast military presence in countries where no active war is being fought also results in less freedom for Americans.  Regardless of the public relations efforts of the U.S. military establishment, foreign troops are universally regarded the same way by the citizens of countries where they are stationed: they are resented.  This resentment breeds terrorism in some countries and other forms of protest in others.  Americans traveling abroad are much less free in what they can do, where they can safely go, and where they are welcome because of resentment born of U.S. troops stationed in foreign nations.

As Randolph Bourne famously observed, “war is the health of the state,” and the state is the enemy of freedom.  America was founded upon the idea that the state was “at best a necessary evil” and that there was an inverse relationship between war and liberty.  James Madison wrote that if ”tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy. No Nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”  History has proven him correct.  In the post-WWII era, the wars have become more numerous and longer and government has grown exponentionally.  With the expansion of war and the state, freedom has diminished.

This is not an argument for pacifisim or against the actual soldiers.  We live in a world with other nations that pose a threat to our lives and liberty and there must be some means to defend ourselves against an aggressor nation.  Whatever their reasons for joining, the men and women who serve in our miltary do make a huge sacrifice.  The overwhelming majority of them serve honorably both on the battlefield and off.  They join believing that they are defending our nation and freedom and the blame for our foreign policy does not rest with them.  A military force cannot function with each of its members questioning every order before carrying it out.  They have an obligation to disobey an order which is obviously immoral, such as shooting a non-combatant or torturing a prisoner, but beyond situations like those they must carry out their orders without question.  They place a sacred trust in their civilian leaders to deploy them only when it is absolutely necessary.

It is those civilian leaders who have violated that trust over and over again for the past sixty years.  It is they who have not supported our troops, spending their lives like so much loose change in wars that have been fought for everything but freedom.  They have sent them to countries that pose no military threat to the United States whatsoever and then tied their hands with rules of engagement that, whether intentionally or not, have prolonged those wars for years and even decades.  There can be no greater insult to the honor of brave soldiers than to exhort them to give their lives defending freedom when in fact freedom is not at issue in the war.

The United States government is broke.  It has accumulated a debt that can never legitimately be repaid.  While entitlement programs are ultimately far more economically destructive, costing over twice as much as U.S. military adventures, the $700 billion annual military budget is the next largest contributor to the deficits.  Of that $700 billion, less than $200 billion is spent fighting the two current active wars.  An active war should represent the high water mark of government spending, yet most of our military expenditures go to support standing armies in places like Germany and Japan.

It is evident that the military could be downsized by orders of magnitude without jeapordizing U.S. security in the least.  In fact, the U.S. would be far more secure without troops in 135 countries inspiring resentment against Americans and fighting wars against nations that could not launch a military attack against the United States in anyone’s wildest dreams.  Most importantly, the lives of hundreds of thousands of our troops, their opponents, and the innocent civilians in the countries that they fight in would be spared.

The gargantuan U.S. military establishment survives because American soldiers and civilians continue to accept the assertion that it is necessary to preserve our freedom.  This assertion is at best a destructive delusion and at worst an insidious lie, told by people who care nothing for our troops or the civilians they defend.  It is time to stop believing the lie and to truly support our troops.  Bring them home.

The Three P’s: Things Government Cannot and Should Not Do

In this late stage of America’s devolution from constitutional republic to social democracy, one is hard pressed to find meaningful debate anywhere about the role of government. Despite a 24/7 news cycle and endless political commentary on talk radio, most Americans have not once in their lives heard the question posed, “What is the purpose of government?” Certainly, we hear that “the government should do this” or “the government should not do that” in regard to particular issues, but nowhere will you hear a meaningful discussion about the underlying mission of government. Indeed, answering this question might not be all that beneficial to our chattering classes, because once it is answered, there is little need for hours and hours of more talk. Clarifying the role of government makes the answers to most political questions rather simple and unambiguous. It is hard not to suspect that many of our politicians avoid this subject intentionally.

If America is truly the “land of the free,” then there can be only one answer to this question. The purpose of government is to defend its constituents against aggression. Period. Since “liberty” and “the non-aggression principle” are one and the same, it is impossible for government to have any other purpose, or any additional role.

As government is by definition the societal use of force, any action of government other than defense against aggression must itself be aggression.  To induce human action through aggression is coercion. When coercion is practiced by government, it is called tyranny.

Freedom is the ability to exercise one’s will in the absence of coercion.  Therefore, freedom is impossible once government is allowed to perform any function other than defense.  If freedom is exercising one’s will in the absence of coercion, one cannot be free while being coerced. Two plus two cannot equal five.

That leaves a multitude of actions that government must be prohibited from engaging in. They generally fall into three categories, which I like to call “the Three P’s.” The Three P’s are to prevent, to promote, and to provide.  There is no way for government to engage in any of these three activities without destroying the liberty that it supposedly exists to defend.  Yet, this is 99 percent of what government in modern America does.

Most Americans look to government to prevent crime.  Once a particularly heinous crime is reported in the media, there are universal outcries about the failure of government to prevent it.  Almost no one stops to think about what it really means for government to “prevent crime.”  By definition, to prevent something is to act before it happens.  Since all government action represents the use of force, government can only prevent crime by initiating force against people who have committed no crime.  Force must always be initiated by someone.  The initiating party is the aggressor.  There is no other possibility.

This is not merely a theoretical or academic argument.  Think for a moment about the results of government’s various “crime prevention” efforts.  Gun control disarms the victims of crimes while empowering violent criminals who don’t care about gun control laws.  Economic regulations which attempt to prevent fraud insulate protected corporations from competition, emboldening them to commit more fraud.  Worst of all, the War on Terror, the ultimate government crime prevention program, has harassed millions of American citizens while allowing terrorists to walk onto planes with explosives in their shoes, underwear (and who knows where else), and has laid waste to an entire nation in order to determine that the “weapons of mass destruction” it supposedly possessed did not in fact exist.

In addition to preventing crime (including terrorism), that war also claims to undertake another of the Three P’s: to “promote.”  Once it became clear that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a new rationalization was needed for our brutal invasion of that country.  That new reason turned out to be our missionary desire to “promote democracy.”  Without getting into the erroneous perception that “democracy” and “freedom” are synonymous, it should be quite clear after seven years of uninterrupted martial law in Iraq that our government has failed to achieve either democracy or freedom.  Only government can be capable of missing the irony of ordering people at gunpoint to be free.  While it might play for some good laughs in a Peter Sellers or Monty Python movie, it is really quite horrifying when one considers that our government takes this position in all seriousness.

It is not only in foreign policy that government reaps disastrous results when trying to “promote.”  Consider its attempts to promote “clean energy.”  One need look no farther than the ethanol fiasco or “Climategate” to see the results government gets in promoting respect for the environment.

The same underlying reason accounts for the similarity of results when government tries to “promote” or to “prevent.”  In both cases, force is initiated against individuals who have committed no aggression themselves.  In order for government to “promote” anything, it must act.  When government acts in the absence of aggression, it commits aggression.  By committing aggression against and therefore overriding the decisions of millions of individuals, government causes innumerable unintended consequences.  All of them can be traced to the initiation of force.

The third of the Three P’s is by far the most destructive when undertaken by government: to provide.  The illusion that government can “provide” anything springs from a loss of recognition of what government is.  Government is the use of force, not by an individual, but by all of society.  As it is a destructive force, rather than a creative one, it can produce nothing.  Therefore, it can only provide something to one citizen that it has forcefully seized from another.  This holds true whether it is attempting to provide healthcare, education, housing, or any other form of property.

The fact that human beings spend the majority of their time on earth laboring to fulfill their wants or needs makes this the most costly of the Three P’s.  While warfare represents violent aggression against millions of people, government’s usurpation of human labor initiates violence against everyone.  While the cost of warfare in human lives cannot be expressed in dollars and cents, there is at least a limit to the amount of lives it can affect and the length of time it will go on (despite government’s best efforts to make it universal and indefinite).  However, once government has claimed a right to the labor of its constituents, no one is spared and the subjugation never ends.

While the active wars in Iraq and Afghanistan amount to less than $200 billion per year (as if those amounts were not staggering themselves), the U.S. government spends trillions of dollars each year attempting to provide its citizens with healthcare, retirement benefits, education, housing, and other necessities.  Government’s results in all of these areas are the same: disastrous.  The healthcare, education, and housing provided by government are more expensive, of lower quality, and in shorter supply than would be the case if government did not attempt to provide them.  Aggression cannot create prosperity any more than it can create freedom.

Thomas Paine wrote that “government is at best a necessary evil.”  He understood clearly what government is: an institution of violence.  As individuals, we understand that the need may arise to commit violence against another human being, but only justifiably for one reason: to defend our lives against aggression.  Should we be faced with that unfortunate choice, we may be justified in resorting to violence but afterwards regret that the need to do so arose. Most importantly, no sane person claims a right to initiate violence under any other circumstances.  As we do not possess this power as individuals, we cannot delegate this power to government.  Any legitimate power possessed by government must derive from the individuals who constitute it.

To put it most succinctly, government must always be limited to a negative power.  It is the societal extension of the individual right of self defense.  As individuals cannot use force to prevent, promote, or provide, government cannot either.  Individuals have no right to force one another to do anything, even if they believe that it is in the victims’ best interests.  So, whenever the question arises of whether government should involve itself in some new aspect of its citizens’ lives, remember the Three P’s.  If the new program represents any of them, it is time for each individual to exercise his most basic right in respect to his government: the Fourth P, to prohibit.

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

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>Government’s Old Shell Game

>Most Americans have seen the hilarious skit on Saturday Night Live, where the CEO’s of the Big Three automakers return to Congress with the “turnaround plan” demanded of them as a condition of receiving (stolen) bailout money. In the skit, the CEO’s drive cars manufactured by their respective companies from Detroit to Washington in order to make amends for flying corporate jets en route to their first appeal for our money. Of course, all three cars break down on the way, making the CEO’s late for their appointment with the (looting) Congressmen. The punch line of the skit is that the only plan that the automakers have come up with is to return to Congress every six weeks to ask for more money. To top it off, the GM CEO promises that by the time that they are ready to accept the December payment – provided that car sales rebound – they would actually need even more money.

It is sometimes said that life imitates art. As funny as the Saturday Night Live skit was, real life proved even funnier. The CEO’s did manage to marshal the resources of their Fortune 500 companies (referencing the 2006 list) and come up with three Detroit-manufactured vehicles that could make it to D.C. However, as in the comedy, the CEO’s show up at Congress three weeks after asking for $25 billion and actually ask for more! Rather than outrage, Americans should really take the opportunity to find some humor in this. As the last vestiges of our Republic are destroyed, one can either laugh or cry. Let’s recognize this ridiculous exercise for what it is – a farce – and have ourselves a good, hearty laugh. We deserve it. Then, let’s stop laughing and turn our attention to the real villains in this immorality play: the United States Congress.

As tempting as it is to focus our attention on the pompous CEO’s of these horribly run companies, let’s not forget why they became so horribly run. It seems to be routinely forgotten that it was Congress that created the labor union problem, with its National Labor Relations Act of 1935 and subsequent violations of property rights. This is why the American auto companies can’t afford to compete. It is also forgotten that Congress created Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac and the Federal Reserve (the three entities entirely responsible for the housing bubble), Medicare and Medicaid (the programs entirely responsible for the both the bubble-prices of healthcare and the lion’s share of our $50 trillion in unfunded entitlement liabilities), the Department of Education (the agency entirely responsible for the next bubble – tuition prices), and every other economic problem that the United States faces. It is no less than tragic that Americans still have not figured out that, left to themselves, with a government limited to enforcing contracts and protecting them against violence, they would trade freely with each other indefinitely to their mutual benefit. Instead, Americans still look to this body of criminals to SOLVE problems that said criminals created. How are they continually fooled?

There are a number of answers to that question, but there is one strategy employed by our ruling class that is particularly frustrating. Students of philosophy may call it the Hegelian Dialectic, while political strategists may call it “framing the debate.” For us plain folks, you might just call it the “heads I win tails you lose” strategy. Every time that Congress wishes to commit some new crime, they present it with a ready-made debate, eagerly facilitated by our so-called journalists. In each case, the issue is presented as if there are only two alternatives, both of which advance government’s purpose to our detriment. Any alternatives beneficial to the people are excluded entirely. It’s the oldest manipulation trick in the book, not much more sophisticated than the old shell game where the pea actually isn’t under any of the shells. Unfortunately, we fall for it hook, line, and sinker, every single time.

This latest farce with the auto companies provides a good example, although there are hundreds (maybe thousands) more. When the idea of stealing our money to give to the failing automakers first came up, there was immediately “fierce debate” in the media about whether the automakers “deserved” the money. Some argued that it was the companies’ own fault that they were in the shape that they were in. Others argued that even if given the money, the automakers would still eventually fail. Congress pompously demanded a turnaround plan from the automakers as a condition of their receiving the money. The media provided (and is still providing) the façade of spirited debate about all of these straw man issues. Every angle to come at this problem is argued, except one: Does Congress have the RIGHT to take our money and give it to somebody else?

Once the deafening silence on this issue is acknowledged, the underlying assumption behind all of the rest of the arguments becomes clear. We no longer have any individual rights. In debating whether or not the bailout money would keep the companies from failing, the obvious assumption is that if the bailout would save the companies, then Congress has the right to forcibly steal our money to save them. In debating whether or not the companies themselves had caused their own demise, you must assume that if they did not, then Congress has the right to steal our money to help them. When demanding that the automakers come up with a turnaround plan to ensure that they do not need taxpayer money again in the future, Congress assumes that they have the right to steal our money as long as the automakers present a reasonable plan.

Not one journalist, not one talk show host, not one panelist – no one anywhere – no matter how liberal, conservative, or even libertarian they claim to be, has made the argument that Congress DOES NOT HAVE THE RIGHT to forcibly take money from one person and give it to another. This argument has been excluded from all debate.

There is a very good reason for this. It is that there is no reasonable argument that can be made on these grounds justifying this theft of our property. The Declaration of Independence tells us that governments are instituted to secure our rights. The Declaration also says that those rights are unalienable, meaning that no government – not even a democratically elected government – can take them away. No majority can vote them away. Foremost among these rights is our unalienable right to the fruits of our labor – our property. THIS was the right that the American Revolution was fought over. Read your history. King George wasn’t denying the colonists free speech, or freedom of the press. The colonists didn’t tar and feather censors. They tarred and feathered TAX COLLECTORS. As I’ve said before, it is your property that tyrants covet, not your right to free speech or freedom of religion. This hasn’t changed in two hundred years, nor will it ever change. Government’s job is to protect our property from theft by other people. There is no circumstance that justifies them committing this crime rather than defending us against it.

Therefore, by stealing our money – for any reason – Congress is contradicting the sole reason for its existence. It doesn’t matter if Congress thinks its actions will save jobs (they won’t), if their actions will save the economy (they won’t), or even if they believe the majority of Americans support their bailout. Even if every American citizen alive save ONE was in favor of giving the auto companies this money, Congress WOULD NOT HAVE A RIGHT to give it. To do so is incompatible with liberty.

Seen in this light, it is obvious why it is imperative that the subject of rights does not come up in any discussion of government bailouts. At all costs, Americans must be distracted away from their rights and lured into arguing about something else. Thus, we argue about CEO bonuses, private jets, energy efficient vehicles (and why Detroit doesn’t make them), and a long list of other unimportant details, while ignoring the one and only issue that matters: that this money is the property of each individual American and that government has no right, under any circumstances, to take it from us. Period.

The automaker bailouts are not unique in this regard. This same parlor trick was played on us with the bailouts of the financial companies. Would the executives keep their golden parachutes? If not, then Congress had the right to steal our money. Would the financial system collapse if Congress did not act? If so, then Congress had the right to steal our money. Would 401K’s and other retirement accounts be decimated without the bailout? If so, then Congress had the right to steal our money (did you notice that they were decimated anyway?).

Over many decades, government has employed this simple subterfuge to bait us into abandoning our impregnable position – our rights – and dupe us into arguing the practical merits (or lack thereof) of their crimes. By taking the bait, we disguise the crimes of our government as ineptitude, and relegate ourselves to complaining about poor results rather than recognizing these usurpations for the crimes that they are.

When the banking bailout was proposed, we objected. For one, brief, shining moment, we were Americans again. We told our representatives that they were NOT to take this money. For one glorious day, our government blinked. Then, they told us that some unimaginable doom awaited us if we did not surrender our property to them. We believed them. They told us that our retirement accounts would be devastated if we did not allow them to violate our rights, so we let them take our money. Our retirement accounts were devastated anyway, and we deserved it. By surrendering our own rights, we violated those of our neighbors. The money we let them take was not theirs OR ours to give.

We have another chance. We can call them again and order them not to give this money to the automakers. Yes, I said ORDER them. Rights are not something that you request of your government. They are something that you DEMAND be respected. Our government is about to once again violate our unalienable right to the fruits of our labor. We must order them not to do so. Do not let them derail you with spurious arguments about what might happen if they don’t steal your money. Stick to your guns and keep bringing the argument back to the only issue that matters: this money belongs to you and they don’t have the right to take it. Make no threats of violence or harassment, but accept no compromise or offer to “agree to disagree” either. Hold their feet to the fire and remind them that this government is YOUR servant. You will be surprised how much power you actually wield.

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

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>Obama and the Ghost of FDR

>President-elect Barack Obama has not even taken office yet, and already the entire world seems to be celebrating the death of the last vestiges of capitalism. With the Democrats in control of both the executive and legislative branches of government, calls for a “new New Deal” are as commonplace today as the expression “it’s a free country” once was (you don’t seem to hear that much anymore. I wonder why?). It is not as if the “Change” Obama proposes to bring will be that radical. The United States has not practiced free market capitalism since at least before the last Great Depression, despite the ludicrous claims that capitalism is to blame for the next one. However, Obama will have to come up with something original if he is to leave an imprint upon history comparable to that of the original New Dealer. Not only did FDR turn the Hoover-created depression into the ten-year Great Depression, he has now actually reached from beyond the grave to take down the world’s largest automaker. Even apocryphal stories of the holy Obama walking on water pale in comparison to that.

It is nothing less than astounding that GM can fail so spectacularly as a direct consequence of the policies of the first FDR, while the entire world not only ignores the fact that the New Deal caused it, but actually demands another New Deal as the solution. Not even O. Henry gave us irony like this.

There is actually very little debate about what has caused the destruction of the American auto industry. Occasionally, a weak attempt is made to imply that the Big Three should not have concentrated on trucks and SUV’s while foreign competitors were making more energy-efficient vehicles. However, it is very easily demonstrated that the U.S. automakers had no choice but to concentrate on vehicles that had the necessary margins to cover their huge labor costs, both for current and retired workers. Decades of concessions to powerful labor unions have driven their costs so high that they are simply unable to make an automobile that competes with foreign imports.

There are those that argue that “unregulated capitalism” caused American manufacturing jobs to migrate overseas, where manufacturing labor was cheaper. However, this fallacy refutes itself. If “market forces” truly were in play, how did U.S. labor costs get so high? Did “greedy capitalists” simply abandon their profit ambitions and decide to pay their employees more than they could afford to? Surely, this would have required not merely irresponsibility but utter foolishness from the same crowd that MADE GM the largest automaker in the world. What caused this decades-long failure of basic business sense?

Of course, everyone knows the answers to these questions, but want to pretend that they don’t. The reason that manufacturers, especially the automakers, continually promised labor unions more than they could afford to pay was because government FORCED them to do so. It really is that simple. Under the euphemism “collective bargaining,” the government made it illegal for a manufacturer to refuse a demand from a union. An illusion of choice was sustained by merely requiring the employer to “make a reasonable counter-offer,” but the courts were there to see that “reasonable” meant that if the union asked for the moon and the stars, the employer would have to at least agree to a few planets. In the end, the employer could not choose freely as far as what to pay their employees or what benefits to offer. Without free choices, market forces are suspended.

To make this as plain as it can possibly made, this game is played like this: The union demands compensation beyond what the business model will support. The employer replies that they are unable to agree if they wish to stay in business. The government says, “Just give it to them or we’ll shoot.” Another “victory for the workers,” is won and the inevitable end draws nearer.

The entire union concession/cost escalation dynamic goes back to the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 and other New Deal legislation. It was these fundamental departures from capitalism that sowed the seeds of the eventual destruction of American manufacturing. What is honestly horrifying is that Americans can observe this government coercion of industry and seriously refer to it as “unregulated capitalism,” or to the series of concessions made by manufacturers at gunpoint as “market forces.” We are truly through the looking glass where a bull is stumbling through the china shop and the storekeeper is reprimanding the broken glass.

While it might seem unfair to blame a man that has been dead for over six decades for the failure of a company in 2008, one must consider the dominance that America enjoyed in the manufacturing sector to begin with. At one time, American manufacturers flooded the world with high-quality, low-cost goods, while still paying wages many times higher than their competitors overseas. There was no sector where America was more dominant than automobile manufacturing, an industry that America literally invented. It would not be brought to bankruptcy overnight. Year after year, decade after decade, the companies grew a little less profitable as government forced them to raise their labor costs IN OPPOSITION to market forces. It was not until decades later that those costs rose beyond the point where the companies could remain competitive.

However, the length of time it took for the disease to run its course does not change the nature of the virus that caused it. Indeed, the same reasoning could be applied not only to the entire manufacturing sector, but to other sectors of the American economy as well. The collapse we are experiencing is the result of an entire economy that has been rendered profoundly unproductive by systemic problems that all relate to government intervention into markets. We have still not found a cure for cancer or the New Deal. To be fair, the poisons we use to try to kill cancer before the they kill the patient are far less deadly and have a much higher rate of success than the medicine we are about to apply to our current economic crisis. The survival rates for many cancers continually improve. The survival rate for American businesses might not be significant enough to measure.

So, Obama will have to be creative to achieve staying power comparable to FDR’s. While Obama’s stated economic policies are terribly destructive, there is not much left of the American productive structure to destroy. More than likely, his interventionist and redistributive policies will merely apply the coup de grace to an economy that at this point merely retains the superficial façade of its former capitalist glory. In order to truly emerge from the shadow of the Ghost of FDR, Obama will have to find a completely new, original way to rend the fabric of our once-free society. One can only dread what that might be.

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>The Failure of Capitalism: Government’s Great Lie

>Sadly, the historic rip-off of the American public that has just taken place has met with little resistance from the victims. However, lest any inconvenient contrarians or clear thinkers rise up from the masses, the Great Rip-off comes with a Great Lie to justify it. While there have never been a shortage of factions ready to decry the evils of capitalism, it is important during a heist of this proportion that EVERYONE get on board. So, what you have heard from virtually everyone in government and in the media, and even from the Republican Nominee for President of the United States is that the current meltdown in the financial sector is a failure of free market capitalism. This is government’s Great Lie.

To anyone with even a passing familiarity with American history since 1912, this might seem like a bigger whopper than any fish story they’ve ever heard. However, a lie that enormous is necessary when you are literally stealing trillions of dollars from 300 million people who are watching your every move. To pull off a crime like that, you are going to have to convince those people that you are really helping them out.

Despite decades of increasing intervention by government into the economy, the vast majority of people seem ready to accept the past decade as “an experiment” with laissez faire capitalism. Critical of the Bush administration, House majority leader Steny Hoyer told RTTNews,

“With inflation, everybody who had any investment has lost money, 401(k) savings plans, pensions, they’ve lost money,” he said. “That’s a stark failure of the economy and this administration’s laissez faire, take the referee off the field, let anyone do whatever they want to do and everything will be fine.”[1]

In an article published Saturday morning, AFP reported,

“The top Senate Democrat, Majority Leader Harry Reid, blamed the crisis on Bush’s laissez-faire policies, then called on the president to better explain why such a sweeping program was needed as the country prepared for a presidential vote in less than six weeks’ time.”[2]

While such rhetoric might be expected from Democratic Party leaders, especially during an election year, there is no substantive rebuttal from the other side. Quite the contrary, as John McCain’s interview with the New York Times makes clear.

“I’m a Teddy Roosevelt Republican. Teddy Roosevelt was the first one that took on the big trusts, first time we began to have regulatory agencies. He said, unfettered capitalism leads to corruption. I’ve always agreed with that.”[3]

If the Great Lie is that this crisis represents a failure of capitalism, then there are a lot of little lies that help support it. Congressman Hoyer’s characterization of laissez faire capitalism as letting “anyone do whatever they want to do and everything will be fine” is just such a supporting lie. It is a variation of the attack on freedom itself as if it places no limit on anyone’s actions. In both cases, the limit is harming another individual. Laissez faire capitalism does not allow contracts to be broken, nor does it allow force or fraud to be initiated in forming them. While these limits are vital to true laissez faire capitalism, Congressman Hoyer would have us believe they are prohibited by it. Take note of Hoyer’s choice of words as well. It is apparent that even in the absence of any wrongdoing, Hoyer has an aversion to people doing “whatever they want to do.” This betrays the true nature of the statist.

The real substance of the Great Lie, though, is based upon the characterization of the American economy in any recent decade as “capitalism.” It isn’t. In fact, even our government and media establishment acknowledge that the U.S. economy is a “mixed economy,” supposedly combining the benefits of free market capitalism with the benefits of socialist central planning. The Lie says that it has been too much “unfettered capitalism” that has caused the problems that we are presently experiencing, rather than too much socialist central planning. How can it be determined which aspect of our economy is to blame?

In reality, there can be no such thing as a “mixed economy.” What we are really witnessing is the inevitable failure of that idea. It is doomed from the start, because the moment that ANY central planning is introduced, capitalism ceases to exist entirely. Once government control is introduced anywhere, it must eventually be introduced everywhere, resulting in all of the destructive consequences associated with the failures of socialism throughout history. The truth of the matter is that there is no “capitalism” in our mixed economy at all.

The proof? Let us consider what capitalism is, and whether its definition applies to the U.S. economy. Merriam-Webster defines capitalism as,

“an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.”[4]

Of the three elements in this dictionary definition, private ownership of capital, voluntary exchange, and competition, it is the second that is fundamental to the other two. Why? First, as long as there is voluntary exchange of property, there will be private ownership of capital. There is no way for government to acquire property in a “voluntary exchange.” Even a revenue generating enterprise started by government has to be funded into existence by tax money, and taxes are collected under the threat of force. Therefore, in a system where all of the transactions are voluntary, all property, including capital goods, remain privately owned.

Second, when all transactions are voluntary, most buyers and sellers are going to try to act in their best interests. Sellers will constantly try to convince buyers to purchase their products or services, rather than those of others. Likewise, buyers are going to try to find the best products at the lowest prices, motivating sellers to maximize their quality and minimize their price so that their products will be chosen over those of other sellers. Therefore, voluntary exchange naturally results in competition. It is competition that motivates innovation and improvement in efficiencies, and lowers the cost of production. Thus, it is free choice that ultimately drives the wealth-creating mechanism of capitalism. Without free choice, there is no capitalism.

Investments in the U.S. economy can hardly be described as being determined by private decision when government actively steers the investment decisions of capitalists. It does so either by outright subsidization of investments it favors, or by providing tax breaks to companies that make those investments. It is ironic that government often characterizes this second method as positive action to stimulate growth. After taxing all business activity to the brink of insolvency, it then gives back a small portion of the booty to investors willing to do its bidding. By doing so it wins political support, and at the same time distorts the economy, creating new problems to solve with future interventions. Thus, the government protects the job security of its incumbents and creates the need for more government all in one fell swoop.

Neither are prices really determined by competition in a free market in the U.S. economy. Prices are routinely fixed by government intervention, such as the prices of agricultural produce by government farm subsidies or the price of healthcare by massive government subsidization through entitlement programs. The price of labor is distorted by minimum wages and massive regulation that makes employing people infinitely more expensive than it otherwise would be. Interest rates, or the price of borrowing money, are set by the central bank, which is the most harmful price fixing of all (we will look more closely at this momentarily). While some prices are set by market forces, a large percentage is affected in one way or another by government.

Similarly, the distribution of goods in the U.S. is sometimes determined by competition in a free market, but that is only after government has taken over 12 percent of all goods and services produced in the economy and redistributed them through massive welfare programs, destroying the possibility of any real, voluntary savings. For those goods that are distributed in part as a result of competition, it can hardly be described as occurring in a “free market” when employers cannot really decide for themselves who to hire, employees cannot accept any wage they wish to, massive regulation protects large companies from smaller competitors, and even imports and exports are subject to over 20,000 pages of regulation in “free trade agreements” like NAFTA.

Most harmful of all is the supreme intervention into the economy by the central bank, which not only artificially sets the interest rates that ultimately determine the cost of investment, but artificially controls the volume and purchasing power of the money supply itself. While truly free markets are characterized by a steady decrease in general price levels over time, the artificial inflation of the currency by the central bank reverses this process. While the business cycle is relatively mild in a free market, the bubble-bust cycle caused by central banking ranges from painful to castastrophic.

Thus, the economic problems facing America today are not caused by capitalism, because it doesn’t really exist in the U.S. economy. Capitalism results in a natural, economic equilibrium. Central planning disrupts this equilibrium. In fact, not only are our economic problems caused exclusively by government intervention into the marketplace, rather than capitalism, these problems are the INEVITABLE RESULT of government intervention.

Why? Central planning, by definition, precludes free choice, and therefore capitalism, but does not change human nature. Human beings will still attempt to make choices in their rational self interest. This is one of the reasons for all of the unforeseen consequences of central economic planning. When government forces buyers and sellers to make choices other than those they would make otherwise, those economic agents seek another way to pursue their rational self interest. As these alternative decisions naturally run counter to the government’s desired result, more force is needed to prohibit those choices by economic agents, or to force other economic agents to address the consequences of its intervention. That in turn causes further unforeseen results, requiring further use of force by government. Once government intervenes in the market, it is inevitable that it will have to continue to intervene until it controls every aspect of economic activity. This has been the trend in the U.S. economy for the past 100 years.

In addition, government intervention cannot change economic realities, such as the cost of production. Only innovation can do that, and innovation cannot be created by government decree. Therefore, when government intervenes into the economy, all of the economic forces that were acting upon the market before the intervention continue to act upon it. For example, as Von Mises pointed out, if the government sets a price ceiling for milk, the smaller, marginal producers of milk can no longer afford to continue producing it, and may decide to produce cheese or butter instead. By intending to make milk more available to the poor, government has actually caused a decrease in supply. It then has to fix the prices of factors of production that are necessary to produce milk, causing the same pressure on marginal suppliers in that market and a decrease in supply of those factors of production. The cycle continues to repeat until the government either ceases to intervene in the market completely or nationalizes the entire industry.[5] At that point, even private ownership of capital no longer exists.

Thus, there are some conclusions that can be drawn. One is that there is really no such thing as a “mixed economy.” Economic forces do not allow it. Allowing some economic agents to choose freely in some circumstances does not produce the same results as when all economic agents are allowed to choose freely in all circumstances. Economic events are too interrelated. If the government subsidizes ethanol production, it decreases the supply of corn for food, and drives up food prices. When it imposes a minimum wage, it causes workers that would otherwise have jobs to be unemployed. That in turn decreases supply and drives up the prices of consumer goods. Economic agents making free choices under these circumstances necessarily choose differently than they would if conditions were different. There is no such thing as controlling part of a free market. Therefore, our mixed economy really is no such thing. If the choices of all agents are not free, there is no capitalism. The economy that results simply doesn’t fit the definition.

Another conclusion that can be drawn is that attempting to achieve a mixed economy inevitably leads to complete socialism. As we have seen, the first government intervention into the economy necessitates further interventions, which in turn necessitate further interventions still. The cycle continues until government controls all of the distribution and eventually must take control of all of the capital, as there are no longer private firms that are willing or even able to continue producing under the distorted economic conditions. For those who would argue on behalf of complete control of capital and distribution by government, the plain facts of history are against them. Socialism in its purest form has consistently resulted in mass shortages, famine, starvation, and eventual death for tens of millions of people.

The solution to all of our problems is simple: FREEDOM. While that may sound like a bland platitude, it is nevertheless 100% true, for all issues, without compromise. As Thomas Jefferson said,

“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.”[6]

This “Non-Aggression Principle” is often associated strictly with libertarians or objectivists, but as you can see it did not originate with either. It was a central tenet of the founding fathers, because this principle is THE VERY DEFINITION OF FREEDOM ITSELF.

While it is possible to garner wide support for this principle on many social issues, such as gay marriage, somehow the great majority of people cannot seem to apply it to economics. Despite the fact that economic freedom is the most vital to our survival, as it is the means of sustaining our existence, there are even some libertarians that would apply different rules to economic policy than to the other “civil liberties.” It is vital to recognize that not only is this principle equally applicable to economics, BUT THAT IT IS IN REGARD TO ECONOMIC POLICY THAT IT IS MOST IMPORTANT. It is the only principle that prohibits government intervention and central planning. It is the principle upon which a truly free market is built.

The move toward a truly free market cannot occur without painful side effects. When resources are misallocated on a mass scale, especially human resources, reallocating them means losses, unemployment, and economic suffering in the short term. This would have been the result of government choosing not to intervene in the market to bail out Fannie, Freddie, Bear Stearns, and AIG, to buy up the bad debt of other debt holders, and to guaranty the assets in the money market. However, that economic suffering has not been avoided by government intervention, but merely postponed. In fact, the longer that government intervention succeeds in postponing the inevitable reallocation that must occur, the more resources become misallocated and the more painful the correction will be. At present, we are facing the largest correction in economic history, and government has postponed it longer than a correction has ever been postponed before. Make no mistake. The reallocation is inevitable, and we will experience it either voluntarily or involuntarily.

However, before considering how to survive the painful consequences of this correction, we must first decide that a free market is what we want. This will never happen until the vast majority of Americans recognize the Great Lie for what it is. Doing so immediately might bring political pressure to bear on our government to reverse its present policy while the Great Rip-off can still be undone. This is unlikely to happen anytime soon. It is much more likely that the trend toward socialism will continue until it reaches the conclusion that socialism has reached throughout history: economic collapse. We are closer to that end than most people think.

At that point, Americans will have a choice. They can continue to believe the Great Lie and allow government to try to solve the problem, or they can choose to see the truth and demand their freedom. Historically, the government solution to an economic collapse has been totalitarianism. The fact that the least economically free nations of history were also the most totalitarian is no coincidence. In order to avoid this, Americans must cease to apply special rules to economics and realize that there is no freedom at all without economic freedom. The economics of freedom is laissez faire capitalism. The Great Lie says that laissez faire capitalism doesn’t work. This is merely the application to economics of an even greater lie – government’s most insidious, Greatest Lie of All: that freedom itself doesn’t work. When Americans finally recognize and reject this fallacy, they will once again find themselves on the road to prosperity and peace.

[1] House Majority Leader Slams Bush For Economic Policies RTTNews
[2] “Top Democrats skeptical of Bush bailout package” AFP September 20, 2008
[3] Transcript of an interview with Senator John McCain by John Harwood of The New York Times and CNBC, as provided by CNBC and published in the New York Times on September 21, 2008
[4] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/capitalism
[5] Von Mises, Ludwig Middle-of-the-Road Policy Leads to Socialism from Two Essays by Ludwig von Mises (Auburn, Ala.: The Mises Institute, 1991, pp. 42-68). http://mises.org/midroad.asp
[6] Jefferson, Thomas Letter to Francis Walker Gilmer June 7, 1816

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>Why Must We Declare War?

>In May of 2003, the United States invaded Iraq without a formal declaration of war. While there has been spirited debate about the justification for the war, there has been relatively little discussion about the lack of a formal declaration of war by Congress. When it has been brought up by libertarians and strict constitutionalists, the general argument against concern over this “formality” has been to point out H.J. Res. 114 (October 16, 2002), wherein Congress authorized the use of military force. The substance of the argument boils down to, “Congress authorized the president to use military force, so what is the difference between that and a declaration of war?

As we will see, there is a fundamental difference between a declaration of war and an authorization to use force. In fact, it is a distinction of enormous importance, for the former is the rightful defense of liberty by a free people, and the latter the unjustified initiation of aggression by an autocratic state. The implications reach to the very heart of our republic, calling into question our morality, our freedom, and our national sovereignty.

To understand this requires an understanding of what the founding fathers meant when they granted war powers to Congress. The founders based their ideas on government firmly upon the Enlightenment philosophers, who gave us our traditions of liberty. While war is popularly thought of as the active use of military force – the battles, skirmishes, airstrikes, invasions, etc. – these, properly understood, are not war. Rather, there is a state of war, separate from the actual fighting, that was clearly defined by the Enlightenment philosophers. This “state of war” must exist before military force is justified.

John Locke devotes an entire chapter to The State of War in his Second Treatise on Civil Government. In it, he writes,

“Men living together according to reason, without a common superior on earth, with authority to judge between them, is properly the state of nature. But force, or a declared design of force, upon the person of another, where there is no common superior on earth to appeal to for relief, is the state of war: and it is the want of such an appeal gives a man the right of war even against an aggressor, tho’ he be in society and a fellow subject.”[1]

So, according to Locke, the state of war can arise by either an aggressor using force, or declaring the intention to use force. In either case, the relationship between the two parties has changed from a state of nature, or a state of civil society (depending upon whether or not they live under a civil government), to a state of war. Thus, the state of war begins not with the first pitched battle or airstrike, but can begin merely by the aggressor declaring his intent to initiate force. War is a state, or a relationship, that exists totally apart from the physical act of fighting. Fighting or military action is actually a result of, or a response to, the state of war. The use of force is only justified in defense, when a state of war exists. He also writes,

“This makes it lawful for a man to kill a thief, who has not in the least hurt him, nor declared any design upon his life, any farther than, by the use of force, so to get him in his power, as to take away his money, or what he pleases, from him; because using force, where he has no right, to get me into his power, let his pretence be what it will, I have no reason to suppose, that he, who would take away my liberty, would not, when he had me in his power, take away everything else. And therefore it is lawful for me to treat him as one who has put himself into a state of war with me, i.e. kill him if I can; for to that hazard does he justly expose himself, whoever introduces a state of war, and is aggressor in it.”[2]

While Locke is arguably the most direct philosophical influence on the founding fathers, other Enlightenment writers also view the state of war as a condition, or a relationship separate from any tangible use of force. Thomas Hobbes writes,

“For war consisteth not in battle only, or the act of fighting, but in a tract of time, wherein the will to contend by battle is sufficiently known: and therefore the notion of time is to be considered in the nature of war, as it is in the nature of weather. For as the nature of foul weather lieth not in a shower or two of rain, but in an inclination thereto of many days together: so the nature of war consisteth not in actual fighting, but in the known disposition thereto during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary. All other time is peace.”[3]

While making an argument concerning conquests, Rousseau also recognizes that the state of war is a condition or relationship between two parties that exists outside of the actual fighting,

“First: because, in the first case, the right of conquest, being no right in itself, could not serve as a foundation on which to build any other; the victor and the vanquished people still remained with respect to each other in the state of war, unless the vanquished, restored to the full possession of their liberty, voluntarily made choice of the victor for their chief.”[4]

Interestingly, Rousseau argues here that the state of war can continue after the fighting has ceased, as in his example of a conquered people still under the power of their conqueror.

Clearly, the Enlightenment philosophers recognized that the state of war was a condition or a relationship between two parties, separate and distinct from the martial actions that the parties take as a result. The state of war begins with the use of force or the declared intention to use force by an aggressor, and gives the other party the right to use lethal force to defend itself. Thus, in the tradition of liberty, the use of force is justified in defense when a man or a nation recognizes that an aggressor has put itself in a state of war with that man or nation.[5] The state of war can also persist after the fighting ceases if the conditions which created it still exist.

This was the context in which the founding fathers gave power to Congress to declare war. It was not the power to initiate a war, which is never justified, but the power to officially recognize that a state of war already exists, and that force is therefore justified. This interpretation is supported by every request by a United States President for Congress to declare war, and every resolution of Congress to do so. James Madison was the first U.S. President to request that Congress declare war – against Great Britain in 1812. In his request, he said,

“We behold, in fine, on the side of Great Britain a state of war against the United States, and on the side of the United States a state of peace toward Great Britain.”[6]

When Congress declared war upon Great Britain in 1812, the resolution reads,

“Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That war be and the same is hereby declared to exist between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the dependencies thereof, and the United States of America and their territories; and that the President of the United States is hereby authorized to use the whole land and naval force of the United States to carry the same into effect, and to issue private armed vessels of the United States commissions or letters of marque and general reprisal, in such form as he shall think proper, and under the seal of the United States, against the vessels, goods, and effects of the government of the said United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and the subjects thereof.”[7]

Here we find a clear distinction between the state of war, which Madison argues already exists, and the commencement of the use of military force. Similarly, when James Polk asked Congress to declare war on Mexico in 1846, he said,

“But now, after reiterated menaces, Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon the American soil. She has proclaimed that hostilities have commenced, and that the two nations are now at war.
As war exists, and, notwithstanding all our efforts to avoid it, exists by the act of Mexico herself, we are called upon by every consideration of duty and patriotism to vindicate with decision the honor, the rights, and the interests of our country. . . .
In further vindication of our rights and defense of our territory, I invoke the prompt action of Congress to recognize the existence of the war, and to place at the disposition of the Executive the means of prosecuting the war with vigor, and thus hastening the restoration of peace.”[8]

The official declaration reads,

“Whereas, by the act of the Republic of Mexico, a state of war exists between that Government and the United States: Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of American in Congress assembled, That for the purpose of enabling the government of the United States to prosecute said war to a speedy and successful termination…”[9]

Both presidential requests and subsequent official declarations of war by Congress support that a state of war existed before the United States commenced planned military operations. In each case, the president makes his case for why the enemy nation has been the aggressor, and why he believes a state of war already exists, and requests that Congress formally declare it. In requesting a declaration of war with Spain, President McKinley states,

“I now recommend the adoption of a joint resolution declaring that a state of war exists between the United States of America and the Kingdom of Spain, that the definition of the international status of the United States as a belligerent power may be made known and the assertion of all its rights in the conduct of a public war may be assured.”[10]

Congress’ official declaration not only recognizes that the war already exists, but actually specifies the date on which the state of war commenced,

“Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, First. That war be, and the same is hereby declared to exist, and that war has existed since the twenty-first day of April, anno Domini eighteen hundred and ninety-eight, including said day, between the United States of American and the Kingdom of Spain.”[11]

Here, not only does Congress recognize that a state of war already exists, before the onset of planned military operations, but actually indicates the exact day on which the state of war began, taking the time to specify “including said day,” so that no mistake can be made about when the two nations entered a state of war.

President Wilson, in requesting a declaration of war with Germany in 1917, stated,

“…I advise that the Congress declare the recent course of the Imperial German government to be in fact nothing less than war against the government and people of the United States; that it formally accept the status of belligerent which has thus been thrust upon it; and that it take immediate steps, not only to put the country in a more thorough state of defense but also to exert all its power and employ all its resources to bring the government of the German Empire to terms and end the war.”[12]

The official declaration reads,

“Whereas the Imperial German Government has committed repeated acts of war against the Government and the people of the United States of America: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the state of war between the United States and the Imperial German Government which has been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared; and that the President be, and he is hereby, authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces…”[13]

Here, Congress emphasizes that not only does the state of war exist, but that it has been “thrust upon” the United States by the acts of war committed by Germany. Thus, the official declaration not only recognizes the existence of the war but takes pains to officially identify Germany as the aggressor.

Finally, in President Roosevelt’s request for a declaration of war on Japan, he says,

“I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.”[14]

In response, Congress resolves,

“Whereas the Imperial Government of Japan has committed unprovoked acts of war against the Government and the people of the United States of America: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the state of war between the United States and the Imperial Government of Japan which has thus been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared; and the President is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war against the Imperial Government of Japan; and, to bring the conflict to a successful termination, all of the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.”[15]

After the United States declared war on Japan, Germany declared war on the United States, and the United States subsequently declared war on Germany, consistent with Locke’s premise that a state of war exists once an aggressor declares his intent to initiate force.

I have devoted the space to include each of these passages to demonstrate the consistency with which past requests and declarations of war have demonstrated the principle that a state of war must exist before planned military action is justified.

In the interest of brevity I have included in the passages from the presidential requests only the language where they specifically ask for Congress to declare war. It is equally important to note that in each case where a president requested a declaration of war, he preceded his request with a statement of the overt acts or the formal declarations of the aggressor nation that supported his belief that a state of war existed. This can be verified by simply going back and reviewing the entire text of each request for a declaration.

So, what conclusions can be drawn from this evidence, and what relevance does this have to the invasion of Iraq and other military operations that the United States has undertaken without a declaration of war?

First, there is the moral question. Was the invasion of Iraq justified? In the five wars that the United States fought under a formal declaration of war, the justification rested upon a president “making a case” that a state of war already existed between the United States and the nation in question. The president presented evidence, in the form of a list of overt acts or a declaration by the aggressor nation, supporting his claim that a state of war existed. Congress then deliberated on the evidence, and cast a vote that supported a formal declaration that, in fact, the United States was already at war. Certainly, there have been arguments made in the cases of each of the five declared wars that either the state of war did not truly exist or that it was instigated by the United States. However, the fact remains that both the executive and legislative branches followed a constitutional process that was far more than a formality or vestige left over from earlier, courtlier ages.

However, in the case of the war with Iraq, as in the Korean and Viet Nam wars, that process did not occur. Specifically in the case of Iraq, the dialogue was shifted away from whether or not a state of war existed to a debate about whether or not Iraq posed a threat to the security of the United States. That debate still rages today. However, in the context of the previous declared wars and the meaning behind the declarative powers granted to Congress, this debate is irrelevant. No interpretation of the Enlightenment philosophy or of the U.S. Constitution justifies military action merely on the basis of another nation representing a threat. As they did in the Korean and Viet Nam wars, the United States used military force when no state of war existed, thereby becoming, by definition, the aggressor.

Why is a declaration of war a fundamentally crucial issue? Obviously, President Bush would not have been able to request a declaration of war with Iraq. There were no overt acts of aggression by Iraq against the United States for him to cite as his evidence of a state of war. Neither was there a declaration by Iraq of their intention to use force against the United States. Quite the contrary, Saddam Hussein repeatedly denied his country’s possession of weapons of mass destruction and even invited President Bush to a conference in an attempt to avoid military conflict (President Bush declined). Hussein all but declared a state of “non-war” with the United States, so there was no case to be made for a state of war based upon a declaration of intent by an aggressor. Had the United States government held itself to the standard set by the Constitution and close to two hundred years of precedent, no war with Iraq could have occurred. Equally valid arguments can be made for the Korean War, the Viet Nam war, Grenada, Bosnia, Somalia, etc.

The moral case is even more damning when considering the “insurgency” which is still raging in Iraq, especially in the context of the Rousseau passage above. According to Rousseau, a state of war exists even after the cessation of fighting until “the vanquished, restored to the full possession of their liberty, voluntarily made choice of the victor for their chief.” Philosophically, the Iraqi insurgents have every right to go on killing Americans, their conqueror, until they are both restored to full possession of their liberty and have voluntarily chosen the United States, or the government that the United States installs, as their rightful government. Thus, the United States finds itself entangled in a war in which it is the aggressor and which can only end at the discretion of the people of Iraq, including the “insurgents.” We have seen similar results in two previous, undeclared wars. In Viet Nam, we left in disgrace. In Korea, we are still there, almost sixty years later. Perhaps there is a correlation between moral justification and success.

Second, there is a lingering question regarding sovereignty related to undeclared wars. Since the establishment of the United Nations, the United States has not declared war, yet has been almost continuously involved in military operations, almost exclusively under the auspices of U.N. resolutions. Another passage in Locke may speak directly to this.

“To avoid this state of war (wherein there is no appeal but to heaven, and wherein every the least difference is apt to end, where there is no authority to decide between the contenders) is one great reason of men’s putting themselves into society, and quitting the state of nature: for where there is an authority, a power on earth, from which relief can be had by appeal, there the continuance of the state of war is excluded, and the controversy is decided by that power.”[16]

The moral argument notwithstanding, there is the further question of whether the United States still has the right to declare war. By recognizing the United Nations as a world governing power, is it not true that, as Locke puts it, there is now always “an authority, a power on earth, from which relief can be had by appeal?” If the United Nations has any authority whatsoever, then by its own traditions of liberty, the United States has surrendered its right to declare war, even when it determines that a state of war does indeed exist. Certainly, this is a consideration that is beyond the imagination of most of its citizenry, but the evidence seems to indicate that it is nevertheless true. The implications of this are indeed foreboding when considering a United States of the future, in a world where it is no longer the undisputed military power that it is now, perhaps as a result of an economic decline that may be in its first stages already.

Finally, there is the question of an undeclared war’s implications for the liberty of the people. Certainly, the founders granted the federal government war powers out of recognized necessity. They lived, as we do, in a world where an aggressor nation could threaten the security of even a free, non-aggressive state. However, they granted those powers for the specific purpose of defense against aggression, including the power to declare war as a means to determine if a state of war existed. The declaration of war process provided a litmus test of whether or not military action was justified. Even in a volunteer army, an undeclared war exploits the solemn trust placed in civilian leaders by the brave soldiers that defend that nation. However, the United States has twice, in Korea and Viet Nam, compelled civilians to join the army and fight. Moreover, it is not just the soldiers that war places at risk. Indeed, civilian casualties in Iraq far outweigh those of soldiers on either side. In decades past, the United States has been insulated from civilian casualties because of its remoteness from the countries in which it has waged war. However, the 21st century has already shown us that remoteness no longer provides that insulation. Given the direct risk to U.S. citizens that war involves, does the United States government have the right to wage an undeclared war? Are a people really free when they can be put at risk and into debt by their government in the absence of a true state of war?

Tom Mullen

[1] John Locke, Second Treatise of Civil Government (1690), Chapter III.19 http://www.constitution.org/jl/2ndtr03.htm
[2] John Locke, Second Treatise of Civil Government (1690), Chapter III.18 http://www.constitution.org/jl/2ndtr03.htm
[3] Thomas Hobbes, The Leviathan, Chapter XIII http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/texts/hobbes/leviathan-c.html#CHAPTERXV
[4] WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF INEQUALITY AMONG MEN, AND IS IT AUTHORISED BY NATURAL LAW? Part II http://www.constitution.org/jjr/ineq_04.htm
[5] That the definition of the state of war applies not only to individuals, but to states as well is made clear by Locke in later chapters.
[6] http://www.sagehistory.net/jeffersonjackson/documents/MadisonWarMessage.htm
[7] Twelfth Congress Sess. 1, Ch. 102 http://www.lawandfreedom.com/site/historical/GBritain1812.pdf
[8] http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/resources/archives/two/mexdec.htm
[9] Twenty-Ninth Congress Sess. I Ch. 16 http://www.lawandfreedom.com/site/historical/Mexico1846.pdf
[10] http://www.spanamwar.com/McKinleywardec.htm
[11] Fifty-fifth Congress Sess. II. Ch. 189 http://www.lawandfreedom.com/site/historical/Spain1898.pdf
[12] http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/4943/
[13] Sixty-Fifth Congress Ch. 1 http://www.lawandfreedom.com/site/historical/Germany1917.pdf
[14] http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/fdrpearlharbor.htm
[15] Seventy-seventh Congress Sess. 1 Ch. 561 http://www.lawandfreedom.com/site/historical/Japan1941.pdf
[16] John Locke, Second Treatise of Civil Government (1690), Chapter III.18 http://www.constitution.org/jl/2ndtr03.htm

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>To the People of the United States of America

>To the People of the United States of America,

I am writing today because no one has asked my opinion in any poll. No candidate has sought my vote, and no lobbyist taken up my cause. It seems that of all of the “special interests” in America, mine is forgotten – unworthy of notice by politicians, activists, media commentators, and the press.

It may be because I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat, nor represented by lobbyists for the disabled, senior citizens, minorities, trade unions, nor any other lobby. In fact, I am not a member of any group whatsoever.

I am the individual. Our Constitution was written to protect me from the majority. I am the victim of Democracy, which has overwhelmed the safeguards of the old Republic and replaced the Republic with mob rule. I am raising my voice now, while I am still able to raise it, if for no other reason than to let posterity know that I was still here when the ruins of our Republic are examined.

I have lived my life in a country that proclaims itself to the world to be the “land of the free,” but have watched my freedoms erode. The most basic right I had – ownership of the fruits of my labor – has been taken from me. Now, politicians argue over what portion of my labor will purchase medical care for the poor and elderly, what portion will pay social security, what portion will educate other people’s children, and what paltry sum I will be allowed to keep so that I may go out tomorrow and work another day.

I once lived in a country which recognized my right to do as I pleased, as long as I did not violate the rights of others. Now, mountains of laws and regulations have been passed in the perverse effort to prevent me from having even the opportunity to commit a crime. As a result, I am rendered paralyzed, as there is almost no action that I can take, beyond rising from my bed, that cannot be construed by someone to be a crime or violation.

More of my property is seized to support grand adventures in foreign lands, where my government spreads “freedom” through the crosshairs of its guns. My government’s invasion of countries that pose no military threat to us whatsoever has made me hated throughout the world, merely for being an American, and helped enslave my children to unserviceable debts.
Most ominously, even the legal protections of my person have been revoked in the name of protecting my fellow citizens against “terrorism.”

While the Constitution guarantees me sound money, as only gold and silver shall be legal tender, I am nevertheless forced to use the worthless paper notes of a private banking cartel that decreases their value daily, providing me no safe store of value to save for my future. To aid financial speculators who produce nothing whatsoever, the volume of these notes is increased out of all reason whenever these gamblers and thieves stand to suffer a loss. As a result, the purchasing power of this slave currency is constantly decreased, widening the gap between rich and poor, and destroying the middle class. I am left with no practical means to participate in free trade and civil society.

I give my fellow citizens the benefit of the doubt, and believe that they have merely forgotten what the true nature and purpose of government is. I remind them that government is nothing more than the collective use of force – and that the use of force is never justified except in defense. It is, by definition, a last resort. Government has almost limitless power, but very few rights. It has no right to do anything beyond protecting my life and my freedom.

Government has no right to provide for the needy with monies extorted at gunpoint from its citizens. I will gladly work with my fellow citizens to help those in need, once I have a choice. In the meantime, I demand that my labor cease to be taken from me without my consent.

Government has no right to bring freedom to the oppressed by initiating force. I remind my fellow citizens that all of the tyrants of history justified their conquests under the false guise of “liberation.” I will gladly stand with my countrymen to fight any foreign power that truly threatens us, but I demand that my government immediately cease to invade foreign countries in my name.

Government has no right to “manage the economy.” Trade is only truly trade when it is free – the result of exchanges between people by mutual, voluntary consent. There is no role for government in this whatsoever. I demand that my right to trade freely with my fellow citizens and citizens abroad be respected and no longer subject to inspection or interference.

Government has no right to “prevent crime.” It may only punish activities that are truly criminal, and those are relatively few compared to the ocean of laws and regulations that have been passed. I demand that any law prohibiting an act that does not directly harm another person be repealed, along with any law that prohibits unpopular thoughts or speech. Neither the threat of terrorism, poverty, natural disaster, nor epidemic justifies the surrender of one ounce of liberty. I demand that habeas corpus be restored.

Finally, government has no right to rob me of my property by forcing me to use paper currency whose value is subject to its whim. I demand that gold and silver no longer be taxed as capital gain if it rises in price relative to paper currency.

While I owe my fellow citizens nothing in return for heeding these demands, I nevertheless offer a thousand-fold in return. My fellow citizens are running out of fossil fuel – I will discover a new, renewable energy source. Our planet is growing crowded – I will unlock the secrets of traveling to others. The productive members of our society will soon be outnumbered by those less able or unable to produce any longer – I will feed them all. For it was I – the free individual – that gave you everything you have. It was I that invented the telephone, the automobile, the airplane, and the computer. It was I that devised methods to produce mass amounts of goods, making them affordable and available to everyone. It was I that devised a system of government where the rule of the jungle was replaced by the rule of just laws.

In return for restoring my rights, you will again free my creative power to give you more than you can possibly imagine, and solve problems which you are unable to solve without me. I ask nothing more in return, for it is no more my right to make claims upon my fellow citizens than it is their right to make claims upon me. I hereby waive any supposed “entitlement” to public welfare, medical care, retirement benefits, or any other benefit that requires coercion of my fellow citizens to provide it. In return I demand that my liberty be restored. As I believe that I am the last individual left on earth, I do not believe that my tax money will be missed. However, if there are other individuals besides me that would claim their freedom as well, I invite them to join me, and to them I pledge my life, my fortune, and my sacred honor.

Regards,

A Farmer

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