September 20, 2018

America’s Choice: Ron Paul or Unlimited Government

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Rights and Responsibilities

There is an old argument about rights that has enjoyed resurgent popularity in these days of “spreading the wealth around.” It says that while human beings undoubtedly have rights, they also have responsibilities. In fact, for every right there is a corresponding responsibility that is its complement. One should not be surprised that this line of reasoning appeals to statists of all varieties, because they see in it a way to undercut rights and dress up their schemes of plunder and domination as “responsibilities.”

What are the characteristics of a right? A right is an absolute and exclusive claim to something. “Absolute” because you cannot partially have a right to something. You either have a right to it wholly or not at all. “Exclusive” because that which you have a right to no one else can claim a right to.

A right defines something that you are entitled to (there really is a proper use of that word). You do not need anyone’s permission to exercise a right. No one can charge you a fee for exercising it. No government can regulate it. You are entitled to exercise rights without interference by or permission from anyone.

Consider the right to life. Is it absolute or do you have a right to live merely under certain conditions? Is the right to life exclusive or do others have some partial right to your life? Are you entitled to live, or can other people charge you a fee in return for allowing you to live? Can a government pass a law or regulation qualifying your right to life?

There are different kinds of rights, based upon their origins. Legal rights derive from a contract. While these rights originate with the consent of others, such as your right to a house that you have purchased, that right nevertheless takes on all of the characteristics described above once you have acquired it. The corresponding responsibility to the right of ownership of the house is the obligation to pay for the house. Your responsibility to pay derives from the contract you entered into. You are obliged to pay the seller because you have consented to do so in exchange for the house.

Natural rights are inherent in each person. These are part of and inseparable from our humanity. They cannot be taken away. Even if they are violated, they nevertheless remain. When we recognize something to be “wrong,” it is usually the violation of a right. When we recognize something as “evil,” it is invariably the violation of a natural, inalienable right.

Now, let us consider “responsibilities.” A responsibility is something that you are obliged to do. It is an obligation that you must fulfill in order to comply with a moral or legal code. Responsibilities do not always conform to our wishes. We may prefer to do one thing, but have the responsibility to do another. Like rights, there are different types of responsibilities.

When politicians talk about responsibilities, they mean those that can be enforced by violence, as all laws are ultimately enforced. That raises an important question: When is the use of violence justified in compelling someone to fulfill their responsibilities? Can violence or the threat of violence be used in enforcing all responsibilities? Obviously not. There are some responsibilities that cannot be enforced by other people at all.

Those who believe in God feel a responsibility to worship or to pray. That perceived responsibility is certainly not enforceable by other people. If there is an absolute, inalienable right of conscience, then no human may use violence against another for failing to fulfill the responsibility of praying. Certainly, God may claim a right to punish someone who has shirked this responsibility, but other people cannot. That is because the obligation related to the responsibility for praying is to oneself and to God, not to anyone else.

Put another way, you have a right of conscience and a corresponding responsibility to act according to the dictates of your conscience. To act against the dictates of your conscience may have negative consequences, but violence inflicted upon you by other people cannot be one of them. Otherwise, you must conclude that it is possible for a right to be destroyed by its corresponding responsibility.

So what responsibilities can be enforced with violence or the threat of violence by other people ? Since violence is only justified in defense, the only responsibility that can be enforced with violence is the responsibility to refrain violating the property rights of others, “property” being defined as one’s life, liberty and justly acquired possessions. It is only when one person has failed to fulfill this responsibility that others are justified in using violence. When other people use violence or the threat of violence under any other circumstances, they are failing to fulfill their own responsibility not to violate the property rights of others.

Consider the natural and inalienable right to liberty. Is this a right? Yes. Does it have a corresponding responsibility? Yes, the responsibility to not violate the liberty of others. Can others use violence or the threat of violence to enforce this responsibility? Yes, because doing so defends the property rights of an innocent person.

Most often, It is not the rights to life, liberty, or conscience the statist has in mind when he begins his sermon about responsibilities. While he may be willing to violate all of these rights as his means, it is rarely his end. No, the statist’s primary object is not your life or liberty, but your possessions, meaning your money, land or “stuff.” It is here the statist will stand up to say, “Yes, you have a right to acquire and own possessions, but you have a corresponding responsibility to pay your ‘fair share’ to society.” Of course, the statist claims the right to use the threat of violence – the government – to compel you to fulfill this responsibility. But where does this responsibility come from? And is acquiring possessions a natural and inalienable right?

There are only three ways to justly acquire possessions. One must either take them directly out of nature, create them with materials taken directly out of nature, or take possession of someone else’s possessions by agreement. This last means of acquisition may be the result of a gift or a trade. It is not important whether the previous owner was compensated; only that he voluntarily consented to the transfer.

Most people acquire possessions by exchanging their labor for the possessions of others. In other words, they are employed by others to perform a certain type of work. In exchange for the work, they are given possessions in the form of money, with which they can acquire still other possessions. Depending upon the scarcity of the skills and experience they offer to purchasers of their services (employers), they may be able to sell their services for larger or smaller wages.

Whether an individual sells it for $20 thousand, $200 thousand, or $20 million dollars, no one would deny that his labor itself is his property. He has a right to this property, meaning his claim upon it is absolute and exclusive. He is entitled to own his labor and to dispose of it as he sees fit. Those are the bases of his right to sell it.

It must follow that he also has an absolute and exclusive right to those wages. After all, he has just exchanged part of his life for them. Who else could claim any right to part of his life? The wage earner will invariably exchange most of his wages for other goods, but his right to whatever he acquires with his wages is identical to his right to his labor itself, which is merely a portion of his life. Denying this right necessarily supposes other people have a right to part or all of his labor, and therefore part of his life.

There was once an institution wherein one group of people claimed a right to the labor of others. It was quite rightly abolished.

The statist will answer that the wages were a “blessing of society” for which the wage earner owes some portion back. If that were true, one would have to question the rationality and efficiency of this mysterious entity called “society,” which chooses to bestow blessings upon people, only to immediately demand part of those blessings back. Why not simply bless the individual less, leaving both parties square?

In reality, the wage earner has already paid his  “fair share” to society. For the $20 thousand or $20 million he has earned, he has provided exactly $20 thousand or $20 million worth of labor. How do we know his labor was worth that amount? The same way that we know the market value of anything. It is the price others are willing to pay for it.

Perhaps our wage earner is a painter. In that case, he has exchanged exactly $20 thousand in painting services for $20 thousand in cash. Nothing was given to him by any nebulous entity called “society.” He created that wealth himself with his own labor. He has an undeniable right to keep it and dispose of it as he sees fit. The corresponding responsibility is to respect the property rights of others, meaning to not appropriate or transfer their property against their will.

If there is any justification for a corresponding responsibility to “society,” it can only be the responsibility to pay for some service he has agreed to purchase from society. As we have discussed, the obligation associated with a responsibility to pay for something derives from a contract. If one agrees to purchase something, one has the responsibility to pay the previous owner the agreed upon price. This responsibility corresponds to the right of ownership of the purchased property.

So what has our wage earner purchased from society? What has he consented to buy? Accepting the extremely elastic definition of “consent” employed by proponents of constitutional government, he has consented to purchase protection of his life, liberty, and possessions. As Thomas Paine put it, his responsibility is to “surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest.”[1] If there is any responsibility incumbent upon him, it is to pay for these services rendered and no more. Even taxation for this purpose has a dubious moral foundation, as our wage earner has never really consented to purchase even this protection. That is why Paine also referred to government as “a necessary evil.”[2]

But let us assume that somehow this consent is real. Like the purchaser of the house, the citizen has entered into a contract. His responsibility to pay for protection of his property corresponds to his right to demand that the protection he has purchased be provided.

For the statist, this logical connection between rights and responsibilities does not exist. He asserts that the corresponding responsibility destroys the right. For him, the citizen has a responsibility to suffer the very crime he established government to protect him from in the first place – the invasion of his property. He is not entitled to the protection he has purchased, but instead has a responsibility to tolerate its antithesis – for his property to be invaded by the entity he has hired to protect it. As John Locke wrote, “the preservation of property being the end of government, and that for which men enter into society, it necessarily supposes and requires, that the people should have property, without which they must be supposed to lose that, by entering into society, which was the end for which they entered into it; too gross an absurdity for any man to own.”[3]

Absurdity is at the root of all statist thinking, producing bizarre and disastrous results. The statist seeks to grant some people rights to the labor of others, such as healthcare, education, or housing, while placing the responsibility to pay for these services on others, under the threat of  violence if they don’t. Neither these rights nor these responsibilities can possibly exist, for many reasons, one being the supposed rights are claimed by one person and the corresponding responsibilities placed upon another. If one wonders how a government can get so out of control that it spends all it can possibly tax from its citizens and all it can possibly borrow, yet still seems to need more, false rights and responsibilities are a good place to start.

[1] Paine, Thomas Common Sense from Paine: Collected Writings Literary Classics of the United States, Inc. New York, NY 1955 pg. 7

[2] Paine, pg. 6

[3] Locke, John Essay Concerning the True Original Extent and End of Civil Government from Two Treatises of Government and A Letter Concerning Toleration  Digireads.com Publishing Stillwell, KS 2005 pg. 113

Photo by Arvind Balaraman

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.

Liberty Is An Absolute

unalienable“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.”

– Thomas Jefferson (1816)[1]

Over the past week I’ve made two round trip flights by air, which means I’ve had the distinct pleasure of passing through airport security four times in seven days. It may be my imagination, but I believe our friendly neighborhood TSA officers are getting more authoritarian. While the officer at the podium still exhibits call center courtesy, those charged with seeing people negotiate the canvass rope maze and show up with their license and boarding pass ready have taken to shouting orders, as if managing a chain gang. This characterization isn’t far from the truth. However, I don’t really blame the officers personally that much. Their job is to get people to act in a completely unnatural manner, partially disrobing in a crowded room full of strangers just for starters. With the exception of frequent travelers, no one is ever going to do it right.

So, as the days go by and thousands of new travelers shuffle in and forget to have their licenses ready, forget to take their suntan lotion out of their carry on, try to go through the metal detector with their jackets on, and do a thousand other things that innocent people would never think twice about doing, the frustration must build with these foot soldiers in the War on Terror. “I just told you yesterday that you can’t bring liquids through security!” they must think, forgetting that the little old lady they are snarling at today is not the same little old lady from yesterday, or the day before, or the day before that…

However, my sympathy does not go so far as to let me forget what is happening each time I remove my shoes and render my person, papers, and effects insecure against unreasonable searches. Regardless of the chirpy greeting by the uniformed agent with the infrared flashlight or the bizarre signs attempting to characterize this shakedown as some type of customer service (Rather be molested in private? Just ask…), I always remember what is really going on: I am being investigated for a crime.

There is no probable cause, no writs, no warrants sworn by oath or affidavit. In fact, for the 90-year-old gentlemen in front of me who just put his cane through the x-ray machine and is now holding onto the glass wall as he tries to stumble through the metal detector without it, there is no scenario that any reasonable person could imagine where he would or could harm anyone. Yet he is a suspect, too.

Most sane people who observe spectacles like this immediately conclude that law enforcement is going too far. Surely, there must be a better balance  between liberty and security. But in thinking this they have already made an error. When it comes to liberty, there can be no balance. Liberty abides no compromise. Liberty is an absolute.

For generations, Americans have been conditioned to believe that there are no absolutes. The truth is always the synthesis of the extremes and compromise is the supreme virtue. These ideas proceed from the “intellectual class” that dominates our education system – a breed that long ago abandoned reason for the Hegelian confusion that allowed them to embrace communism. It is from this quarter that the spurious arguments against liberty proceed. “Absolute liberty is anarchy” or “you must balance liberty with the needs of society” or Bill Clinton’s infamous “When personal freedom’s being abused, you have to move to limit it.” All of these arguments are groundless. Those who make them don’t know what liberty is.

Today, what we used to call “liberty” has been given a sterile, quasi-clinical 20th century name by its most fervent proponents. We now call it “the Non-Aggression Principle.” This is by no means inaccurate, but hardly as poetic or stirring to the soul as Liberty. While it is useful in making arguments (I do so myself all of the time), I often wonder if this name allows people to relegate this most sacred of rights to the small libertarian and objectivist constituencies who champion it. It is much easier to say “there are more important things than the Non-Aggression Principle” than “there are more important things than Liberty.” Nevertheless, Liberty and the Non-Aggression Principle are one and the same.

The passage from Jefferson is not meant to suggest that it originated with him or our founders. They got it from Locke, who developed his ideas from ancient sources. As Locke said, men are naturally in “a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature.”[2] The natural right to liberty is absolute within a natural limit: the law of nature. What is this law? The law of nature is reason, which “teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.”[3]

Thus, a state of absolute liberty “is not a state of license.”[4] People exercising their right to liberty do not have an unqualified right to do whatever they wish, regardless of the consequences. There is a clear and unambiguous limit to even what a person in an absolute state of liberty may do. He may do anything that he wishes as long as he does not harm another in aggression, which he absolutely may not do.

Therefore, it is just more politicians talking gibberish when we hear arguments for more or less liberty or balancing liberty with security. Liberty does not conflict with any proper functions of government. When there is conflict between government and liberty, it is always government that’s wrong. Most importantly, as our founding document clearly states and reason demands, liberty is an unalienable right. It is for no one to limit, regulate, or balance with anything. The minute that any limit on human action is put in place beyond “the bounds of the law of nature,” liberty has ceased to exist. One is either free or not free. You cannot enslave someone a little.

Once liberty is properly understood, there are a few conclusions that one can draw about the purpose of government. First, government cannot at the same time secure the right to liberty and prevent crime. The minute government acts before a crime has been committed, it has destroyed liberty. Since they have committed no aggression, those restrained by a government crime prevention policy should be free to do whatever they choose, but are not.

To preserve liberty, government may only prosecute and punish crimes after they are committed, except in those rare instances when a law enforcement officer happens to be at the scene of a crime as it is taking place. Even military action is something our founders understood was only justified when a state of war already existed, which I wrote about in more detail in an article last year. That is why they granted Congress the power to declare war. To declare something presupposes it already exists.

An understandable first reaction to this idea is that in order to be free we must offer ourselves up as sitting ducks to criminals and foreign armies, only justified in responding after the damage has been done. This is refuted by the second conclusion one must draw from understanding liberty: that each individual has not only a right but a responsibility to defend himself. While this may sound frightening, it isn’t. This is really the only choice you have, whether you live in a free society or not. In all but the rarest of cases, the government simply is not there at the moment you are attacked. You must defend yourself the best that you can and try to survive. Only afterwards can the law come to your aid. This is why liberty and the right to bear arms are inseparable from one another.

In addition to destroying your liberty, crime prevention will always fail. A just law is one that prohibits aggression, like the law against murder. Once an aggressor has decided to violate this just and natural law, he is certainly not going to be dissuaded by some societal rule of conduct attempting to prevent him from having the opportunity to commit the real crime. He will simply break that law, too, as do so many murderers when they use illegal firearms to commit their crimes. Only the innocent are punished by attempts to prevent crime. They either follow the unjust law and surrender their liberty or are unjustly punished while committing no aggression.

This inevitable failure leads to the most ominous aspect of government’s misguided attempt at crime prevention: its equally inevitable expansion. With each new failure, the preventative measures must be increased in intensity to prevent further failure. The actions of all must be more and more limited until all opportunity to commit a crime is eliminated, which is impossible even under martial law. So, it is a steady march onward, with a police state the only logical end. Each new failure in the war on drugs or the war on terror takes us another step down that road.

Life in a state of liberty is not perfect. It makes no guarantees, other than the opportunity to pursue your happiness. You may prosper or you may be poor. You may be safe or you may come to harm. Chance will certainly have some effect on your life. We all deal with unexpected circumstances we cannot control, both good and bad. But liberty gives you the ability to act upon those things in life you can control, in the way you believe will be best for you and those you care about. Without liberty, you can control nothing and it is only a fool who believes any government can guarantee he will never be poor or never come to any harm. There is only one thing that life without liberty does guarantee: you will never truly be able to pursue your happiness. Robbed of that, why live at all?

[1] Jefferson, Thomas Letter to Francis Walker Gilmer June 7, 1816
[2] Locke, John Second Treatise of Government Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. Indianapolis, IN (1980) Pg. 8
[3] Locke, John Second Treatise of Government Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. Indianapolis, IN (1980) Pg. 9
[4] Ibid

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.

>A New Declaration of Independence? No You Can’t!

>I knew that there would come a day when I would not just roll my eyes at something our new president said, but instead would be gripped by genuine, cold fear. I thought that at least the traditional honeymoon period would go by (the first 100 days in office – when we would be treated to meeting the new president’s dog, watching him wave during cornball photo ops, and generally doing nothing of real substance) before he said something that truly terrified me. However, if I have to find something good to say about “the savior,” it is that he has certainly hit the ground running. The only problem is that he is trying to get us all running toward our mutual destruction.

In a speech on Saturday in Baltimore, he said words that should be sparking mass protests all over the United States. President Obama has called for “A New Declaration of Independence,” which of course would provide the ideological backdrop for his plans to try to “perfect our union.” So that I am not taking his words out of context, I will quote him verbatim based upon the official transcript provided by his staff.

“And yet while our problems may be new, what is required to overcome them is not. What is required is the same perseverance and idealism that those first patriots displayed. What is required is a new declaration of independence, not just in our nation, but in our own lives – from ideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry – an appeal not to our easy instincts but to our better angels.” [emphasis added]

It will certainly be argued that this was just a rhetorical figure of speech, as Obama did not actually call for the drafting of a document. The dreaded words are certainly watered down by what follows them, making the statement seem more like an appeal to each person to make some sort of personal commitment to help make a better world. However, I here and now warn the reader not to write this statement off as just another speech. During his campaign, Obama repeated the words “service and sacrifice” so many times that it is likely that most Americans now feel that service and sacrifice are now required of them. Of course, the questions, “Serve whom?” “Sacrifice what?” and “For whom?” were never answered, but they certainly will be when our new emperor begins dictating policy to his rubber stamp Congress.

It should come as no surprise when we hear these new words from Obama again and again, until one day a story breaks that someone is actually working on a new declaration. Likely we will be told that this person – maybe a Congressman, maybe some other servant of the empire – was “so inspired” by Obama’s ideas that he decided to take him up on this one. It will of course be served up as the spontaneous action of this inspired person, and will be lauded as one of many wonderful results of Obama’s “transformative presidency.” Whether the official story is true or not will not change the disastrous results.

Most Americans reading this would probably wonder why a new declaration would be such a big deal. After all, the original Declaration does not have the force of law. Why would a new one constitute any substantive change?

While it does not have the force of law, the Declaration of Independence is monumentally important. It is not law itself, but the declaration of what the purpose of every law passed is supposed to be. As that document says, our government only exists to secure our individual, unalienable rights. Therefore, we declare in that document that we shall only pass laws whose purpose is “to secure these rights.” Implicit in “the Pursuit of Happiness” is the central, most important right: the right of each individual to the fruits of his labor.

As I argue in my book, this is the right without which no other rights can exist. This was the central theme in Locke’s Second Treatise of Civil Government, which was the direct source for our Declaration by Jefferson’s own (repeated) admission. This was the true reason that our American Revolution was fought. We have ignored this plain fact for too long, as our increasing loss of liberty proves.

Unlike our last president, President Obama does not have the dubious freedom that a more limited intellect can provide. He knows how troublesome the original Declaration is to his agenda. While it still stands as our declaration of what our government is supposed to be doing, it stands in the way of what he wants our government to be doing, regardless of the fact that our government already violates its principles in so many ways.

Like the United Nations “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” I would anticipate that Obama’s new declaration would grant additional rights to everyone, including a minimum standard of living, healthcare, unemployment benefits, and the rest of the entitlements granted in Article 25 and beyond in the U.N. document. At first, that might seem like a great idea. How can more rights be bad?

The answer is that the price of these new “rights” is the surrender of the most important of the true natural rights – the right to the fruits of your labor. For example, “healthcare” is nothing more than the fruits of the labor of healthcare providers: doctors, nurses, technicians, hospitals, etc. Therefore, no one can have a right to healthcare. If the doctor has a right to the fruits of his own labor, then other people cannot have a right to that same labor. It is a logical contradiction. In order for everyone to have a right to the doctor’s labor, either the doctor – or whoever is forced to pay the doctor’s bills for “everyone” – must give up the right to their labor. No one can have a right to something that someone else must be forced to provide – at least not in a society that wishes to be “the land of the free.”

Of course, I am certainly not the first to point out that the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights was modeled on the Soviet Union’s Constitution, not ours. That is why it grants the “non-rights” that it grants – because it is based upon communist philosophy. Granting everyone a right to the fruits of everyone else’s labor is the definition of communism, and almost all of President Obama’s rhetoric is consistent with it. He never talks about protecting the individual. Instead, he says “out of many, we are one.” We all have a responsibility of service (to the collective) and sacrifice (for the collective). We have no protection from the collective, no matter what they demand out of our labor or out of our hides.

However, our Declaration of Independence stands in the way of all of that. Unlike his predecessor, President Obama is an intellectual and he knows that the Declaration can still provide an impregnable defense against his monstrous plans, if only the American people would rediscover its meaning. Once a new declaration is in place, he can make the argument that the old one is outdated and that “we have all agreed” that “the challenges of the 21st century” demand a different role for our government.” While rights are unalienable and therefore cannot be taken away, they can certainly be violated. A house resolution recognizing a new declaration of independence would provide strong support for just that.

This is a line that our government must not be allowed to cross. From this day forward, each time President Obama mentions a new declaration of independence, our voices must be raised together in deafening unison: No You Can’t! No You Can’t! No You Can’t! (I can’t hear you) No You Can’t!

Home

>Liberty’s Greatest Commandment

>“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.”

– Thomas Jefferson (1816)[1]

The great spiritual movements of history have imparted spiritual truth to those who “had ears to hear.” Inevitably, religions have commandeered those movements and replaced that spiritual truth with authoritarianism. The great spiritual masters (real and legendary), such as Krishna, Paul, Jesus, Mohammad, and Buddha (just to name a few), have all offered their followers the chance to live a better life, to become more than they were, and to set themselves free from the physical bonds that limit their mortal lives and spiritual growth. Too often, those who have come after the masters have replaced their sublime wisdom with a myriad of rules, rituals, and mysticism that ultimately confuses or even contradicts the original message.

As just one example, Jesus was able to condense all of the laws and commandments of the Hebrew Scripture into two simple principles, recognizable at once to most Christians,

“The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”[2]

This short passage contains all that Jesus thought necessary in instructing his followers on how to live. Indeed, the scribe that asked him which commandment was the greatest is so impressed by what Jesus says, that he replies that following these two precepts “is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”[3] Unfortunately, the Catholic Church that evolved from this movement did not adhere to this philosophy, as it became one of the most oppressive in history in the ensuing centuries. While the gospels depict small groups of seekers gathered around an enlightened master, the Catholic Church organized itself into an authoritarian hierarchy, often using the threat of eternal damnation to gather earthly wealth or power. While Jesus instructed his followers to break the rules when the rules stood in the way of virtue,[4] the Christian religions, like so many others, have confused the rules with the intentions behind them, and the dogma for the spiritual truth. In fact, the edifice of ritual built up by the various Christian churches arguably impede their followers from finding God, and one need not look far for examples of those churches violating the second great commandment over and over again. Unfortunately, the Christian churches are in no way unique in this respect.

Liberty, too, has suffered this fate. Like the great religions, Liberty was a movement that once set people free. It was founded by an enlightened group of masters, named Locke, Jefferson, Adams, and Paine. Like the great religions, Liberty also had a central principle – a greatest commandment – that could inform its followers in every aspect of their lives. We have come to know this precept as the Non-Aggression Principle, which is the principle that each individual has the right to do whatever he or she wishes, as long as he or she does not violate the equal rights of others. Today we mistakenly associate this principle exclusively with libertarians or objectivists.[5] However, as the quote from the subtitle of this passage demonstrates, the Non Aggression Principle did not originate with either of these 20th century movements. In fact, not only is the Non Aggression Principle explicit in the writings of Jefferson and Locke, it is actually the definition of Liberty itself.

Like Christianity, Judaism, and the ancient spiritual movements that came before them, Liberty was a great spark of light in its infancy. Never before had men in society proclaimed to the world that all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights. Never before had people actually put the Non Aggression Principle into practice, and attempted to limit the laws of society to its standard. Never before had people attempted to truly live together as equals, and come so close to true freedom and justice.

Jesus gave two greatest commandments, because he was instructing his followers in living two different lives. His first commandment applies to the inner life – the spiritual life. His second commandment applies to the outer life – life on earth and among men. While Liberty’s great commandment only explicitly speaks to the latter, it is consistent with not only both of Jesus’ two greatest commandments, but with the spiritual and moral teachings of all spiritual movements. In this way, the Non Aggression Principle transcends religion, as it excludes none and supports the moral teachings of all.

Religious freedom is implicit in the Non Aggression Principle. As the thoughts, prayers, and beliefs of one person can of themselves do no harm to anyone else, following the Non Aggression Principle necessarily grants religious freedom to all. As Jefferson put it,

“The legitimate powers of government extend so such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”[6]

Here Jefferson both succinctly restates the Non Aggression Principle and draws its obvious conclusion about religion: no man’s inner life can harm another, and thus is outside the reach of government. Therefore, the Non Aggression Principle allows everyone to follow the spiritual teachings of any religion he wishes, or no religion at all. His inner life belongs to him and to no one else.

Regarding man’s outer life, the Non Aggression Principle is consistent with Jesus’ second commandment, and with the moral teachings of virtually all religions. It is not a very far reach to say that to “love your neighbor as yourself” is substantively the same as “to grant your neighbor the freedom to do what he pleases, as long as he harms no one else.” Nor is this message much different from those of the great masters of the other religions. Despite the outwardly different (and often antagonistic toward each other) institutions that have grown up around the other great spiritual movements, the great masters behind all of them exhorted us to love our neighbors (even our enemies), to do charitable works, and to respect each other’s property.

Unfortunately, Liberty has follwed the same trend as these movements. Those who came after the great masters have forgotten the true meaning of Liberty, and have instead built up a great, authoritarian hierarchy, complete with its own labyrinthine set of rules and dogma that consistently violates Liberty’s central principle. As the Catholic Church of late antiquity and the Dark Ages routinely violated Christianity’s central axioms, the greatest crimes in history are now committed under the sacred name of Liberty. None are more egregious than the current wars of aggression that purport to be “liberating” their victims, just as the Inquisition purported to be “saving” the victims of its sadistic tortures.

At home, the government of the so-called “land of the free” grows more authoritarian each day, routinely violating Liberty’s great commandment by seizing property to protect privileged financiers, to realize its perverse vision of forced economic equality, to punish victimless “crimes” that the members of a small, wealthy oligarchy find distasteful, and to tighten its control over every aspect of our lives.

As has been the case with religions throughout history, the time has come for the true believers in Liberty to reject the false teachings of the established clergy and resurrect the true message of the founding masters. While our own Sadducees and Pharisees (Republicans and Democrats) would have us believe that our problems are terribly complicated, they are not. They can be solved one and all by applying one simple principle: the principle of Liberty. If we were to at least limit the government to the limits set by Jefferson and Locke, every problem we currently consider paramount would disappear. For example:

Legal tender laws force U.S. citizens to accept U.S. dollars as payment, and forbid contracts to be denominated in gold. Using alternative currencies doesn’t represent aggression against anyone, so according to the Non Aggression Principle those laws would have to be repealed. This would immediately break the hold of the Federal Reserve over the economy, and would quickly end the problem of inflation. Prices would begin falling again, as they did throughout the 19th century. 100 years from now, the general price level would be half what it is today, as it was half what it was in 1800 by 1912. Can you imagine a world in which you could tell your grandchildren, “I used to have to pay twice that much for what you just bought?”

Applying the Non Aggression Princple means ending Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the rest of the wealth redistribution programs, because the money is forcibly taken from taxpayers to fund them. This would solve a myriad of problems. First, it would return $1.5 trillion in savings/capital to the economy, taking the United States from a negative savings rate to an over 11% savings rate. In addition, the artificial demand created by government in the healthcare sector would disappear, allowing prices to fall back to their natural levels. Healthcare would be affordable without insurance, as it would be subject to the same market forces that keep the prices of more necessary products like food and shelter affordable (to the extent that they too are not distorted by government).

This also means cutting at least 70% of our military expenditures, as we would have no business stationing troops anywhere but at our own borders. Without our military presence antagonizing the dispossessed overseas, the motivation for terrorism would quickly fade. We would add another $400 billion or so in savings/capital to the economy which is currently being devoured by government. Most importantly, hundreds of thousands of people, including over 4,000 of our own brave men and women, would be alive today to celebrate the holidays with us.

The Non Aggression Principle forbids laws against drug use, freeing about 2/3 of our prison population. Contrary to government propaganda-induced public opinion, this would not set off a crime wave, as the vast majority of these people have never committed a violent crime. In addition, the funding source for most of our criminal gangs would dry up, making it impossible for them to arm themselves the way they currently do. Like the prohibition of the 1920’s, the Drug War has resulted in a huge black market and criminal industry to supply the outlawed contraband. Without the Drug War, drug dealers and criminal gangs would go the way of the bootlegger. Last but not least, add 41 billion more to the savings/capital column.

In addition to not allowing the government to seize property from one person and give it to another, the Non Aggression Principle would not allow government to use taxpayer money as collateral for loans, as it does with Fannie Mae mortgage loans and student loan programs. This would eliminate two more huge bubbles caused by government-created artificial demand. We have already seen the housing bubble burst. The next big bubble to burst will be student loans.[7] Only because of government distorting the market with artificial demand – and in violation of the Non Aggression Principle – could tuition prices ever have risen so high. Both students and their parents are now going deep into debt in order to finance college tuition, which students at one time could finance with summer and part time jobs. If government was not allowed to guarantee the loans with taxpayer money (by force), the prices would be limited to what the market could bear.

One could write volumes on government’s violations of the Non Aggression Principle, and the wonders that could be achieved simply by adhering to it. However, solving the problems of inflation, healthcare costs, housing, education, war, terrorism, and recessions is a pretty good start. If you take the time to think it through, you will find that this principle – Liberty – can solve every societal problem we face, no matter how insoluble our politicians try to make them seem. Only our refusal to reason through them allows these problems to persist.

So, as we enter another holiday season, let us look past ritual and custom to the true meaning behind the spiritual movements we follow, and may each of us find our own inner path to salvation. Outwardly, let us revive the true meaning of Liberty. Let us cast the money changers out of our American temple, and put our swords back in their sheaths, both in dealing with our neighbors in other countries and here at home. Let us reject the false teachings of our political priesthood and return to the lessons of Liberty’s great masters, who warned us of the evils that presently afflict us but taught us the secret wisdom that can defeat them all. It is within our ability to make this New Year a rebirth of our American spirit, our freedom, and our prosperity. For this transformation to occur, we merely need to keep one New Year’s resolution: to live by Liberty’s Greatest Commandment. Free people need nothing more than this.

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

Home

[1] Jefferson, Thomas Letter to Francis Walker Gilmer June 7, 1816
[2] Mark 12:29-31
[3] Mark 12:33
[4] Luke 6:9
[5] Followers of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism
[6] Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, Query XVII 1782
[7] With the unemployment that will accompany the coming depression, it is inevitable that a much larger percentage of these loans will begin defaulting, creating a new leg to the crisis. The positive consequence of this would be the necessary adjustment in tuition prices that would take place if the market were left alone by the government. Unfortunately, government has repeatedly shown that it will do everything in its power to fight these necessary price adjustments, which only serves to prolong the crisis.