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Statism from the Right and Left

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Newt Gingrichby Jacob G. Hornberger

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, a conservative, and New York Times columnist Gail Collins, a liberal, recently provided excellent insights into how the statist mind operates, both from a conservative and a liberal perspective.

During a recent presidential debate, Gingrich praised the Patriot Act, claiming that “all of us will be in danger for the rest of our lives.” He’s referring, of course, to the government’s “war on terrorism,” a “war” that Gingrich and other warfare statists claim will be with us forever,

Unfortunately, Gingrich didn’t explain why that is so. Why is it that Americans must live with the fear of terrorism for the rest of their lives?

NATO’s recent killing of six children in Pakistan provides a microcosm of why the war on terrorism is perpetual in nature. The children were killed by an airstrike that officials said was targeted at insurgents who were purportedly laying mines in a local village. Essentially, the children were at the wrong place at the wrong time, making them unfortunate collateral damage.

According to the New York Times, however, “An uncle of the four children disputed that account. He said that his relatives were working in the fields when they were suddenly attacked by the planes. ‘There were no Taliban in the field; this is a baseless allegation that the Taliban were planting mines,’ Mr. Samad said.”

As a practical matter, whether there were insurgents laying mines or not doesn’t really affect the rage that naturally arises within people when children are killed by bombs or missiles, especially by foreign occupiers. When children are killed, parents, uncles and aunts, cousins, and friends are going to get angry — very angry. Some of them are likely to join the next group that is laying roadside mines intended to oust the occupiers from their country.

The cycle then continues to repeat itself, ending up in a perpetual war on terrorism and perpetually increasing infringements on civil liberties supposedly intended to keep us safe from the terrorists that the government’s foreign policies are producing.

Why does Gingrich say that Americans will be unsafe for the rest of their lives? Because in his mind, the U.S. Empire is a given. Even if the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan were to end, that would simply mean that imperial resources and manpower would be reoriented toward other parts of globe — e.g., Asia, Latin America, Africa, or the Middle East.

For a statist like Gingrich the basic imperialist paradigm isn’t to be questioned. Instead, for him the paradigm of imperialism, militarism, and a giant military-industrial complex with ever-rising military budgets must be considered a permanent feature of American life, much as the Egyptian military considers its position a permanent feature of Egyptian life.

With empire comes foreign anger and rage, which manifests itself in terrorism, which is then used as the excuse for ever-rising military budgets and perpetually growing infringements on civil liberties.

A similar mindset was manifested by Collins in a recent column entitled “O.K., Now Ron Paul.” Since Paul is now in the top tier of polls in Iowa, Collins said she felt compelled to devote an entire column to his views. One can almost feel Collins’ pain of having to address Paul’s libertarian perspectives rather than simply ignore them.

Referring to Paul’s book End the Fed, Collins writes “if you are interested in abolishing the Federal Reserve, I would really suggest reading it. However the Fed is not going to be ended.”

I find that last sentence to be both fascinating and revealing. How does she know that the Fed is not going to be ended? Is she a seer? Is she predicting the future?

I don’t think so. I think that what she is saying is that the statist paradigm of monetary central planning is a permanent feature of American life. Like Gingrich’s warfare state, the Federal Reserve is here to stay and everyone had just better get used to it, even if it does mean that financial and economic bankruptcy lies at the end of the road.

Thus, while it’s fun to have libertarians like Paul bringing up ideas on monetary freedom and the private minting of money, for Collins they are totally irrelevant given that in her mind, the paradigm of monetary socialism will be with us forever.

But if the status quo really is permanent, why do totalitarian dictators incarcerate, torture, and execute people who are spreading ideas on liberty? What difference does it make to them that such people are spreading such ideas if statism is, in fact, permanent in nature?

Indeed, the reason that dictators shut down those who are spreading ideas on liberty is precisely because they know that the status quo is never permanent. Ideas on liberty have the potential to inflame the populace, to such a point that even the most powerful of paradigms and regimes can be brought down.

This is especially true with respect to the Federal Reserve, which is now being attacked by both the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movements. Both sides are figuring out that we libertarians have been right about the Fed from the start — that it’s a vehicle by which public officials fraudulently plunder and loot ordinary people for the benefit of the rich and the privileged, including their cronies on Wall Street and elsewhere.

It is ideas on liberty, both in foreign and domestic affairs, that makes libertarianism such a threat to statists like Gingrich and Collins. Deep down, people of the statist ilk know that the socialism, interventionism, and imperialism that they have foisted onto our land can be dismantled. All that’s needed is a critical mass of Americans who become fed up with the statism that afflicts our land and demand the restoration of liberty, free markets, and a limited-government republic. If that were to happen, a paradigm shift could occur as rapidly as the fall of the Berlin Wall, which statists once claimed would be with us for the rest of our lives.

That’s what scares statists like Gingrich and Collins. They see the rising level of interest in libertarians, which is being manifested in the political arena by the Ron Paul campaign. At first, they hoped to ignore it. When that didn’t work, they chose to scoff at it and suggest to people that system can’t be changed — that statism is here forever.

When statists suggest that libertarian ideas can never prevail in America, me thinks that the statists might just be whistling past the graveyard.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.


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