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Life in Bizarro World

iraq jailsby Jacob G. Hornberger

Sometimes I feel like I’m living in an alternative universe, one that is similar to Bizarro World, which was introduced in the early 1960s in Superman comics. It’s a world in which everything that is normal is considered abnormal, and everything that is abnormal is considered normal.

Look at Iraq. Statists say, “Isn’t it wonderful how fantastic Iraq has turned out. We should be so grateful to the troops for what they have accomplished in Iraq. It’s such a wonderful paradise of freedom and democracy. Why, Iraq is a model of peace and stability thanks to the U.S. invasion and liberation of the country. The Iraqi people are so grateful to us and they love us so much. What a beautiful, peaceful, prosperous, harmonious society we have brought into existence.”

On the other hand, libertarians see something completely different. We say, “Are you kidding? Iraq is nothing but a hell-hole. It’s a war-ravaged desolate wasteland of strife, conflict, death, and destruction. It is run by a crooked, corrupt, authoritarian regime that kills its own people, detains people indefinitely without trial, tortures them, and even executes them. The regime is more aligned with Iran than it is with the United States. The Iraqi people have lost tens of thousands of family members to the U.S. invasion and occupation of their country. Many of them hate the United States. It is not safe for Americans to travel to Iraq for either business or vacation.”

The statists look at us libertarians like we’re crazy. They just cannot understand how we see something that is completely opposite to what they’re seeing. For them, Iraq is a perfectly normal society. For us libertarians, Iraq is a perfectly abnormal society. And the statists look upon libertarians as weird for refusing to buy into the Iraq-as-paradise view.

Sometimes I can really feel how that little boy felt in Hans Christian Anderson’s tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Everyone points to the beautiful clothing that the emperor is wearing and has absolutely no doubts that what he is seeing is reality. The little boy, who undoubtedly was a libertarian, exclaims that the emperor isn’t wearing anything at all — that he’s naked as a jaybird. Of course, everyone is aghast over the boy’s observation.

Consider the drug war. The statists within the Republican Party are shocked — absolutely shocked — that Ron Paul and libertarians want to end the drug war. They just can’t believe it. For them, the drug war is a very model of a successful federal program. It gets the bad guys and jails them. It protects people from getting their hands on drugs and ingesting them. It ensures that our economy remains prosperous by keeping the citizenry healthy and productive.

Libertarians, on the other hand, see the situation entirely differently. We see nothing but an immoral, deadly, destructive, and failed decades-old federal program. Consider just the 45,000 drug-war deaths in Mexico during the past six years, along with overfilled prisons in the United States. We see the corruption among the police and the judiciary, not only in Latin America but also here in the United States. We see the racism. We see the asset forfeitures in which cops have been granted a license to steal from Americans, especially the poor. We see the massive ever-growing infringement on the freedom, civil liberties, and privacy of the American people.

Statists can’t believe it. For them, the drug war is everything good about America. For libertarians to question the drug war is proof positive that they must hate America and love drug lords and drug dealers. Indeed, many Republican statists are convinced that the only reason that most people are supporting Ron Paul is because they’re drug users and drug sellers. In fact, some of the statists are undoubtedly convinced that the only reason that Paul wants to end the drug war is so that he can finally shoot up with heroin or snort some cocaine. Undoubtedly, they felt the same thing about Milton Friedman when he called for an end to the drug war some 40 years ago.

Meanwhile, even as they support the drug war, Republican statists continue to spout how devoted they are to “freedom and free enterprise.”

Speaking of free enterprise, the liberals remain more convinced than ever that their icon Franklin Roosevelt saved America’s free-enterprise system by foisting a regulated or managed economy onto America. That’s what they inculcate in their children at home and in public (i.e., government) schools that they send them to.

We libertarians say, “But wait a minute. ‘Free’ in ‘free enterprise’ doesn’t mean that it doesn’t cost money. ‘Free’ means enterprise that is free of government control. That’s what made this particular system unique. For the first time in history, business and commercial enterprise was free of government control or management.”

Liberal statists are shocked, absolutely shocked. No one is supposed to talk like that. Everyone knows that America has a free-enterprise system. Who doubts that? Isn’t that what government schoolteachers teach us? Franklin Roosevelt saved our free-enterprise system by subjecting it to government control and management. How else could he have kept it free?

For a libertarian, that is really a bizarre concept. For us, a system of free enterprise is a system in which enterprise is free of government control and management, not one in which the government is controlling and managing enterprise to keep it free.

But, the liberal statists say, free enterprise failed, which is why Roosevelt had to save it by making enterprise subject to government control and management. For them, the Federal Reserve System is free enterprise. Thus, when the Federal Reserve manipulated the money supply, bringing about the 1929 stock-market crash, that proved that free enterprise had failed.

We libertarians say, “What? The Federal Reserve is a government agency, one that was instituted in 1913 and that engages in the central planning of the monetary sphere. Given its socialist nature, why would it surprise anyone that it would produce nothing but chaos and crisis, including the Great Depression?”

Again, the statists are shocked. They simply cannot understand how it is that libertarians don’t see the world as they do. America has a free-enterprise system. Everyone knows that. Therefore, all agencies and departments of the federal government, including the Federal Reserve, must be free-enterprise too. What’s so hard to comprehend about that?

Or consider Social Security, the crown jewel of the welfare state that both conservative and liberal statists embrace. To them, this program has to be “free-enterprise” because, again, everyone knows that America has a free-enterprise system.

But then we libertarians point out that one of the features of a socialist program is when the state takes money from people through taxation and gives it to other people. We point out that Social Security is one of core programs in Cuba, a socialist-communist country.

How do the statists respond to that? They either walk away or they exclaim, “You mean, Cuba has a free-enterprise Social Security system too?”

Like I say, it’s all very bizarre. The way I figure it though is that we libertarians are much like societal therapists: We’re making statists confront their lies, myths, and delusions about life and society whether they like it or not.

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

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