by Jacob G. Hornberger
Given the anger of the Tea Party over out-of-control federal spending, soaring debt, taxation, inflation, and constitutional violations, it would be nice if they got angry over something much more fundamental: the infringements on the fundamental rights and freedoms of the American people by the federal government. After all, what’s more important than freedom?
Consider, for example, one of the most basic infringements on freedom committed by the federal government against the American people: the federal government’s ban on travel to Cuba.
What could be more fundamental than the right to travel? It is certainly one of the natural, God-given rights to which Jefferson was referring in the Declaration of Independence.
In fact, most U.S. officials would acknowledge that freedom of travel is an inherent human right with which no government, not even the U.S. government, can legitimately interfere.
In fact, that’s the reason that U.S. officials have not actually banned travel to Cuba. They want to create the appearance of not infringing on what they acknowledge is a fundamental right.
What U.S. officials have done instead is simply make it illegal for Americans to spend money in Cuba. It’s a nice, hypocritical way to behave like a dictatorial regime by infringing on the fundamental rights of its citizenry while creating the appearance that it isn’t really doing that.
The operation is a sham. As a practical matter, the ban on spending money in Cuba operates as a ban on travel to the country. That’s why most everyone refers to it as a travel ban, not a spending-money ban.
Equally important, however, is the obvious point: What a person does with his own money is as much a fundamental, natural, and God-given right as what he does with his travel choices or, for that matter, what he does with his religious choices.
After all, it’s your money. It belongs to you. It doesn’t belong to society or to the president or to the members of Congress. You own it. Therefore, no government, including your own government, has any moral authority to prohibit you from spending it in Cuba or anywhere else you want.
The awful truth is that all too many Americans have come to accept that freedom is really nothing more than permission bestowed upon them by the government rather than a natural, God-given right that preexists government. That’s why they hardly give it a second thought when the government threatens to jail them for traveling to Cuba and spending their money there. Modern-day Americans have simply been inculcated with the notion that “freedom” is what the federal government “lets” you do.
But that’s not what genuine freedom is all about. Genuine freedom means the free exercise of fundamental, natural, God-given rights — without permission, without interference, without regulation of the government.
There is an interesting article in today’s New York Times about a trip that the noted American jazz musician Wynton Marsalis and the music group Jazz at Lincoln Center recently made to Cuba.
Not surprisingly, the musicians were a big hit in Havana. According to the Times, “The Lincoln Center players came to spread the word of American jazz to Cuban music lovers, and they found an eager audience…. At the end the audience danced and clapped as the Americans played blues and paraded through the auditorium, trailing a line of Cuban trumpeters, violinists, clarinetists and saxophonists. ”
So, will the group be criminally prosecuted for violating the federal government’s ban on travel to Cuba?
No. The Times gives the reason: “This was partly because American officials are interpreting travel restrictions less rigidly under President Obama than they did under George W. Bush. They are letting more Cuban artists visit America, and vice versa. ” (Emphasis added)
Did you catch the operative word that I emphasized? Letting! Isn’t that nice? They are letting more Americans exercise what are fundamental, natural, God-given rights by interpreting more liberally the rules and regulations regulating freedom of travel and freedom to spend your own money.
Should Americans be fighting Cuban infringements on the freedom of the Cuban people with U.S. government infringements on freedom of the American people? Absolutely not! Americans should fighting infringements on freedom with freedom. The way to do that is for the American people to demand an immediate end to the U.S. embargo on Cuba, one of the greatest infringements on fundamental rights in history — the rights to travel freely and spend your money the way you want.
Maybe the Tea Party can lead the way.
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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