The Economic Foundations of Liberty

Animals are driven by instinctive urges. They yield to the impulse that prevails at the moment and peremptorily asks for satisfaction. They are the puppets of their appetites.

Man’s eminence is to be seen in the fact that he chooses between alternatives. He regulates his behavior deliberatively. He can master his impulses and desires; he has the power to suppress wishes the satisfaction of which would force him to renounce the attainment of more important goals. In short: man acts; he purposively aims at ends chosen. This is what we have in mind in stating that man is a moral person, responsible for his conduct.

Freedom as a Postulate of Morality

All the teachings and precepts of ethics, whether based upon a religious creed or whether based upon a secular doctrine like that of the Stoic philosophers, presuppose this moral autonomy of the individual and therefore appeal to the individual’s conscience. They presuppose that the individual is free to choose among various modes of conduct and require him to behave in compliance with definite rules, the rules of morality. Do the right things; shun the bad things.

It is obvious that the exhortations and admonishments of morality make sense only when addressing individuals who are free agents. They are vain when directed to slaves. It is useless to tell a bondsman what is morally good and what is morally bad. He is not free to determine his comportment; he is forced to obey the orders of his master. It is difficult to blame him if he prefers yielding to the commands of his master to the most cruel punishment threatening not only him but also the members of his family.

This is why freedom is not only a political postulate but no less a postulate of every religious or secular morality.

The Struggle for Freedom

Yet for thousands of years a considerable part of mankind was either entirely or at least in many regards deprived of the faculty to choose between what is right and what is wrong. In the status society of days gone by, the freedom to act according to their own choice was, for the lower strata of society (the great majority of the population), seriously restricted by a rigid system of controls. An outspoken formulation of this principle was the statute of the Holy Roman Empire that conferred upon the princes and counts of the Reich (Empire) the power and the right to determine the religious allegiance of their subjects.

The Orientals meekly acquiesced in this state of affairs. But the Christian peoples of Europe and their scions that settled in overseas territories never tired in their struggle for liberty. Step by step they abolished all status and caste privileges and disabilities until they finally succeeded in establishing the system that the harbingers of totalitarianism try to smear by calling it the bourgeois system.

The Supremacy of the Consumers

The economic foundation of this bourgeois system is the market economy in which the consumer is sovereign. The consumer, i.e., everybody, determines by his buying or abstention from buying what should be produced, in what quantity and of what quality. The businessmen are forced by the instrumentality of profit and loss to obey the orders of the consumers. Only those enterprises can flourish that supply in the best possible and cheapest way those commodities and services which the buyers are most anxious to acquire. Those who fail to satisfy the public suffer losses and are finally forced to go out of business.

In the precapitalistic ages the rich were the owners of large landed estates. They or their ancestors had acquired their property as gifts (feuds or fiefs) from the sovereign who with their aid had conquered the country and subjugated its inhabitants. These aristocratic landowners were real lords, as they did not depend on the patronage of buyers. But the rich of a capitalistic industrial society are subject to the supremacy of the market. They acquire their wealth by serving the consumers better than other people do, and they forfeit their wealth when other people satisfy the wishes of the consumers better or cheaper than they do.

In the free-market economy, the owners of capital are forced to invest it in those lines in which it best serves the public. Thus ownership of capital goods is continually shifted into the hands of those who have best succeeded in serving the consumers. In the market economy, private property is in this sense a public service imposing upon the owners the responsibility of employing it in the best interests of the sovereign consumers. This is what economists mean when they call the market economy a democracy in which every penny gives a right to vote.

The Political Aspects of Freedom

Representative government is the political corollary of the market economy. The same spiritual movement that created modern capitalism substituted elected officeholders for the authoritarian rule of absolute kings and hereditary aristocracies. It was this much-decried bourgeois liberalism that brought freedom of conscience, of thought, of speech, and of the press and put an end to the intolerant persecution of dissenters.

A free country is one in which every citizen is free to fashion his life according to his own plans. He is free to compete on the market for the most desirable jobs and on the political scene for the highest offices. He does not depend more on other people’s favor than these others depend on his favor. If he wants to succeed on the market, he has to satisfy the consumers; if he wants to succeed in public affairs he has to satisfy the voters. This system has brought to the capitalistic countries of Western Europe, America, and Australia an unprecedented increase in population figures and the highest standard of living ever known in history. The much-talked-about “common man” has at his disposal amenities of which the richest men in precapitalistic ages did not even dream. He is in a position to enjoy the spiritual and intellectual achievements of science, poetry, and art that in earlier days were accessible only to a small elite of well-to-do people. And he is free to worship as his conscience tells him.

The Socialist Misrepresentation of the Market Economy

All the facts about the operation of the capitalistic system are misrepresented and distorted by the politicians and writers who arrogated to themselves the label of liberalism, the school of thought that in the 19th century crushed the arbitrary rule of monarchs and aristocrats and paved the way for free trade and enterprise. As these advocates of a return to despotism see it, all the evils that plague mankind are due to sinister machinations on the part of big business; what is needed to bring about wealth and happiness for all decent people is to put the corporations under strict government control. They admit, although only obliquely, that this means the adoption of socialism — the system of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. But they protest that socialism will be something entirely different in the countries of Western civilization from what it is in Russia. And anyway, they say, there is no other method to deprive the mammoth corporations of the enormous power they have acquired and to prevent them from further damaging the interests of the people.

Against all this fanatical propaganda there is need to emphasize again and again the truth that it is big business that brought about the unprecedented improvement of the masses’ standard of living. Luxury goods for a comparatively small number of well-to-do can be produced by small-size enterprises. But the fundamental principle of capitalism is to produce for the satisfaction of the wants of the many. The same people who are employed by the big corporations are the main consumers of the goods turned out. If you look around in the household of an average American wage-earner, you will see for whom the wheels of the machines are turning. It is big business that makes all the achievements of modern technology accessible to the common man. Everybody is benefited by the high productivity of big-scale production.

It is silly to speak of the “power” of big business. The very mark of capitalism is that supreme power in all economic matters is vested in the consumers. All big enterprises grew from modest beginnings into bigness because the patronage of the consumers made them grow. It would be impossible for small or medium-size firms to turn out those products that no present-day American would like to do without. The bigger a corporation is, the more does it depend on the consumers’ readiness to buy its wares. It was the wishes (or, as some say, the folly) of the consumers that drove the automobile industry into the production of ever-bigger cars and force it today to manufacture smaller cars. Chain stores and department stores are under the necessity to adjust their operations daily anew to the satisfaction of the changing wants of their customers. The fundamental law of the market is: the customer is always right.

A man who criticizes the conduct of business affairs and pretends to know better methods for the provision of the consumers is just an idle babbler. If he thinks that his own designs are better, why does he not try them himself? There are in this country always capitalists in search of a profitable investment of their funds who are ready to provide the capital required for any reasonable innovations. The public is always eager to buy what is better or cheaper or better and cheaper. What counts in the market is not fantastic reveries, but doing. It was not talking that made the “tycoons” rich, but service to the customers.

Capital Accumulation Benefits All of the People

It is fashionable nowadays to pass over in silence the fact that all economic betterment depends on saving and the accumulation of capital. None of the marvelous achievements of science and technology could have been practically utilized if the capital required had not previously been made available. What prevents the economically backward nations from taking full advantage of all the Western methods of production, and thereby keeps their masses poor, is not unfamiliarity with the teachings of technology, but the insufficiency of their capital. One badly misjudges the problems facing the underdeveloped countries if one asserts that what they lack is technical knowledge, the “know-how.” Their businessmen and their engineers, most of them graduates of the best schools of Europe and America, are well acquainted with the state of contemporary applied science. What ties their hands is a shortage of capital.

A hundred years ago America was even poorer than these backward nations. What made the United States become the most affluent country of the world was the fact that the “rugged individualism” of the years before the New Deal did not place too serious obstacles in the way of enterprising men. Businessmen became rich because they consumed only a small part of their profits and plowed the much greater part back into their businesses. Thus they enriched themselves and all of the people. For it was this accumulation of capital that raised the marginal productivity of labor, and thereby wage rates.

Under capitalism, the acquisitiveness of the individual businessman benefits not only himself but also all other people. There is a reciprocal relation between his acquiring wealth by serving the consumers and accumulating capital, and the improvement of the standard of living of the wage-earners who form the majority of the consumers. The masses are in their capacity both as wage-earners and as consumers interested in the flowering of business. This is what the old liberals had in mind when they declared that in the market economy there prevails a harmony of the true interests of all groups of the population.

Economic Well-Being Threatened by Statism

It is in the moral and mental atmosphere of this capitalistic system that the American citizen lives and works. There are still in some parts of the United States conditions left which appear highly unsatisfactory to the prosperous inhabitants of the advanced districts that form the greater part of the country. But the rapid progress of industrialization would have long since wiped out these pockets of backwardness if the unfortunate policies of the New Deal had not slowed down the accumulation of capital, the irreplaceable tool of economic betterment.

Used to the conditions of a capitalistic environment, the average American takes it for granted that every year business makes something new and better accessible to him. Looking backward upon the years of his own life, he realizes that many implements that were totally unknown in the days of his youth and many others that at that time could be enjoyed only by a small minority are now standard equipment of almost every household. He is fully confident that this trend will prevail also in the future. He simply calls it the “American way of life” and does not give serious thought to the question of what made this continuous improvement in the supply of material goods possible. He is not earnestly disturbed by the operation of factors that are bound not only to stop further accumulation of capital but may very soon bring about capital decumulation. He does not oppose the forces that (by frivolously increasing public expenditure, by cutting down capital accumulation, and even making for consumption of parts of the capital invested in business, and, finally, by inflation) are sapping the very foundations of his material well-being. He is not concerned about the growth of statism that wherever it has been tried resulted in producing and preserving conditions which in his eyes are shockingly wretched.

No Personal Freedom Without Economic Freedom

Unfortunately, many of our contemporaries fail to realize what a radical change in the moral conditions of man the rise of statism and the substitution of government omnipotence for this market economy is bound to bring about. They are deluded by the idea that there prevails a clear-cut dualism in the affairs of man — that there is on the one side a sphere of economic activities and on the other side a field of activities that are considered as noneconomic. Between these two fields there is, they think, no close connection. The freedom that socialism abolishes is “only” the economic freedom, while freedom in all other matters remains unimpaired.

However, these two spheres are not independent of each other as this doctrine assumes. Human beings do not float in ethereal regions. Everything that a man does must necessarily in some way or other affect the economic or material sphere and requires his power to interfere with this sphere. In order to subsist, he must toil and have the opportunity to deal with some material tangible goods.

The confusion manifests itself in the popular idea that what is going on in the market refers merely to the economic side of human life and action. But in fact the prices of the market reflect, not only “material concerns” like getting food, shelter, and other amenities, but no less those concerns which are commonly called spiritual or higher or nobler. The observance or nonobservance of religious commandments (to abstain from certain activities altogether or on specific days, to assist those in need, to build and to maintain houses of worship, and many others) is one of the factors that determines the supply of, and the demand for, various consumers’ goods, and thereby prices and the conduct of business. The freedom that the market economy grants to the individual is not merely “economic” as distinguished from some other kind of freedom. It implies the freedom to determine also all those issues that are considered as moral, spiritual, and intellectual.

In exclusively controlling all the factors of production, the socialist regime controls also every individual’s whole life. The government assigns to everybody a definite job. It determines what books and papers ought to be printed and read, who should enjoy the opportunity to embark on writing, who should be entitled to use public assembly halls, to broadcast and to use all other communication facilities. This means that those in charge of the supreme conduct of government affairs ultimately determine which ideas, teachings, and doctrines can be propagated and which not. Whatever a written and promulgated constitution may say about the freedom of conscience, thought, speech, and the press and about neutrality in religious matters must in a socialist country remain a dead letter if the government does not provide the material means for the exercise of these rights. He who monopolizes all media of communication has full power to keep a tight hand on the individuals’ minds and souls.

What makes many people blind to the essential features of any socialist or totalitarian system is the illusion that this system will be operated precisely in the way that they themselves consider as desirable. In supporting socialism, they take it for granted that the “state” will always do what they themselves want it to do. They call only that brand of totalitarianism “true,” “real,” or “good” socialism the rulers of which comply with their own ideas. All other brands they decry as counterfeit. What they first of all expect from the dictator is that he will suppress all those ideas of which they themselves disapprove. In fact, all these supporters of socialism are, unbeknownst to themselves, obsessed by the dictatorial or authoritarian complex. They want all opinions and plans with which they disagree to be crushed by violent action on the part of the government.

The Meaning of the Effective Right to Dissent

The various groups that are advocating socialism, no matter whether they call themselves communists, socialists, or merely social reformers, agree in their essential economic program. They all want to substitute state control (or, as some of them prefer to call it, social control) of production activities for the market economy with its supremacy of the individual consumers. What separates them from one another is not issues of economic management, but religious and ideological convictions. There are Christian socialists (Catholic and Protestant of different denominations) and there are atheist socialists. Each of these varieties of socialism takes it for granted that the socialist commonwealth will be guided by the precepts of their own faith or of their rejection of any religious creed. They never give a thought to the possibility that the socialist regime may be directed by men hostile to their own faith and moral principles who may consider it as their duty to use all the tremendous power of the socialist apparatus for the suppression of what in their eyes is error, superstition, and idolatry.

The simple truth is that individuals can be free to choose between what they consider as right or wrong only where they are economically independent of the government. A socialist government has the power to make dissent impossible by discriminating against unwelcome religious and ideological groups and denying them all the material implements that are required for the propagation and the practice of their convictions. The one-party system, the political principle of socialist rule, implies also the one-religion and one-morality system.

A socialist government has at its disposal means that can be used for the attainment of rigorous conformity in every regard, Gleichschaltung (political conformity) as the Nazis called it. Historians have pointed out what an important role in the Reformation was played by the printing press. But what chances would the reformers have had if all the printing presses had been operated by the governments headed by Charles V of Germany and the Valois kings of France?1 And, for that matter, what chances would Marx have had under a system in which all the means of communication had been in the hands of the governments?

Whoever wants freedom of conscience must abhor socialism. Of course, freedom enables a man not only to do the good things but also to do the wrong things. But no moral value can be ascribed to an action, however good, that has been performed under the pressure of an omnipotent government.

Ludwig von Mises

Raising a Standard to Achieve Liberty

One of the things that distinguish libertarians from non-libertarians is that we libertarians know that we are not free. Non-libertarians are still convinced that they are free. That’s one reason why non-libertarians are befuddled by libertarians. When they ask us what we are all about, we sometimes respond that we are about bringing liberty to America. That befuddles them because in their minds, America is already a free country. Making the case for liberty enables us to find more people who understand liberty and who passionately want it. Making the case for reform doesn’t do that.
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Until I was in my late 20s, I was a non-libertarian. Having attended public schools, where I dutifully recited the Pledge of Allegiance, I had no doubts that I lived in a free society. When I was around 28 years old, a friend of mine from junior high school gave me a book entitled A Time for Truth by William Simon, who served as Treasury Secretary under President Reagan. The book emphasized the importance of restoring liberty to America. I told my friend that while I enjoyed reading the book, I couldn’t understand Simon’s point about restoring liberty to America. As Americans, we already were free, I said.

One day in the late 1970s, I walked into the public library in my hometown of Laredo, Texas, looking for something to read. I came across four little different-colored books entitled Essays on Liberty, volumes 1–4. I took volume 1 off the shelf and began perusing it. 

It was a true Road to Damascus experience. As I began reading those essays, the layers of indoctrination that encased my mind began cracking apart. I recognized that something big was happening to me. I was discovering that I wasn’t free after all. I was realizing that I had been lied to from the first grade on up. I had discovered libertarianism. 

I checked out all four books and took them home. I pored over them, reading and rereading them. I then began looking for other works written by the authors. 

I later realized that I had not only discovered libertarianism but had also, at the same time, learned three important methodological principles for advancing liberty.

Over the years of advancing liberty, I have heard some libertarians saying that libertarians need to do a better job of convincing people to become libertarians. I have listened to many lectures in which libertarian speakers teach libertarian phraseology that is designed to convince people to become libertarians.

Long ago, I concluded that that methodology for advancing liberty is fundamentally flawed. I don’t think it’s possible to convince people to become libertarians.

The reason I came to this realization is because I found it impossible to convince family members and close friends to become libertarians. They were either conservatives or liberals (i.e., progressives
or leftists). No matter how much I tried to convince them of the morality and merits of libertarianism, they continued steadfastly hewing to their overall philosophy, even if they did agree with me on one or more specific libertarian positions.

I finally figured that if I was unable to convince people who were close to me to embrace libertarianism, the chances of convincing people who were not close to me were exceedingly small.

In 1952, the libertarian thinker Frank Chodorov stated in his book One Is a Crowd: “The purpose of teaching individualism, then, is not to make individualists but to find them. Rather, to help them find themselves.”

Chodorov, I firmly believe, hit it right. Our job as libertarians is not to make libertarians but rather to find them — or to help them find themselves.

There are certain people in life who are naturally inclined to libertarianism. I don’t know what it is that attracts some people and not others to libertarianism. Maybe it’s part of our DNA. Regardless, there is no doubt that when some people learn about libertarianism, they take to it like a duck to water. Others want no part of it.

Therefore, I believe that our job as libertarians is to find the people who are naturally inclined to libertarianism but haven’t yet realized it — in other words, people like us. We are looking for the type of person I was before I walked into that public library in Laredo. We are looking for the “natural” libertarian whose mind has been encased in a thick layer of false indoctrination and who is prepared to have that encasement of indoctrination shattered. We are looking for the person who becomes fascinated, even passionate, about libertarianism after he discovers it. 

A critical mass 

Why is it important to find such people and to help them discover their inner libertarianism?

I happen to be one of those libertarians who have not given up on achieving freedom. Yes, I am very mindful of the condition in which we find ourselves here in the United States. Ever since I founded The Future of Freedom Foundation in 1989, the situation regarding liberty has gotten worse and worse with each passing year. 

And every libertarian knows that things are still getting worse today. Federal spending and debt are totally out of control. The Federal Reserve is printing money like there was no tomorrow, which is being reflected in soaring prices of food and automobiles, among other things. The welfare state way of life is more solidified than ever, with most Americans irrevocably committed to retaining and even expanding Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, farm subsidies, and other welfare-state programs. The COVID-19 pandemic has solidified central planning in American life. The national-security establishment isn’t about to let go of its vast money and power within the federal governmental structure. The war on terrorism is now turning inward on the American people themselves, with more massive violations of civil liberties certain to come. While there have been some improvements in the drug war at the state level with respect to marijuana, the federal government continues to wage the war with extreme ferocity.

Moreover, everywhere we look, there is a crisis. Foreign policy. Fiscal policy. Monetary policy. The drug war. Immigration. They all have a common denominator — the welfare-warfare state way of life that modern-day Americans have embraced.

None of this can end well. On the horizon is a major domestic crack-up involving a voracious bankrupt federal government. If U.S. officials succeed in involving the United States in more foreign wars, the crack-up will be even more aggravated. And it is sure to come with a massive crackdown on the American people. 

A paradigm shift

But nothing is inevitable. It is entirely possible for life to turn on a dime tomorrow. 

What would it take to cause that to happen? 

It would require a critical mass of people who know that they are not free, who understand what is required for freedom, and who want above all else to be free. 

How many people are required to reach that critical mass? It is impossible to say, but my hunch is that the number is significantly less than a majority. Sometimes, when one or two people want to change the philosophy of a company, they begin by enlisting a few more people who become knowledgeable and passionate about the change. They continue adding to their numbers until they reach a critical mass, which is oftentimes less than a majority. Faced with the knowledge, passion, and commitment of that critical mass, the rest of the company simply shifts to the new paradigm. 

I believe that the same thing can happen with a nation. Some unforeseen catalyst can occur, one that can bring that critical mass to the surface and enable the paradigm shift to liberty to occur. 

Of course, it’s entirely possible that such a catalyst will never occur. But one thing is certain: If libertarians give up on trying to achieve that critical mass owing to the daunting odds facing them, they will be unable to seize on the opportunity should such a catalyst take place, Thus, libertarians must continue advancing libertarianism not only because it is the right thing to do but also because it’s the only chance for actually achieving liberty in the short term.

So, the question naturally arises: How do we achieve that critical mass of people who know they are not free, who understand what freedom is, and who are passionately committed to achieving it. 

The first part of methodology is finding those people who are naturally inclined to libertarianism, as we discussed above. 

The power of ideas

The second part of methodology is by introducing sound ideas on liberty into the marketplace of ideas. 

I’m willing to bet that most libertarians discovered libertarianism indirectly, by hearing someone give a speech, by reading a book, by participating in a discussion, by watching a convention or debate on television, or by reading something on the Internet. In other words, they weren’t buttonholed by a libertarian who was trying to convert them to libertarianism. 

Recall how I discovered libertarianism — by discovering a set of books in a public library. Those four books I discovered had been published by The Foundation for Economic Education in the 1950s. If someone had asked Leonard Read, the founder and president of FEE, the extent of FEE’s success with those books, he naturally could not have said, “They will be discovered 20 years from now in a public library by a young lawyer in Laredo, Texas, and will change the course of his life.” By simply introducing the ideas on liberty in those books into the marketplace without concern of how they were going to impact people, they ultimately found their way into my mind and changed the course of my life. 

That’s the power of ideas. It is impossible to predict where they are going to end up and how they are going to impact people’s lives.

Adhering to libertarian principles

But there is one important condition to this process, which raises the third methodological principle for advancing liberty. That condition is that the ideas on liberty that we introduce into the marketplace must be sound ideas — that is, ideas that strictly adhere to libertarian principles. 

That raises what I consider is one of the biggest obstacles to achieving liberty in the short term — an obstacle within the libertarian movement itself. That obstacle is that the libertarian movement is dominated by libertarians who advance reform of the welfare-warfare state rather than advance liberty. 

In order to achieve freedom, it is necessary to identify what it is that is preventing people from being free. Once such infringements on liberty are identified, it is then necessary to remove them. If all that we accomplish as libertarians is a reform of infringements on liberty, we will have accomplished nothing insofar as freedom is concerned. At best, we will have improved our lot as serfs in the welfare-warfare society, but that’s not freedom.

Reforming slavery

The power of ideas

The second part of methodology is by introducing sound ideas on liberty into the marketplace of ideas. 

I’m willing to bet that most libertarians discovered libertarianism indirectly, by hearing someone give a speech, by reading a book, by participating in a discussion, by watching a convention or debate on television, or by reading something on the Internet. In other words, they weren’t buttonholed by a libertarian who was trying to convert them to libertarianism. 

Recall how I discovered libertarianism — by discovering a set of books in a public library. Those four books I discovered had been published by The Foundation for Economic Education in the 1950s. If someone had asked Leonard Read, the founder and president of FEE, the extent of FEE’s success with those books, he naturally could not have said, “They will be discovered 20 years from now in a public library by a young lawyer in Laredo, Texas, and will change the course of his life.” By simply introducing the ideas on liberty in those books into the marketplace without concern of how they were going to impact people, they ultimately found their way into my mind and changed the course of my life. 

That’s the power of ideas. It is impossible to predict where they are going to end up and how they are going to impact people’s lives.

Adhering to libertarian principles

But there is one important condition to this process, which raises the third methodological principle for advancing liberty. That condition is that the ideas on liberty that we introduce into the marketplace must be sound ideas — that is, ideas that strictly adhere to libertarian principles. 

That raises what I consider is one of the biggest obstacles to achieving liberty in the short term — an obstacle within the libertarian movement itself. That obstacle is that the libertarian movement is dominated by libertarians who advance reform of the welfare-warfare state rather than advance liberty. 

In order to achieve freedom, it is necessary to identify what it is that is preventing people from being free. Once such infringements on liberty are identified, it is then necessary to remove them. If all that we accomplish as libertarians is a reform of infringements on liberty, we will have accomplished nothing insofar as freedom is concerned. At best, we will have improved our lot as serfs in the welfare-warfare society, but that’s not freedom.

Reforming slavery

Think back to 1850 Alabama. Suppose a group of reform-oriented libertarians said, “Slavery is here to stay. There is nothing we can do about it. It is a permanent feature of American life. It’s in the Constitution. We have to remain credible. Therefore, we are going to advance reform of slavery rather than freedom.” They then proceed to endorse laws that limit the number of lashings that can be administered to the slaves, shorten the work day, and provide for better food and healthcare.

The slaves would undoubtedly be appreciative to the reform-oriented libertarians for the improvement in their lives. But they would know that such reforms were not freedom. For freedom, the entire structure of slavery would have to be dismantled.

Would that be difficult? Undoubtedly. But not impossible. By reaching a critical mass of people opposing slavery, a paradigm shift toward freedom could take place.

But how would we arrive at that critical mass? By finding people who are naturally predisposed to liberty and who would passionately want to join us. 

How would we find such people? Not by making the case for slavery reform, because all that would accomplish is finding people who are naturally inclined to reforming slavery but, at the same time, keeping it intact. Instead, we would need to make the principled case for liberty in order to find the people who, after hearing such a case, would then want to join us in our quest to end slavery.

Going back to my own personal experience in that public library, if those four books I discovered had advocated reform of the welfare-warfare state under which we live, there is no possibility that I would have become a libertarian. Breaking through the many years of indoctrination that encased my mind required the power of pure, unadulterated libertarianism.

In other words, suppose those four books had advocated things like Social Security “privatization,” health-savings accounts, school vouchers, tax reform, regulatory reform, welfare reform, monetary reform, CIA reform, military reform, surveillance reform, drug-war reform, healthcare reform, getting libertarian-leaning conservatives appointed to public office, and other reforms advocated by reform-oriented libertarians.

None of those reform measures would have had the power to break through the wall of indoctrination that encased my mind. The most they would have done was to convince me of how reform could improve life in America. But reform wouldn’t be freedom. 

Making the case for reform necessarily entails assuming the continued existence of the programs, departments, and agencies that will be reformed. Obviously, that is a much easier sell than making the case for liberty because it doesn’t challenge people’s world view. It allows people to continue favoring their welfare-warfare paradigm, albeit in some reformed fashion.

What made those four little books so powerful was that they advocated liberty, not reform. They made the principled case for identifying and removing infringements on liberty, which necessarily meant dismantling, not reforming, the enormous panoply of welfare-warfare state programs that have come into existence and that prevent us from being free.

Making the case for liberty enables us to find more people who understand liberty and who passionately want it. Making the case for reform doesn’t do that. Making the case for reform finds people who want reform, not people who want to be free.

Suppose a reform-oriented libertarian appears before a Rotary group of 100 members and makes the case for reform. He might get, let us say, 20 people who are interested in his ideas on reform.

Suppose the following week, a liberty-oriented libertarian appears before a Rotary group and makes the case for liberty — that is, the dismantling of the entire welfare-warfare state part of the federal government, including Social Security, Medicare, the CIA, the NSA, and the vast military-industrial complex, and restoring a limited-government republic to our land. 

Let’s assume that the liberty-oriented libertarian is able to find only two people who are intrigued and want to know more about libertarianism. 

Which libertarian has done more to advance liberty? The liberty-oriented libertarian! By finding two more liberty-oriented libertarians, he has brought us closer to the critical mass of libertarians needed to achieve the genuinely free society. By finding 20 reform-oriented libertarians, the reform-oriented libertarian has simply added to the number of people who wish to reform the welfare-warfare state system while keeping it intact.

Summing up, liberty is attainable in the short term. In fact, we might be closer to the critical mass needed to achieve a genuinely free society than we can ever imagine. To reach that critical mass entails finding more libertarians who are as inclined toward liberty as we are. To find them, we must continue making the principled, uncompromising case for liberty.

This article was originally published in the August 2021 edition of Future of Freedom.

This post was written by: Jacob G. Hornberger

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at and from Full Context. Send him email.

The GOP’s Future is Liberty Populism

The GOP needs a liberty-centered, populist revolution. Republicans such as Sen. Rand Paul, Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Rep. Thomas Massie have become some of the most prominent voices of the party during the embrace of this mindset. If Republicans center their populist momentum on liberty, they will see victories as they have never seen before.

In 2008 and 2012, the Republican Party was upturned when a controversial congressman named Ron Paul took center stage as one of the top candidates for its presidential nomination. A former Libertarian Party nominee, Paul began to share opinions that leaned far away from the establishment Right. The Texas congressman had anti-interventionist positions in foreign policy, critiqued his Gov. Rick Perry for high tax rates in Texas, and said that the country had failed in terms of fighting the eternal drug war the GOP had championed for decades.

He may not have won the nomination in either of the years he ran, but it seems as if the lasting impression he made on the party carried over into the party’s primary in 2016 when a man named Donald Trump shared sentiments that were popular with voters but very unpopular with his primary counterparts. The similarities between Paul and Trump may not seem significant, but the debates revealed how they equally affected the shift in their party’s mindset.

Both were anti-war, criticized former President George W. Bush despite the critique being unpopular, and did not say they would vote for the GOP nominee if they failed to win the primary. While Paul appealed to the Tea Party movement of the late 2000s to early 2010s, Trump embraced the populist ideology of 2016. Trump won the GOP primary while Paul helped set a candidate such as Trump up to be the dominant ideologue.

Both men’s contributions to the party get attributed to how they positioned their ideologies to appeal to the masses. Trump made the elite the media, the “swamp” in Washington, D.C., and even other Republicans he shared the stage with. Years ago, Paul said similarly, “The moral and constitutional obligations of our representatives in Washington are to protect our liberty, not coddle the world, precipitating no-win wars, while bringing bankruptcy and economic turmoil to our people.”null

The GOP is now combining both of these men’s approaches to conservatism. The path forward to win elections and decrease federal government authoritarianism is one of populism based on liberty. Most no longer want to be in endless wars, such as those in Afghanistan and Iraq. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, voters realized the amount of power both the federal and state governments have over their people is far too intrusive. Social issues are beginning to mean far less to conservatives in terms of governmental legislation. However, they still practice social conservatism themselves and fight for policies that support family values. While the Republicans may care less and less about marijuana, they have begun to care more about abortion and tax policy issues. The Republican Party is changing and for the better.

However, conservatives have now got to be careful about countering the dangers of other mindsets that center on populism. Over the last couple of years, some conservatives have embraced economic populism concentrated on higher taxes for the elite class, a higher federal minimum wage, and even universal healthcare. Positions on these issues from the economic populist Right are far more similar to a socialist such as Sen. Bernie Sanders than even a populist conservative such as Trump. Taking all of the financial criticisms that the far Left already deals with and growing the federal government’s power is not the way forward for the GOP. Republicans can take how Trump and others appealed to the masses in their campaigns without being economically socialist.

Kenny Cody is the chairman of the Cocke County Republican Party in Tennessee, as well as a columnist for .

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How Freedom Dies from A to Z

Plays, farces, spectacles, gladiators, strange beasts, medals, pictures, and other such opiates, these were for ancient peoples the bait toward slavery, the price of their liberty, the instruments of tyranny. By these practices and enticements the ancient dictators so successfully lulled their subjects under the yoke, that the stupefied peoples, fascinated by the pastimes and vain pleasures flashed before their eyes, learned subservience as naively, but not so creditably, as little children learn to read by looking at bright picture books.”— French philosopher Etienne de La BoétieWe have moved beyond the era of representative government and entered a new age. You can call it the age of authoritarianism. Or fascism. Or oligarchy. Or the American police state.
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The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a convenient, traumatic, devastating distraction.

The American people, the permanent underclass in America, have allowed themselves to be so distracted and divided that they have failed to notice the building blocks of tyranny being laid down right under their noses by the architects of the Deep State.

Biden, Trump, Obama, Bush, Clinton: they have all been complicit in carrying out the Deep State’s agenda.

Frankly, it really doesn’t matter who occupies the White House, because it is a profit-driven, unelected bureaucracy—call it whatever you will: the Deep State, the Controllers, the masterminds, the shadow government, the corporate elite, the police state, the surveillance state, the military industrial complex—that is actually calling the shots

Our losses are mounting with every passing day, part of a calculated siege intended to ensure our defeat at the hands of a totalitarian regime.

Free speech, the right to protest, the right to challenge government wrongdoing, due process, a presumption of innocence, the right to self-defense, accountability and transparency in government, privacy, media, sovereignty, assembly, bodily integrity, representative government: all of these and more are casualties in the government’s war on the American people.

Set against a backdrop of government surveillance, militarized federal police, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, overcriminalization, armed surveillance drones, whole body scanners, stop and frisk searches, and the like—all of which have been sanctioned by Congress, the White House and the courts—our constitutional freedoms are being steadily chipped away at, undermined, eroded, whittled down, and generally discarded.

As a result, the American people continue to be treated like enemy combatants, to be spied on, tracked, scanned, frisked, searched, subjected to all manner of intrusions, intimidated, invaded, raided, manhandled, censored, silenced, shot at, locked up, and denied due process.

None of these dangers have dissipated in any way.

They have merely disappeared from our televised news streams.

Thus, in the interest of liberty and truth, here’s an A-to-Z primer that spells out the grim realities of life in the American Police State that no one seems to be talking about anymore.

A is for the AMERICAN POLICE STATE. A police state “is characterized by bureaucracy, secrecy, perpetual wars, a nation of suspects, militarization, surveillance, widespread police presence, and a citizenry with little recourse against police actions.”

B is for our battered BILL OF RIGHTS. In the militarized police culture that is America today, where you can be kicked, punched, tasered, shot, intimidated, harassed, stripped, searched, brutalized, terrorized, wrongfully arrested, and even killed by a police officer, and that officer is rarely held accountable for violating your rights, the Bill of Rights doesn’t amount to much.

C is for CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE. This governmental scheme to deprive Americans of their liberties—namely, the right to property—is being carried out under the guise of civil asset forfeiture, a government practice wherein government agents (usually the police and now TSA agents) seize private property they “suspect” may be connected to criminal activity. Then, whether or not any crime is actually proven to have taken place, the government keeps the citizen’s property and it’s virtually impossible to get it back.

D is for DRONES. It was estimated that at least 30,000 drones are  now airborne in American airspace, part of an $80 billion industry. Although some drones may be used for benevolent purposes, many are also being equipped with lasers, tasers and scanning devices, among other weapons—all aimed at “we the people.”

E is for EMERGENCY STATE. From 9/11 to COVID-19, we have been the subjected to an “emergency state” that justifies all manner of government tyranny and power grabs in the so-called name of national security. The government’s ongoing attempts to declare so-called national emergencies in order to circumvent the Constitution’s system of checks and balances constitutes yet another expansion of presidential power that exposes the nation to further constitutional peril.

F is for FASCISM. A study conducted by Princeton and Northwestern University concluded that the U.S. government does not represent the majority of American citizens. Instead, the study found that the government is ruled by the rich and powerful, or the so-called “economic elite.” Moreover, the researchers concluded that policies enacted by this governmental elite nearly always favor special interests and lobbying groups. In other words, we are being ruled by an oligarchy disguised as a democracy, and arguably on our way towards fascism—a form of government where private corporate interests rule, money calls the shots, and the people are seen as mere economic units or databits.

G is for GRENADE LAUNCHERS and GLOBAL POLICE. The federal government has distributed more than $18 billion worth of battlefield-appropriate military weapons, vehicles and equipment such as drones, tanks, and grenade launchers to domestic police departments across the country. As a result, most small-town police forces now have enough firepower to render any citizen resistance futile. Now take those small-town police forces, train them to look and act like the military, and then enlist them to be part of the United Nations’ Strong Cities Network program, and you not only have a standing army that operates beyond the reach of the Constitution but one that is part of a global police force.

H is for HOLLOW-POINT BULLETS. The government’s efforts to militarize and weaponize its agencies and employees is reaching epic proportions, with federal agencies as varied as the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration stockpiling millions of lethal hollow-point bullets, which violate international law. Ironically, while the government continues to push for stricter gun laws for the general populace, the U.S. military’s arsenal of weapons makes the average American’s handgun look like a Tinker Toy.

I is for the INTERNET OF THINGS, in which internet-connected “things” monitor your home, your health and your habits in order to keep your pantry stocked, your utilities regulated and your life under control and relatively worry-free. The key word here, however, is control. This “connected” industry propels us closer to a future where police agencies apprehend virtually anyone if the government “thinks” they may commit a crime, driverless cars populate the highways, and a person’s biometrics are constantly scanned and used to track their movements, target them for advertising, and keep them under perpetual surveillance.

J is for JAILING FOR PROFIT. Having outsourced their inmate population to private prisons run by private corporations, this profit-driven form of mass punishment has given rise to a $70 billion private prison industry that relies on the complicity of state governments to keep their privately run prisons full by jailing large numbers of Americans for petty crimes.

K is for KENTUCKY V. KING. In an 8-1 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that police officers can break into homes, without a warrant, even if it’s the wrong home as long as they think they may have a reason to do so. Despite the fact that the police in question ended up pursuing the wrong suspect, invaded the wrong apartment and violated just about every tenet that stands between the citizenry and a police state, the Court sanctioned the warrantless raid, leaving Americans with little real protection in the face of all manner of abuses by law enforcement officials.

L is for LICENSE PLATE READERS, which enable law enforcement and private agencies to track the whereabouts of vehicles, and their occupants, all across the country. This data collected on tens of thousands of innocent people is also being shared between police agencies, as well as with government fusion centers and private companies. This puts Big Brother in the driver’s seat.

M is for MAIN CORE. Since the 1980s, the U.S. government has acquired and maintained, without warrant or court order, a database of names and information on Americans considered to be threats to the nation. As Salon reports, this database, reportedly dubbed “Main Core,” is to be used by the Army and FEMA in times of national emergency or under martial law to locate and round up Americans seen as threats to national security. There are at least 8 million Americans in the Main Core database.

N is for NO-KNOCK RAIDS. Owing to the militarization of the nation’s police forces, SWAT teams are now increasingly being deployed for routine police matters. In fact, more than 80,000 of these paramilitary raids are carried out every year. That translates to more than 200 SWAT team raids every day in which police crash through doors, damage private property, terrorize adults and children alike, kill family pets, assault or shoot anyone that is perceived as threatening—and all in the pursuit of someone merely suspected of a crime, usually possession of some small amount of drugs.

O is for OVERCRIMINALIZATION and OVERREGULATION. Thanks to an overabundance of 4500-plus federal crimes and 400,000 plus rules and regulations, it’s estimated that the average American actually commits three felonies a day without knowing it. As a result of this overcriminalization, we’re seeing an uptick in Americans being arrested and jailed for such absurd “violations” as letting their kids play at a park unsupervised, collecting rainwater and snow runoff on their own property, growing vegetables in their yard, and holding Bible studies in their living room.

P is for PATHOCRACY and PRECRIME. When our own government treats us as things to be manipulated, maneuvered, mined for data, manhandled by police and other government agents, mistreated, and then jailed in profit-driven private prisons if we dare step out of line, we are no longer operating under a constitutional republic. Instead, what we are experiencing is a pathocracy: tyranny at the hands of a psychopathic government, which “operates against the interests of its own people except for favoring certain groups.” Couple that with the government’s burgeoning precrime programs, which will use fusion centers, data collection agencies, behavioral scientists, corporations, social media, and community organizers and by relying on cutting-edge technology for surveillance, facial recognition, predictive policing, biometrics, and behavioral epigenetics in order to identify and deter so-called potential “extremists,” dissidents or rabble-rousers. Bear in mind that anyone seen as opposing the government—whether they’re Left, Right or somewhere in between—is now viewed as an extremist.

Q is for QUALIFIED IMMUNITY. Qualified immunity allows police officers to walk away without paying a dime for their wrongdoing. Conveniently, those deciding whether a cop should be immune from having to personally pay for misbehavior on the job all belong to the same system, all cronies with a vested interest in protecting the police and their infamous code of silence: city and county attorneys, police commissioners, city councils and judges.

R is for ROADSIDE STRIP SEARCHES and BLOOD DRAWS. The courts have increasingly erred on the side of giving government officials—especially the police—vast discretion in carrying out strip searches, blood draws and even anal and vaginal probes for a broad range of violations, no matter how minor the offense. In the past, strip searches were resorted to only in exceptional circumstances where police were confident that a serious crime was in progress. In recent years, however, strip searches have become routine operating procedures in which everyone is rendered a suspect and, as such, is subjected to treatment once reserved for only the most serious of criminals.

S is for the SURVEILLANCE STATE. On any given day, the average American going about his daily business will be monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways, by both government and corporate eyes and ears. A byproduct of the electronic concentration camp in which we live, whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether the NSA or some other entity, is listening in and tracking your behavior. This doesn’t even begin to touch on the corporate trackers that monitor your purchases, web browsing, Facebook posts and other activities taking place in the cyber sphere.

T is for TASERS. Nonlethal weapons such as tasers, stun guns, rubber pellets and the like have been used by police as weapons of compliance more often and with less restraint—even against women and children—and in some instances, even causing death. These “nonlethal” weapons also enable police to aggress with the push of a button, making the potential for overblown confrontations over minor incidents that much more likely. A Taser Shockwave, for instance, can electrocute a crowd of people at the touch of a button.

U is for UNARMED CITIZENS SHOT BY POLICE. No longer is it unusual to hear about incidents in which police shoot unarmed individuals first and ask questions later, often attributed to a fear for their safety. Yet the fatality rate of on-duty patrol officers is reportedly far lower than many other professions, including construction, logging, fishing, truck driving, and even trash collection.

V is for VIRUSES and VACCINE PASSPORTS. What started out as an apparent effort to prevent a novel coronavirus from sickening the nation (and the world) has become yet another means by which world governments (including the U.S.) can expand their powers, abuse their authority, and further oppress their constituents. The road we are traveling is paved with lockdowns, SWAT team raids, mass surveillance, forced vaccinations, contact tracing, vaccine passports, and heavy fines and jail time for those who dare to venture out without a mask, congregate in worship without the government’s blessing, or re-open their businesses without the government’s say-so.

W is for WHOLE-BODY SCANNERS. Using either x-ray radiation or radio waves, scanning devices and government mobile units are being used not only to “see” through your clothes but to spy on you within the privacy of your home. While these mobile scanners are being sold to the American public as necessary security and safety measures, we can ill afford to forget that such systems are rife with the potential for abuse, not only by government bureaucrats but by the technicians employed to operate them.

X is for X-KEYSCORE, one of the many spying programs carried out by the National Security Agency that targets every person in the United States who uses a computer or phone. This top-secret program “allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals.”

Y is for YOU-NESS. Using your face, mannerisms, social media and “you-ness” against you, you are now be tracked based on what you buy, where you go, what you do in public, and how you do what you do. Facial recognition software promises to create a society in which every individual who steps out into public is tracked and recorded as they go about their daily business. The goal is for government agents to be able to scan a crowd of people and instantaneously identify all of the individuals present. Facial recognition programs are being rolled out in states all across the country.

Z is for ZERO TOLERANCE. We have moved into a new paradigm in which young people are increasingly viewed as suspects and treated as criminals by school officials and law enforcement alike, often for engaging in little more than childish behavior or for saying the “wrong” word. In some jurisdictions, students have also been penalized under school zero tolerance policies for such inane “crimes” as carrying cough drops, wearing black lipstick, bringing nail clippers to school, using Listerine or Scope, and carrying fold-out combs that resemble switchblades. The lesson being taught to our youngest—and most impressionable—citizens is this: in the American police state, you’re either a prisoner (shackled, controlled, monitored, ordered about, limited in what you can do and say, your life not your own) or a prison bureaucrat (politician, police officer, judge, jailer, spy, profiteer, etc.).

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the reality we must come to terms with is that in the post-9/11 America we live in today, the government does whatever it wants, freedom be damned.

We have moved beyond the era of representative government and entered a new age.

You can call it the age of authoritarianism. Or fascism. Or oligarchy. Or the American police state.

Whatever label you want to put on it, the end result is the same: tyranny.

This article was originally published at The Rutherford Institute.

Frank Chodorov’s Peaceful, Persistent Revolution, Part 1

by Wendy McElroy

Part 1 | Part 2Chodorov spoke out loudly against the economic interventionism of the New Deal and the political interventionism of entering the war.
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It is easy to imagine the libertarian icon Murray Rothbard (1926–1995) modeling himself on his mentor, the Old Right icon Frank A. Chodorov (1887–1966), in the same manner as Chodorov undoubtedly looked to his mentor, Albert Jay Nock (1870–1945). As a young grad student Rothbard stumbled across Chodorov’s pamphlet Taxation Is Robbery. His reaction: “I shall never forget the profound thrill — a thrill of intellectual liberation — that ran through me.” As a voice of the Old Right, Chodorov advocated the free market, individual rights, free trade, isolationism, and a perpetual skepticism toward the state. He and Rothbard were a perfect fit.

In a 1967 tribute to the recently deceased Chodorov, Rothbard described their subsequent meeting at a cocktail party where the intelligentsia of the American right wing engaged in “windy rhetoric” about the free market. Meanwhile, “on the back stairs they dicker[ed] with the brokers of Big Government for an increase in their subsidies and privileges.” Chodorov “stood out like a blaze of radiant light.” He was “the only person alive … amidst the whole gaggle of one-dimensional and identical men around him. There he stood, his tie askew, his balding head disheveled, the ashes from his beloved pipe flying all around, his intelligent and merry eyes twinkling as he scored some outrageous, logical, and beautifully penetrating point to some clod who couldn’t tell the difference between the host of cardboard ‘individualists’ and this one genuine article.”

Sans the pipe, that could describe Rothbard and his intellectual blaze of light. Through a fusion of Austrian economics, Old Right foreign policy, the radicalism of 19th-century individualist anarchism, and natural-law theory, Rothbard forged a path to modern libertarianism in the 1960s. In this achievement, few influences were as important as Chodorov.

Who was he? Fishel Chodorowsky was born to Russian Jewish immigrants in the Lower West Side of New York City. As a young man, the anti-statism of anarchism intrigued Chodorov, but he stumbled over the collective mentality of left-anarchism, which was his exposure to the tradition. He gravitated instead toward Georgism — the political philosophy of Henry George — to which Nock also adhered. George is sometimes viewed as a heretic within libertarianism because he advocated a “Single Tax” on land. He believed the mere act of owning or claiming land rendered no productive service and that one man’s claim was as valid as another’s. Otherwise, George was a staunch advocate of traditional capitalism. In adopting the Single Tax position, however, Chodorov argued for enforcement on a municipal level because centralizing it could strengthen the state at the expense of the individual.

In 1937, at the age of 50, Chodorov became the director of the Henry George School of Social Science. In the same year, he and Nock revived Nock’s then-defunct 1920s periodical, The Freeman, under the school’s aegis. Thus began Chodorov’s remarkable career as a publisher of periodicals and an active contributor to them. His many articles in The Freeman eloquently argued against war and the resulting statism that he believed was the greatest threat to freedom and human happiness. Arguably, he became the most effective voice of isolationism.

Chodorov is often remembered for his hardcore advocacy of the free market and his vigorous criticism of Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal.” But he should be remembered most for two positions about which he was passionate: his opposition to America’s entry into World War II and his early rejection of Joseph McCarthy’s Red Scare.

Chodorov, anti-war crusader

Every day we must repeat to ourselves as a liturgy, the truth that war is caused by the conditions that bring about poverty; that no war is justified; that no war benefits the people; that war is an instrument whereby the haves increase their hold on the have-nots; that war destroys liberty.

— Frank Chodorov, “When War Comes”

Ralph Raico — a member of Rothbard’s inner circle and a historian specializing in the two world wars — called Chodorov “the last of the Old Right greats.” Raico was referring specifically to Chodorov’s foreign-policy stance of “isolationism.”

In chapter 11 of his last book — Out of Step: The Autobiography of an Individualist (1962) — Chodorov explained the term. “Isolationism has been turned (by our politicians, our bureaucracy, and their henchmen, the professorial idealists) into a bad word.” It had been twisted to mean Americans should ignore the broader world. Quite the opposite was true. “Long before interventionism became a fixed policy of the government, American students went to Europe to complete their education and immigrants introduced their exotic foods to the American table. But these were voluntary adoptions….”

The key word for Chodorov was “voluntary.” Embracing different cultures was part of the American character, and isolationism did not mean America should become provincial. It meant America should not impose its policies or self-interest on other nations, especially not through military force. Nor did America accept such impositions from other nations. This was a moral principle for Chodorov, but it was also a realization of human nature. “Isolationism is inherent in the human makeup,” he explained. “It is in the nature of the human being to be interested first in himself and secondly in his neighbors.” If one neighbor should not trespass on the property of another or make threats rather than requests, then neither should nations. That was the core of the political isolationism, which Chodorov distinguished from the economic.

Economic isolationism made Chodorov distance himself slightly from America First — an isolationist organization that sought to avoid American involvement in World War II. Chodorov wrote, “One flaw in the America First program was a tendency toward protectionism; the anti-involvement became identified with ‘Buy American’ slogans and with high tariffs — that is, with economic, rather than political, isolationism.” Free and unfettered trade, not protectionism, was true economic isolationism.

Interventionism is the mirror image; it occurs whenever one nation uses political interference, tax money, or military might to secure a political or financial benefit from a second. Interventionism is interference with the domestic affairs of another nation through force or bribery.

In 1933, the interventionist Roosevelt assumed leadership of a nation with a strong tradition of isolationism. In his 1796 Farewell Address, George Washington had warned that a nation “prompted by ill will and resentment sometimes impels to war the government contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes … adopts through passion, what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations has been the victim.” Washington believed that official attachments with or animosity toward other nations would lead to foreign-policy blunders and damage freedom. In 1821, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams famously declared, “[America] goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”

Roosevelt also inherited a competing tradition of interventionism, however. He economically intervened immediately on entering the White House by prohibiting the private ownership of gold. And then there was his New Deal for America. This Deal consisted of a series of economic programs, public works, drastic financial reforms, and labor regulations revolving around the three “Rs”: Relief, Reform, and Recovery. It constituted the greatest rise of statism and violation of economic freedom that peacetime America had ever experienced.

Roosevelt also wanted to politically intervene during World War II. America was no stranger to war. From the American Revolution to World War I, it had fought in no fewer than six wars. But World War I (1914–1918) had left many Americans weary of conflict and disillusioned with European politics. After the war ended, an enthusiastic Woodrow Wilson had tried to “sell” the United States on membership in the League of Nations (1920) — the first worldwide intergovernmental organization. He met such stiff resistance from the American public and isolationists within Congress that the United States did not officially join. Roosevelt’s desire for America to enter World War II faced the same obstacles; he was able to enter it only after a direct military attack on American soil — the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Chodorov spoke out loudly against the economic interventionism of the New Deal and the political interventionism of entering the war. In 1942, he was forced to resign as director of the Henry George School because of his anti-war views. He later admitted to being so distraught that he might have committed suicide if not for the comforting presence of Nock. Instead, Chodorov poured his anti-war passion into a new periodical, analysis (sic), a four-page monthly broadsheet of which Chodorov was the owner, publisher, editor, distributor, and the source of most material. Rothbard considered analysis (1944–1951) to be one of the best “little magazines” ever published in America. Certainly, it was the publication of which Chodorov was most proud, calling analysis “the most gratifying venture of my life.”

This article was originally published in the June 2021 edition of Future of Freedom.

Defining Liberty

Here we have a most interesting collection of signage. Some low-level civil servant who’s in charge of deciding what the motorist may do at this particular junction has become quite thorough in creating restrictions.

The motorist may not proceed, may not turn left or right, and, most interestingly, in the second sign from the bottom, may not reverse out. In essence, “You’re stuck here and whatever you do to get out, you’re in violation of the rules we’ve placed upon you.”

Of course, if we were to encounter this particular intersection, we might say, “That’s absurd – they can’t possibly hold me to this.”

But, interestingly, under the traffic laws, a policeman can cite us for violating the signage. If we’re lucky, he might agree that it’s absurd and give us a break, but his job is to enforce it, regardless of its absurdity. And if he enjoys his position of authority, as many in his position do, he just may choose to demonstrate his power.

And, if we defy him, we’re in real trouble.

How many laws exist in the US today? The answer is that no one knows. It’s too complex to define. There are roughly 20,000 laws regarding gun control alone – and that’s just the federal laws. State, county and city laws also exist in abundance.

The level of governmental dominance now exists to such a degree that literally everyone is a criminal, whether they know it or not. It’s been estimated that the average American commits about three felonies per day, in addition to many lesser crimes. If, for any reason, the authorities wished to victimize you, they’d find their task quite simple.

Yet, there’s a general assumption amongst those who simply accept the laws that are heaped upon their shoulders, that they were somehow “necessary,” that legislators only pass laws if they have no other choice.

In my estimation, this view is diametrically opposite to what is true. One of my own principles regarding governance is,

“It is the primary business of any government to grow its own power and wealth at the expense of its people.”

This is an important principle to understand, as it opens the mind to recognize that governments always move in a direction of increased control. Given enough time, governments will always create a state of despotism. And, historically, no government has ever reversed its level of control and introduced greater liberty.

It then follows that each country is in the process of becoming increasingly tyrannical. The only difference between them is the degree of tyranny that’s been achieved so far.

Liberty and governmental control are polar opposites. Yet, most people have a rather vague perception of the term “liberty” and might even find it difficult to define. This is unfortunate, as it means that, when liberty is lost, those same people will be unlikely to recognize the fact.

Here are two good working definitions of liberty, courtesy of the dictionary:

“The power or scope to act as one pleases.”

“The state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.”

The first is interesting, as it suggests that liberty means each person doing exactly as he pleases. Doug Casey often offers a similarly simple, but more refined rule of life:

“Do as thou wilt, but be prepared to accept the consequences.”

The latter dictionary definition is probably in keeping with the perception of most Americans around 1800, but today’s American would caution that, “Ideally, that would be true, but without our current laws and regulations, there’d be chaos.

Libertarians would disagree and offer only two principles that they believe would largely negate the need for laws:

“Do all that you say that you’ll do and don’t initiate aggression against another person or his property.”

And, again, non-libertarian thinkers would shake their heads and assert that this would result in chaos. Americans have become indoctrinated to believe this through slow measures. As Thomas Jefferson said,

“Even under the best forms of Government, those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”

The key to governmental domination is that we tend to tolerate the loss of liberty if it’s taken away slowly.

In the US, liberty has been in decline, by my reckoning, for about one hundred years, but has been in rapid decline since 2001.

Of course, in all countries, at some point, the governmental domination becomes so intolerable that the people rise up. Revolution follows – a period of great upheaval and hardship. Eventually, a recovery begins and the entire process starts over.

It stands to reason that the best place to be is a country that has already recovered and is in the reconstruction stage – a time when liberty is at its greatest.

The US was in this stage in the nineteenth century – a period of great expansion and development.

However, by the mid-twentieth century, the rot had set in. America was past its peak and was ready to begin the final, and most rapid, period of decline.

At that time, the Russian Ayn Rand, living in the US, stated,

“We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force.”

At the time Ms. Rand made this statement, she was largely dismissed. After all, Americans had never seen riot squads, dressed in black and heavily-armed, barging into homes without a warrant.

Authorities did not yet have the legal right to confiscate all of the possessions of an individual, based upon suspicion alone.

Yet, this is exactly what Ms. Rand warned against when she said, “the stage of total dominance is fast approaching.”

In reflection, we can have a laugh at the signage above, as it was clearly created by a low-level civil servant who was careless with his own puffed-up authority to the point of creating an absurdity.

But, in the larger picture, the signs are equally in place. Liberty in the US, at this point, is all but extinguished. And greater restrictions are being written every day.

The reader is left with a choice. He can either accept the signs that tell him he’s not allowed to go left, right, forward or back and wait until his government instructs him as to what he’s allowed to do, or he may say, “That’s it – I’m reversing out of here and finding a location where liberty is still in abundance.

Jeff Thomas

Self-Esteem: A Requirement for Liberty

Self-esteem and self-respect are so low in our society that an authoritarian regime hardly has to lift a finger. It can rely on the shaming of lunatic “Karens” and unemployed moronic 30-year-olds philosophizing in Twitter mobs from their childhood bedrooms to force grown men and women to: don face diapers, duck and cover for 12 months from fear of catching a cold, and submit via group pressure to destroying treasured childrens’ books and changing their brand of syrup for absolutely no reason. Is it any wonder we now face growing censorship, seizure of private property and confiscation of guns? Our population, with rare exception, is shockingly and embarrassingly milquetoast.

Michael J. Hurd, Daily Dose of Reason

Let Freedom Ring

Memes from social media of the last several days (mostly mine, credit to others where noted):

If the FDA is not required for COVID vaccine, then why is the FDA needed for anything else?

Tyrants foster unearned guilt. They break your spirit. And then they rule you. That’s all it is.

“Unemployment benefits are intended for people who CAN’T find jobs, not for people who WON’T find jobs.” #gotowork
Actually, not true. The entitlement state was created to destroy the economy and enslave the people. AND IT’S WORKING.

@Joy_Villa on Twitter: How do people hate America 364 days a year and sit back and enjoy a Fourth of July bbq?

The Deadliest Virus in the United States is the Media.

Dog Checks Democrat Owner Into Therapy After Traumatic 4th of July Fireworks Show (Marcia Jeanne Gibson)

“In life it’s important to know when to stop arguing with people and siply let them be wrong.” Leave them free to endure the consequences of their errors and their evasiveness. If they have treated you badly, starve them of your virtue, and of your company.

Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) decries the “involuntary servitude” she claims black people still suffer in the USA. Her solution? Marxism, which imposes impoverishment and involuntary servitude on EVERYONE. Except elites like herself, of course. Deranged and sickening.

Let’s start over.

And let’s exclude the tyrants who call themselves “Democrats”.

Michael J. Hurd, Daily Dose of Reason