THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 181, July 8, 2002

WHAT FREEDOMS ARE LEFT?

The Kabinet of Georg Busch
by L. Neil Smith
lneil@lneilsmith.org

Exclusive to TLE

We've been hearing lately that George Bush wants his illegitimate brainchild, the "Office of Homeland Security", to become a Cabinet department. This is a very bad idea, and it should be fought at every step.

As you may recall, the Office of Homeland Security was created in the first place by Presidential decree -- without debate, without due consideration, without reference to the Constitution or the Bill of Rights -- following the attacks on the New York World Trade Center and the Pentagon of September 11, 2001. The initial idea was to convey an impression that the government -- meaning Bush and his petrocronies -- were "doing something" to protect us from further acts of terrorism, an undertaking at which they had failed miserably, before September 11.

Americans soon learned who it was they really needed protection from, as hundreds, perhaps thousands, of mostly Moslem individuals -- some of whom were American citizens, and many more of whom had lived peacefully and productively in the United States for decades -- were illegally abducted and detained in a secret gulag, incommunicado, out of reach of their terrified families, and without the benefit of legal representation.

Meanwhile, as the US military was bombing and invading a backward, poverty-stricken, helpless Third World country that had no more to do with the events of September 11 than, say, Denmark or Tasmania (and considerably less than countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia), and was treating its captives as if they -- the military, not the captives -- were Nazi war criminals, the government at home was busy seizing new illegal powers to spy on and interfere with the lives of ordinary people, to threaten them if they complained or expressed officially unauthorized opinions, and to prevent them from travelling freely, which is a basic right of every American and of every human being on Earth.

Through it all, Attorney General Ashcroft kept muttering about how "the bureaucracy" was obstructing him, when what he clearly meant was the Bill of Rights, which, indeed, was written specifically to blunt the ambitions and machinations of power-hungry authoritarians like Ashcroft.

Perhaps the worst moment (so far) came when Bush and Ashcroft took it on themselves to abrogate the citizenship -- and therefore, in their minds, the Constitutional rights -- of any American they don't like. Again, the legal safeguards assured us by the Bill of Rights were intended to prevent exactly this sort of abuse of power by the government. The chilling implication was that if one individual, born and raised in America, can be declared an "unlawful combatant" and confined indefinitely without a hearing or legal counsel, so can any individual.

This means you.

To those who clearly despise individual liberty like Bush, Cheney, Ridge, Ashcroft, and Rumsfeld (not to exclude Daschle, Schumer, and that whole scurvy lot, or they'd be screaming their heads off by now), September 11 must have felt like a last-minute call from the governor. The Cold War was over, the Soviet Empire defunct, leaving the US the world's only superpower. Thanks to decades of evildoing, incompetence, and coverups on the part of the government, people had grown skeptical -- if not downright cynical -- about its genuine intentions toward them.

There was about to be an uncontrollable outbreak of freedom if new justifications couldn't be found -- or fabricated -- for limiting the people's legal and moral rights, while continuing to rob them of half their earnings and devouring whole their hopes for their children's future.

Thus, when it was revealed (by a broad variety of sources) that the Bush Administration had been warned, possibly months in advance, what was going to happen September 11 -- and perhaps had let it happen anyway, to maintain and tighten its deathgrip on the lives of those by whose consent it supposedly governs -- some Cabinet-level officials, drunk with their newfound power, responded by threatening anyone who discussed the issue of prior warnings publicly with vague, unspecified "charges".

Happily, most of the New Media ignored them.

This administration has very good reason not to wish any aspect of September 11 discussed without its supervision, for it was government that created this mess in the first place. Although a small number of violent criminals hijacked four airliners and flew three of them into buildings, killing thousands, it could never have happened if the government had pursued a rational foreign policy and refrained at home from routinely disobeying the highest law of the land -- the first ten amendments to the US Constitution -- commonly known as the Bill of Rights.

To put a finer point on it, if the United States government had not insisted, for the past 150 years, on interfering, often violently, in the affairs of other nations, no one in the world would have had a reason to hijack those planes and use them the way they were used. And if the Second Amendment right of every individual -- including airline passengers -- to own and carry weapons had been observed and enforced, no one would have been able to hijack those planes even if they had a reason.

That's all it would have taken: a non-interventionist foreign policy and enforcement of the Bill of Rights, particularly the Second Amendment.

There are those within the government who will tell you -- when they're not warning you of the dire peril represented by radical Islamic scuba divers -- that September 11 occurred because people in the Third World hate American private capitalism and the individual freedom supposedly symbolized by the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

To them I say those towers, built with taxes and owned by the New York Transit Authority, stood not for capitalism but for mercantilism. Mercantilism is the system complained of by Adam Smith in his great work The Wealth of Nations, under which businessmen struggle, not to produce better goods at lower prices, which is the way of capitalism, but to control enough of the government to give them advantages over their competitors -- and customers -- in a market that is far from free.

I also ask, just what freedom do Americans have left, especially after September 11, for Third World people to hate? And if our presumptive enemies hate it, why is the government destroying it for them?

Back to the point, this is not a time to create a new Cabinet department, regarding "homeland security" or anything else. Most of the Cabinet departments that exist now serve functions that are not mentioned in the Constitution (consult the Tenth Amendment and Article I, Section 8) and are therefore illegal. The only new department worth considering would be dedicated to stringent enforcement of the Bill of Rights.

Should anybody claim (as we have all heard them do from time to time) that the provisions of the Constitution proved inadequate to protect Americans on September 11, remind them immediately that it was disregarding the Constitution that made that atrocity possible and inevitable.

Government -- and government alone -- made this unholy mess. Only by getting government out of it can we ever hope to clean it up. The only real security for America's "homeland" lies in the ability of the individuals within it to defend it, unimpeded by a government whose interests more closely parallel those of terrorists than they do our own.



Three-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith is the author of 23 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collection of articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page". Autographed copies may be had from the author at lneil@lneilsmith.org.

L. Neil Smith writes regular columns for The Libertarian Enterprise, Sierra Times RoadHouse, and for Rational Review.


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