Perhaps the biggest stumbling blocks in the way of more fruitful public discourse and political change are the artificial left-right ideological divide combined with a bipartisan acceptance of so many of Washington’s government programs that harm economic prosperity and peace. While liberals and conservatives often disagree over how this bureaucratic regimentation of society should be administrated, seldom do they question the underlying premises behind this top-down, centralized order.
Coincidentally, both liberals and conservatives, especially in this last decade, have attacked individual liberty in their quest for power or reform. And by attacking liberty, they are also attacking the security and order necessary for civilization and economic growth.
Contrary to what the left and right offer, there is absolutely no reason to sacrifice liberty for security. In fact, liberty and security are two sides of the same coin. As Benjamin Tucker and other libertarians have argued, liberty is the mother, not the daughter, of order. F.A. Hayek dubbed the dangerous attempt by centralized agencies to control order from the top-down, “the fatal conceit.”
In the last few years, both liberals and conservatives have done immense damage to this liberty so essential for a just and flexible order, harming both in the process. Here are three examples:
1. Interventionist Foreign Policy
Since at least World War II, but especially in the last decade, the U.S. political establishment and a large majority of both sides of the ideological spectrum has supported a highly militaristic and interventionist foreign policy. While shrouding these overseas interventions in humanitarian rhetoric, more often that these interventions have created the exact opposite results that were intended.
This interventionism makes all Americans less safe because of what the CIA (and basic common sense) calls “blowback.” U.S. intervention creates resentment and hostility, which leads to attacks on Americans, especially when these interventions are covert or secret. Simultaneously, the maintenance of a large, global military empire necessary for the ability to intervene all over the globe also leaves us much more defenseless at home against these inevitable attacks. This is how a handful of hijackers could cause so much damage on 9/11; the U.S. government was too busy policing the 38th parallel, policing the oceans, and a myriad of other imperial chores to effectively protect us here.
Not only do the consequences of empire make us less safe, the fundamental premise behind this type of foreign policy is a direct threat to individual liberty. A permanent warfare state, as James Madison said, is the most dangerous threat to public liberty, breeding the germs of debt, taxes, and “the many under the domination of the few.” Free markets and civil liberties do not last long under a government that claims the right to intervene militarily anywhere and everywhere around the world.
And thanks to this bipartisan foreign policy of interventionism that, with few exceptions, is supported by both liberals and conservatives, we also have the Transportation Security Administration, brand new monstrous federal departments, a massive surveillance state, and a military-industrial-complex without liberty or security. Just in the last year, the U.S. government, under the rubric of more efficiently waging their empire, claim the right to abolish habeas corpus, maintain kill lists, and assassinate U.S. citizens.
Either we give up this empire, or we will live under it.
2. The Drug War
The federal prohibition on certain substances is also one of the biggest threats to order and liberty. Conservatives almost overwhelmingly, and vehemently, support the drug war, and while some on the left see the harm that this government program causes, are inaudible when President Obama ruthlessly cracks down on states that show a tiny bit of compassion on this issue.
The misnamed “war on drugs” (it is really a war on people) has been, perhaps even more than the national security state, the government program that has done the most to erode our civil liberties and thus public safety. Thanks to the drug war, all three branches of government have given law enforcement the power to violate the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments. “No-knock raids,” the growth of SWAT teams, military hardware in the hands of police departments in the smallest of towns, and the general militarization of law enforcement in America can be placed at the feet of the “war on drugs.”
Because liberty and order are two sides of the same coin, the drug war is also an assault on our individual liberty. To tell someone what they can or can’t put into their bodies is like telling him what he can or can’t read, listen to, or watch. The consequences of this challenge to individual freedom and choice should be no surprise.
3. Gun Control
The issue of gun control, like the drug war, is also a misnamed policy that is more accurately an attempt to control individuals rather than guns. While guns have been a sensitive and touchy topic of late, attempts to impose even more gun control restrictions uses the same faulty logic as the attempt to impose drug control. Liberals tend to understand that the drug war creates violent black markets, restricts liberty, and disproportionately harms minorities, but for some reason can not grasp the fact that the exact same consequences ensue with gun control.
And vice-versa for conservatives who oppose gun control and support the drug war. Even the NRA is siding with Senator Dianne Feinstein (D – Calif.) in supporting fascism — the imposition of even more government power over schools. That should come as no surprise, however, since the NRA, with their historical and tacit support for the 1934 National Firearms Act, the 1968 Gun Control Act, the 1986 McClure-Volkmer Act, and general acquiescence on federal gun laws, tend to favor the state-sanctioned crumbs of compromise rather than authentic liberty.
The right of gun ownership exists regardless of the Second Amendment. It is a question of whether individuals have the right to buy, sell, or own private property (guns in this case). Despite the multitude of evidence that suggests that private firearm ownership, especially when individuals are allowed conceal-carry permits, is by far the best way to reduce crime and secure order in society, there are non-stop calls for more gun control.
But who do they think will enforce these gun restrictions? A heavily-armed state, of course. It’s hard to think of a better definition of a police state than when only the police and military have guns.
There are literally hundreds more of examples I could name, but these are the three biggest threats to liberty and safety that both liberals and conservatives support. This country would be infinitely freer and safer if all of the above government programs were abolished or radically reduced.
This is because the left and the right fail to understand that the nature of order and peace is society is fundamentally anarchic. This private order emerges from the cumulative efforts of individuals voluntarily cooperating with each other in the marketplace, however they choose to do so, toward the betterment of their lives.
It is a spontaneous, ebb-and-flow that no centralized planner could even possibly come close to imposing, a beautiful anarchy that everyone of us participates in anytime we interact with our fellow man without violence or fraud. This is the true nature of safety and order in society, and until liberals and conservatives understand this, all of their attempts to force their version of order on the rest of us will only create chaos, disorder, and leave us less safe.
Picture Credit: U.S. Department of Labor