Tag Archives: Liberty

Defining Liberty, by Jeff Thomas

Governments always move to curtail their citizens’ liberty. From Jeff Thomas at internationalman.com:

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.

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Liberty Defined, by Ron Paul

Ron Paul gets down to basics. From Paul at mises.org:

Liberty means to exercise human rights in any manner a person chooses so long as it does not interfere with the exercise of the rights of others. This means, above all else, keeping government out of our lives. Only this path leads to the unleashing of human energies that build civilization, provide security, generate wealth, and protect the people from systematic rights violations. In this sense, only liberty can truly ward off tyranny, the great and eternal foe of mankind.

The definition of liberty I use is the same one that was accepted by Thomas Jefferson and his generation. It is the understanding derived from the great freedom tradition, for Jefferson himself took his understanding from John Locke (1632–1704). I use the term “liberal” without irony or contempt, for the liberal tradition in the true sense, dating from the late Middle Ages until the early part of the twentieth century, was devoted to freeing society from the shackles of the state. This is an agenda I embrace, and one that I believe all should embrace.

To believe in liberty is not to believe in any particular social and economic outcome. It is to trust in the spontaneous order that emerges when the state does not intervene in human volition and human cooperation. It permits people to work out their problems for themselves, build lives for themselves, take risks and accept responsibility for the results, and make their own decisions.

Our standards of living are made possible by the blessed institution of liberty. When liberty is under attack, everything we hold dear is under attack. Governments, by their very nature, notoriously compete with liberty, even when the stated purpose for establishing a particular government is to protect liberty.

To continue reading: Liberty Defined

Get Up Off Your Knees, by Robert Gore

Zoos are among the saddest places on earth: magnificent but confined creatures on display for gawking crowds, prevented from living out their biological destinies, fed their daily rations, and domesticated beyond where they could ever return to the wild. You have to feel pity and sorrow for these innocent prisoners; they’d flee in a heartbeat if they could.

Humans have made themselves inmates—whether of a zoo, prison, or asylum is hard to say, likely a combination of all three. Animals earn our admiration because they resist losing their freedom. Humans occasionally do too, but usually surrender theirs for promises and trifles. The promises are broken and the trifles grow more trifling as humanity for the most part gives up. Keep people amused and make sure the rations don’t stop and no outrage rousts them to try to reclaim their birthright. When they visit the zoo, the animals stare back at them with contempt.

In this country, we sing, “Sweet land of liberty,” and, “The land of the free, and the home of the brave.” We incant “freedom” and “liberty” during election seasons, but anything beyond that is considered embarrassing, bad form. A legislator denouncing a proposed law as an infringement of freedom would be regarded as a lunatic. Millions of pages of federal, state, and local laws and regulations already infringe freedom. The denouncer might be irrefutably right, but his denunciation would be irrelevant.

While wildlife should be free in the wild, coping with the risks to the best of their capabilities, humans are supposedly unsuited for freedom. Free humans might develop their own talents and capabilities, produce, exchange, exercise their rights, and engage in voluntary association and social intercourse, all unsupervised. You can argue that such activities are generally beneficial. However, there is a special class who are permitted to supervise and coerce the rest of us, to curtail our freedom. This special class ensures fairness or equality or some such thing. Who knows what might happen without them. Think of the dangers!

Just consider the concept of people deciding what’s in their own best interest. A hyphenated word lurks: self-interest. The special people are motivated by everything but self-interest, or so they say. Indeed, nobility of motive justifies their power and the destruction of your liberty. The desire to better your life is selfish, unlike the impulses supposedly animating those holding the guns to your head. After widespread surrender, few champion their right to their own lives, which is selfish after all, or challenge the special people’s moral superiority, which confers their right to hold the guns.

It might mitigate moral condemnation for liberty’s surrender if it had produced some benefit for those waving the white flag. An old bromide has it that liberty is irrelevant when people are starving. Nothing is further from the truth; it’s freedom that feeds people, creates wealth, and advances humanity. The historical record offers ample proof. It’s the absence of liberty that produces starvation, poverty, decay, destruction, genocide, and war. Here too the historical record is clear, one need go no farther back than the last century. During this ascendancy of the special people, humanity fought its two deadliest wars and over a hundred million were murdered, victims of special plans for a better world.

But somehow it’s liberty that’s dangerous. Fortunately the special people still rule, to make sure it doesn’t break out somewhere. Their reign assures that this century will challenge the last for the title: Century of Slaughter. They see their subjects are domesticated draft animals, just smart enough to keep economies running, not smart enough to challenge domestication. However, it’s been free minds and free markets, not draft animals, that have produced the wonders that make modern life modern. Welfare states are halfway houses to totalitarianism. As they grow, liberty shrinks and progress slows, stops, and reverses, the deterioration culminating in either anarchy or tyranny.

Judging from the prevalence of terms like “secular stagnation” and the “end of growth,” we are in the stop phase and reversal is nigh. People have seen their freedom shrink and have borne the consequences, although most don’t make the connection between the two. Incomes have stagnated, opportunities have diminished, life grows ever coarser, and fear of a looming apocalypse pervades the popular consciousness. Many are preparing for a future in which modernity is no longer modern, where access to necessities and conveniences cannot be taken for granted. Guns and gold are at the top of checklists, for a day when the inevitable failure of the special people leads to the inevitable tyranny or anarchy.

The discontent sweeping the planet is recognition that things are wrong on multiple fronts, although recognition of the root cause is rare. The idea that changing the hands on the levers offers solutions is magical thinking. The problems stem from granting the special people the levers in the first place. They may be replaced, but once the replacements have their hands on the levers, they’ll feel special, too. Power assuredly corrupts.

We’re closer to the real solution in the lament: “Why can’t they just leave us alone?” They—the special people—must leave us alone, it’s our moral right. Those who think the collapse will never come, or that freedom can be reclaimed without a fight, delude themselves. The craven adage: It’s better to live on one’s knees than die on one’s feet, offers a false choice. On your knees you may live to see another day, but you’ll never live to see better days. You may die on your feet, but liberty offers the only hope for better days. It’s worth fighting for. It’s worth dying for.

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A Few Uncomfortable Truths You Won’t Hear from the 2016 Presidential Candidates, by John W. Whitehead

There’s not much left of America’s liberties. From John W. Whitehead at rutherford.org:

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”—George Orwell

In the interest of liberty and truth, here are a few uncomfortable truths about life in the American police state that we will not be hearing from either of the two leading presidential candidates.

  1. The government is not our friend. Nor does it work for “we the people.”
  2. Our so-called government representatives do not actually represent us, the citizenry. We are now ruled by an oligarchic elite of governmental and corporate interests whose main interest is in perpetuating power and control.
  3. Republicans and Democrats are not sworn enemies so much as they are partners in crime, united in a common goal, which is to maintain the status quo.
  4. Presidential elections are not exercises in self-government. They are merely business forums for selecting the next CEO of the United States of America, Inc.
  5. No matter which candidate wins this election, the police state will continue to grow. In other words, it will win and “we the people” will lose.
  6. The lesser of two evils is still evil.
  7. There is virtually no difference between psychopaths and politicians.
  8. Americans only think they’re choosing the next president. In truth, however, they’re engaging in the illusion of participation culminating in the reassurance ritual of voting.
  9. The U.S. government has become a greater menace to the life, liberty and property of its citizens than any of the so-called dangers from which the government claims to protect us.
  10. The government knows exactly which buttons to push in order to manipulate the populace and gain the public’s cooperation and compliance.
  11. Fear, which now permeates the populace, leads to fascism.
  12. If voting made any difference, they wouldn’t let us do it.
  13. America’s shadow government—which is comprised of unelected government bureaucrats who operate beyond the reach of the Constitution—is the real reason why “we the people” have no control over our government.
  14. The government does whatever it wants.
  15. You no longer have to be poor, black or guilty to be treated like a criminal in America. All that is required is that you belong to the suspect class—that is, the citizenry—of the American police state.
  16. Whether instigated by the government or the citizenry, violence will only lead to more violence. Anyone who believes that they can wage—and win—an armed revolt against the American police state is playing right into the government’s hands.
  17. “We the people” are no longer shielded by the rule of law.
  18. Government eyes are watching you. Every move you make is being monitored, mined for data, crunched, and tabulated in order to form a picture of who you are, what makes you tick, and how best to control you when and if it becomes necessary to bring you in line.
  19. Private property means nothing if the government can take your home, car or money under the flimsiest of pretexts, whether it be asset forfeiture schemes, eminent domain or overdue property taxes. Likewise, private property means little at a time when SWAT teams and other government agents can invade your home, break down your doors, kill your dog, wound or kill you, damage your furnishings and terrorize your family.
  20. If there is an absolute maxim by which the federal government seems to operate, it is that the American taxpayer always gets ripped off.

To continue reading: A Few Uncomfortable Truths You Won’t Hear from the 2016 Presidential Candidates

Ron Paul Warns “The Conflict Between Government & Liberty Is At A Boiling Point”

From Ron Paul on zerohedge.com:

This is excerpted from the introduction of Ron Paul’s Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues that Affect Our Freedom.

Liberty means to exercise human rights in any manner a person chooses so long as it does not interfere with the exercise of the rights of others. This means, above all else, keeping government out of our lives. Only this path leads to the unleashing of human energies that build civilization, provide security, generate wealth, and protect the people from systematic rights violations. In this sense, only liberty can truly ward off tyranny, the great and eternal foe of mankind.

The definition of liberty I use is the same one that was accepted by Thomas Jefferson and his generation. It is the understanding derived from the great freedom tradition, for Jefferson himself took his understanding from John Locke (1632–1704). I use the term “liberal” without irony or contempt, for the liberal tradition in the true sense, dating from the late Middle Ages until the early part of the twentieth century, was devoted to freeing society from the shackles of the state. This is an agenda I embrace, and one that I believe all should embrace.

To believe in liberty is not to believe in any particular social and economic outcome. It is to trust in the spontaneous order that emerges when the state does not intervene in human volition and human cooperation. It permits people to work out their problems for themselves, build lives for themselves, take risks and accept responsibility for the results, and make their own decisions.

Our standards of living are made possible by the blessed institution of liberty. When liberty is under attack, everything we hold dear is under attack. Governments, by their very nature, notoriously compete with liberty, even when the stated purpose for establishing a particular government is to protect liberty.

Take the United States, for example. Our country was established with the greatest ideals and respect for individual freedom ever known. Yet look at where we are today: runaway spending and uncontrollable debt; a monstrous bureaucracy regulating our every move; total disregard for private property, free markets, sound money, and personal privacy; and a foreign policy of military expansionism. The restraints placed on our government in the Constitution by the Founders did not work. Powerful special interests rule, and there seems to be no way to fight against them. While the middle class is being destroyed, the poor suffer, the justly rich are being looted, and the unjustly rich are getting richer. The wealth of the country has fallen into the hands of a few at the expense of the many. Some say this is because of a lack of regulations on Wall Street, but that is not right. The root of this issue reaches far deeper than that.

The threat to liberty is not limited to the United States. Dollar hegemony has globalized the crisis. Nothing like this has ever happened before. All economies are interrelated and dependent on the dollar’s maintaining its value, while at the same time the endless expansion of the dollar money supply is expected to bail out everyone.

This dollar globalization is made more dangerous by nearly all governments acting irresponsibly by expanding their powers and living beyond their means. Worldwide debt is a problem that will continue to grow if we continue on this path. Yet all governments, and especially ours, do not hesitate to further expand their powers at the expense of liberty in a futile effort to force an outcome of their design on us. They simply expand and plummet further into debt.

To continue reading: Ron Paul Warns “The Conflict Between Government & Liberty Is At A Boiling Point”

Jeez. What ever happened to the ‘free world’?? by Simon Black

From Simon Black at sovereignman.com:

“The advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace.

Ronald Reagan, 1987

On August 12, 1961, Walter Ulbricht, the Chairman of the State Council in East Germany, signed an order to close the border and begin building a wall around East Berlin.

It happened quickly. Soldiers began tearing up the roads leading into West Berlin almost immediately and actually stood with weapons at the border with orders to shoot anyone who tried to cross.

Before long there were barbed-wire fences. Then concrete walls. Then dogs. Guard towers. And even anti-tank obstacles.

Of course, the East German government told people that the wall was for their protection, ostensibly to keep out rapists and thieves.

They said that there were too many foreigners coming in to East Berlin who unfairly bought up state-subsidized goods.

They also warned people of the looming threat of fascist invaders, and even went as far as to call the wall an “Anti-fascist protective rampart”.

As a child of the ’80s (I was born at the tail-end of the Carter administration), I remember how the Berlin Wall was a symbol of tyranny and oppression.

And from the steps of the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin, Ronald Reagan told the world in a now-famous speech from 1987, “The advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace,” before demanding, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Back then if you had talked about building a wall in America, they would have called you a Commie.

But now, in the Land of the Free, it’s all the rage to build a new wall.

They’re also talking about rounding up Muslims and having ‘databases’ just in case you have the audacity to be brown.

There’s already a massive level of surveillance in the Land of the Free. Everything you do online is monitored and tracked.

The police state grows by the day. Federally-funded police forces now don combat boots, Kevlar vests, and intimidating paramilitary attire to drive around in their urban assault vehicles as if they’re in downtown Mogadishu.

Nearly every federal agency down to the Fish and Wildlife Service has its own gun-toting police force… which makes it pretty unsurprising that Civil Asset Forfeiture has risen an average of 21% per year for the past two decades.

Yet despite all of this security and surveillance, the government still doesn’t feel that it’s enough.

To continue reading: Jeez. Whatever happened to the ‘free world’??

Evil Begets Evil, by Robert Gore

Liberty is never an accident. It requires a philosophical acceptance of an individual’s right to his or her own life, and a full understanding of the logical implications and consequences of that right. That acceptance must prevail among intellectuals and through their explanation and leadership, embraced and promoted by a substantial portion of the population. A set of governing institutions has to be devised that are subordinated to the protection of individual rights but strong enough to protect those rights. The difficulties are borne out by history, where attempts to establish political orders based on liberty are few, and their successful and lasting establishment nonexistent.

The argument is made that humanity is unfit for liberty—individuals are incapable of living their own lives peaceably with other individuals. This is true for some individuals, but it has been pronounced as an indictment of the entire species. Because humanity is unfit for freedom, the argument invariably runs, coercion is justified. In other words, individuals—who cannot be trusted with the freedom to peaceably live their own lives—can be given the power to forcibly direct other people’s lives. Chaos, violence, and a world at the brink of epochal collapse are the direct consequences of that inane formulation, yet never has humanity seemed less likely to embrace liberty.

The period from 1865 to 1913 was one of the few in which substantial numbers of people lived in relative freedom, particularly in the US and parts of Europe. The Industrial Revolution, propelled by British and US advances in science, technology, and production, reached its apex during this time. Critics of the period focus on its poverty, degradation, and brutal social conditions and set an impossible benchmark—immediate elimination of those conditions—ignoring their centuries-long prevalence and the most rapid and widespread increases in real incomes and general living standards in history. Footprints are telling: immigrants chose, by the millions, to come to the US, supposedly the most “exploitative” country, and powered the astonishing ascent that took the US from Civil War ruins to the world’s preeminent economy and power in less than five decades.

In the US, liberty was dramatically curtailed in 1913 with the establishment of the Federal Reserve and the passage of the 16th, or income tax, Amendment. The US government would do what governments had always done: forcibly expropriate its people’s wealth and debase the medium of exchange for its own benefit. A year later the relative peace of the preceding period (critics again set an impossible benchmark—the complete absence of war—when judging it) gave way to World War I as governments resumed doing what they’d always done. The US joined two years later. War serves as an excuse for governments to restrict liberty and this one was no exception. The US government jacked up tax rates, instituted conscription, and threw critics of the war in jail.

The alternatives to liberty are coercion, repression, and violence, and the 20th century ranks as mankind’s most coercive, repressive, and violent yet. Totalitarian regimes came to power in Russia, China, Germany, Japan, and a host of smaller nations. For much of the century, they ruled over more than half the global population. Even in countries regarded as “freer,” diminution of individual liberty has been the persistent trend. The basis of the welfare state is theft. The basis of central banking is the production of scrip of no intrinsic value and its coerced acceptance as a medium of exchange. The power of governments and their central banks has continuously grown, always at the expense of individual liberty.

Governments that consistently abridge the rights of their own people will not respect the rights of people in other countries. The thrust of US military policy shifted from primarily defensive (with the exception of Latin America and territory occupied by Native Americans) during the Industrial Revolution to intervention in other nations’ wars in WWI and WWII to an offensive posture since the Vietnam War. Like income redistribution and economic regulation, war invariable increases a government’s power and its share of the nation’s resources. Concomitantly, it reduces individuals’ liberty and takes from them an increasing portion of their own production.

The US government now claims the right to invade any country without the permission of that country’s government. While it has not said so publicly and officially, the government also claims the right to replace governments in other countries that it regards as inimical to its interests. Even a partial list of where the government has exercised its supposed “rights” since the 1890s is long: most of the nations of Latin America, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines, China, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Ukraine, Yemen, and Somalia. The US military maintains bases and special operations forces in over 150 countries, and the US spends more on armaments and military manpower than the next nine nations combined. In light of all this, the conclusion in inescapable that the US government is an imperial power and aspires to permanent hegemony

One group in American politics shuns or seeks to limit the government’s foreign intervention because the resources devoted to such intervention could be used for domestic programs and income redistribution. Another group opposes such programs and redistribution, but supports intervention. There is an overlapping group. The defining features of all three are intellectual incoherence and an inability or refusal to recognize consequences.

Forcibly taking legitimately produced or acquired wealth from one person for the benefit of the government and its chosen beneficiaries is theft, a fundamental abridgment of liberty—the freedom to productively support one’s self and those one chooses. Evil begets evil. The supposed “needs” justifying redistribution are limitless; production is not. Enslaving producers for the benefit of the government and its beneficiaries reduces and eventually destroys their willingness and ability to produce, and simply destroys the beneficiaries.

The gratitude that usually flows from recipients of private, voluntary charity to their benefactors gives way to an entitlement mentality and sloth, invariably encouraged by declarations from the government and its supporters about the rights of some to the fruits of others’ labor. For a right to be a right it must be universal, and we all cannot enjoy these so called “rights” to have someone else support us. The rampant social pathologies of the class dependent on direct monetary aid and myriad government programs are obvious—crime, illegitimacy, the drug and prostitution trades, decaying inner cities, and riots, et. al.—but will be ignored by proponents of redistribution until production grinds to a halt and funding fails.

That failure will inevitably lead to widespread violence and chaos among beneficiaries denied their benefits. Indeed, some of redistribution’s intellectual lights call for just such an outcome—the collapse of the present system, to be replaced by full-on socialism. The question of how a society that can no longer afford quasi-socialism will be able to afford the full-on version is left unanswered. Totalitarian slavery is the outcome, the answer that dares not speak its name.

The intellectual failure of those who identify the inherent flaws of redistribution and its negative consequences, but who nevertheless propose that the government forcibly intervene in countries that have neither attacked the US nor pose a danger to it, is greater than that of domestic redistribution’s proponents. If, in the immortal words of Ringo Starr, “Everything government touches turns to crap” at home, how can anyone who embraces Starr’s wisdom expect a different result when government goes abroad? Most Americans would not choose to live in inner city Detroit, Newark, Chicago, Washington, or any other of our urban hellholes, but would if the alternative was Baghdad, Kabul, Kunduz, Benghazi, Tripoli, Damascus, or Beirut.

Venality rather than obtuseness accounts for the plainly erroneous assessments of government’s efficacy in reordering other countries. Reality has obliterated whatever idealistic sentiments animated US forays into Vietnam and the Middle East and northern Africa; they made existing situations far worse. Redistribution—the forced transfer of wealth that many proponents of intervention criticize when practiced in the homeland—is the impetus for continuing intervention. Military adventurism and its associated surveillance state are multi-trillion-dollar endeavors that support a large percentage of the government’s payroll and legions of private contractors. Peace and a noninterventionist foreign policy are their worst nightmares. They recycle some of the largess received from the government back to officials to prevent them.

The spread of terrorism and violence far beyond the borders of Middle Eastern and Northern African nations are readily identifiable but generally unacknowledged blowback from foreign military intervention in those nations, as are the consequent refugee flows. The “surprise” expressed by the intervenors is disingenuous. Violence begets violence. For the interventionist nations, the dozens killed in Paris last week are a tragedy, the millions killed across the Middle East and Northern Africa the last few decades are a statistic, except for the interventionists’ “warriors.” The wonder is not the attack, but that the death toll in interventionist nations is so small relative to the death toll in the nations in which they have intervened.

To say that there is some sort of security apart from securing individual rights and liberty is fallacious; the supposed choice between liberty and security is a false choice. There can be no security for a collective when there is no security of rights and liberty for the individual members of that collective. To “safeguard” our security the government could lock each of us in our own steel and concrete cell. The security supposedly safeguarded would be meaningless compared to the complete loss of liberty, but the arrangement would have its advantages. It would demonstrate that security without liberty is not security at all; it’s restriction, confinement, and slavery. And it would demonstrate an important historical truth, the leitmotif of the twentieth century and on present course, the twenty-first: the most dangerous threat to both liberty and security is government.

Evil begets evil. The violence and abridgment of individual rights and liberties inherent in today’s welfare/warfare states lead to more violence, repression, and chaos. The term cycle of violence is both overused and wrong, because the word cycle implies a return to a starting point, when in fact violence and its attendant repression and chaos produce only a downward spiral.

Paris, the bombing of the Russian jet, and terrorist massacres in Beirut and Ankara, all within the last few weeks, make it appear that the descent is accelerating. It may well be, or it may be that the kind of carnage and death tolls that are the daily routine across the Middle East and Northern Africa have forced their way into consciousnesses blissfully ignorant of what their governments have wrought. Either way, the recent incidents will lead to more violence and repression as those governments respond to public cries to “do something,” ensuring a commensurate response from those they are directed against, and more displacement, despair, and death among the innocent.

Individual rights and liberty, and government subordinated to their protection, offer the only prospect of enduring security. The chance of their adoption by the present order is nil. Liberty is never an accident, but the memory of and the longing for it are never extinguished. Downward spirals are not perpetual motion, sooner or later their destructiveness must result in their own destruction. That time may be closer than anyone thinks. When it happens, those who would make liberty more than memory and a longing must stand ready to sacrifice, fight both physical and intellectual battles, and risk all, for that is what liberty has and will always require.

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