By Jacob G. Hornberger
May 15, 2019 - One of the distinguishing characteristics between libertarians and non-libertarians is with respect to the welfare-warfare state way of life. Libertarians are committed to dismantling, repealing, abolishing, or ending it, while conservatives and progressives are committed to maintaining its existence and simply reforming it.
One of the most remarkable achievements in freedom occurred when the First Amendment was adopted. Since it has been part of our governmental system since almost the beginning, it’s easy for Amerikans to overlook the truly radical nature of that amendment.
Consider, for example, freedom of religion. The First Amendment prohibits the government from involving itself in religious activity.
It didn’t have to be that way. When the Constitution called the federal government into existence, the Framers could have used the document to authorize federal officials to control and regulate religious activity. If they had done that, today conservatives and liberals would be fighting over which comprehensive church reform plan to adopt - the conservative one or the liberal one.
Instead, the Framers, along with the people who crafted the First Amendment, raised their thinking and their vision to a higher level, one in which people would never be discussing or debating which church reforms to enact into law. They raised their vision to one in which there was a separation of church and state, where the state isn’t permitted to get involved in religion at all. With separation, reform becomes irrelevant because there is no government control, regulation, or program to reform.
The same principle applies to freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Today, we don’t debate and discuss which reform plan to adopt to ensure that the government’s control and regulation of speech and press is fair and reasonable. That’s because our ancestors took their thinking to a higher level, one in which there is a separation of state and speech and state and press. Thus, people don’t discuss or debate which conservative or progressive reform plan should be enacted to ensure that the state is regulating and controlling speech and the press.
That’s what we need to do with other areas of our lives. When it comes to liberty, we have to raise our vision to a higher level, just as our ancestors did.
1. Separate economy and the state. We live in a society in which the federal government wields the power to regulate, control, and plan economic activity. Examples include minimum-wage laws, trade wars, protectionism, sanctions, embargoes, price controls, subsidies, immigration controls, banking regulations, and thousands more.
Thus, it is no surprise that the nation is mired in endless debate and discussion among conservatives and progressives regarding the nature and extent of all these regulations and controls and the reform necessary to fix or improve them. Ironically, both conservatives and progressives refer to this type of controlled and regulated system as “free enterprise” notwithstanding the fact that the term means enterprise that is free of government control and regulation.
So, let’s think at a higher level, as our ancestors did. Let’s enshrine a genuine free-enterprise system into our constitutional order with the following constitutional amendment: “No law shall be enacted by either the federal or the state governments respecting the regulation of commerce or abridging the free exercise thereof.”
2. Separate school and state. Rather than discussing and debating “educational reform” or fighting over school vouchers, charter schools, government-licensed private schools, or government-authorized homeschooling, as conservatives and liberals do, let’s raise our vision to a higher level with a constitutional amendment that would read as follows: “No law shall be enacted by either the federal or state governments regarding the establishment of education or abridging the free exercise thereof.”
3. Separate money and the state with a constitutional amendment reading: “No law shall be enacted by either the federal or state governments respecting the establishment of money or abridging the free exercise thereof.” The Nobel Prize-winning economist Friedrich Hayek referred to this idea as the “denationalization of money.”
4. Separate healthcare and the state. Rather than engage in endless debates over Medicare for some versus Medicare for all versus fully socialized medicine, let’s instead think at a higher level: “No law shall be enacted respecting the establishment of healthcare or abridging the free exercise thereof.”
5. Bring an end to the concept of mandatory charity that undergirds the welfare-state way of life: “No law shall be enacted by either the federal or the state governments that provides any welfare, payment, subsidy, grant, or privilege to anyone.”
6. Restore the right of people to keep everything they earn and decide for themselves what to do with it: “Taxation, especially income taxation, is hereby prohibited. Any and all support for the federal government and the state governments shall be voluntary.”
7. Finally, restore a limited-government republic to our land with the following amendment: “A national-security state, including the CIA, NSA, The Pentagon, and the military-industrial complex, is hereby prohibited, as well as torture, assassination, coups, foreign aid, partnerships and alliances with dictatorial regimes, foreign wars of aggression, undeclared wars, surveillance, foreign interventionism, regime-change operations , and other dark-side policies and programs that are inherent to national-security states.”
By raising our vision to a higher level, we stand a better chance of doing what our ancestors did for us: bequeath genuine principles of freedom to those Amerikans coming after us.
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. Send him email.