Democracy vs. Freedom

by Jarret Wollstein “Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and conflict; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” James Madison 4th President of the USA and primary framer of the US Constitution Politicians and major media constantly tell us that oppressed peoples crave “democracy,” and that only a democratic world will be free and peaceful. Now President Bush has launched a campaign to bring “freedom and democracy” to the world. But are freedom and democracy the same thing? And will democracy imposed by force guarantee peace? Democracy, Collectivism and Individualism Consider the meaning of three key political concepts: Democracy: that form of government in which sovereign power resides in the people as a whole, and is exercised either directly by them or by officers elected by them. Collectivism: a politico-economic system in which the means of production and the distribution of goods and services are controlled by the collective, that is, the society or state considered as a group – e.g. Nazi Germany and Communist China. Individualism: The social theory which advocates the free and independent action of the individual, as opposed to collectivist methods of organization and state interference. In fact, democracy is much closer to collectivism than it is to individualism. Like collectivism, democracy places essential political power with the group, rather than with the individual – thus making everyone’s freedom subject to the passions of the mob or those with the most power. What is Democracy? Throughout the world, democracy is as often a cover for tyranny as it is a protection for liberty. Many countries call themselves “democracies” and have regular elections, yet systematically oppress their own people. For example, Stalinist …

Revoking The Government’s License to Kill

The Case For Abolishing Sovereign Immunity Laws by Jarret B. Wollstein On March 26, 1994, 75-year-old Reverend Acelynne Williams was sitting in his living room in Boston, when 13 men with sledgehammers broke down his front door. Screaming as they entered, the heavily-armed intruders threw Rev. Williams to the floor, twisted the old man’s arms behind his back, and roughly handcuffed him. Then they proceeded to utterly ransack his home. Rev. Williams went into cardiac arrest and died. Who were these vandals? They were members of a Boston police SWAT team searching for drugs and guns. They found nothing. They had the wrong apartment. The Boston police said they were sorry. If you and I had broken into Rev. Williams apartment, assaulted him, and caused his death, we’d probably be put behind bars for years. But the men who invaded Williams’ apartment weren’t ordinary citizens. They were cops, and therefore it is unlikely they will be held accountable for his death. Like most government agents and officials, they have sovereign immunity; a virtual license to steal, kill, and destroy. Sovereign Immunity is the legal doctrine that the sovereign or government and its agents cannot be legally prosecuted for harm done in the line of duty. This doctrine is a relic of ancient times, when the king or sovereign held absolute power and was above the law. Today, not only is sovereign immunity still the law of the land, it’s been extended to virtually all government agents – from Child Protective Service caseworkers, to IRS agents, to local cops and judges. Making thousands of government agents legally immune to prosecution is an open invitation to abuse and corruption. Even when police or BATF agents or courts clearly harm innocent people, they usually end up investigating themselves. Not surprisingly, in the overwhelming majority …

In Pursuit of Liberty

by Jarret B. Wollstein   We are living in exciting times. From the Soviet Union, to Cuba, to East Germany, totalitarian socialism is crumbling and human liberty is advancing throughout the world. With little more than their bare hands and raw courage, ordinary people on every continent are defeating the tanks and secret police of tyrants. We are eyewitnesses to the realization of Victor Hugo’s famous maxim, “An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.” Without Liberty, No Other Human Values Are Possible Liberty is the freedom to act as you please so long as you don’t coerce others. Liberty means you can associate with others voluntarily, you can speak and publish freely, you can practice the religion of your choice (or none at all), keep what you earn, run your own business, and love and live as you please (so long as you don’t violate the rights of others). We need liberty to think, to create, and to fulfill our individual and unique potential. Liberty is as much a requirement of our psychological nature as food and air are requirements of our biological nature. When liberty is denied, economies stagnate, cultures deteriorate, science declines, living standards fall, and the human spirit languishes. Liberty is essential for any decent and humane society. Liberty is such a compelling and important value that even brutal dictatorships claim to support it. Tyrants say they are promoting “higher” freedoms – such as “national security”, “economic equality” , or “the common good.” The graveyards of history are filled with the corpses of those deceived by such claims. The Soviet Union, Communist China, Nazi Germany and other totalitarian nations, murdered and tortured over 100 million people in the name of “economic equality” and “the common good”. Even the United States …

Will You Be Safer If Guns Are Banned?

by David Kopel & Jarret B. Wollstein “Violence is out of control. Guns are a major cause. They all should be banned – the sooner the better.” That’s what many Americans seem to believe. As a result, a nationwide movement to ban all guns is growing. Legislation is now pending in Congress to confiscate all handguns, register all guns, and tax ammunition up to 500%. Others want to go much farther. Within a few years it could be illegal for you to buy any guns or ammunition. If you already own guns, you may be required to turn them in to the government – under penalty of fine and imprisonment. On February 28, 1994, Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen announced the reclassification of several 12-gauge revolver-action shotguns. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) announced they would trace the owners, and order them to be fingerprinted and register with the BATF within 30 days or face a $250,000 fine and 10 years imprisonment. In some cities – like Chicago – police have already begun warrantless, door-to-door searches of public housing projects for guns. Will gun prohibition make you and your family safer? The evidence from cities in the US where guns have already been virtually banned is not reassuring. Banning Guns Doesn’t Keep Them Out Of The Hands Of Violent Criminals If banning guns worked, Washington, DC and New York City would be the safest cities in the country. Since 1976, it’s been illegal in Washington, DC to own any handguns or to keep any type of gun in your home unlocked and fully assembled. However, Washington, DC is the “murder capital of the United States.” New York City has had severe gun control laws since 1911, yet it also ranks among the most dangerous places in the country. In both …

Immigration: An Open or Closed Door?

by Geoffrey Erikson The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command. The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. “Keep your ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Inscription at the base of the Statue of Liberty Fear vs. Hope Certainly one of the most controversial topics of debate in the political arena – anywhere in the world – is the topic of immigration. On the question of immigration policy, opinions range from “open door” advocates of free immigration to “closed door” advocates of zero immigration, and every shade of the spectrum in between. Most Americans fall somewhere in the middle. They recognize, that unless they are Native Americans, their ancestors were once immigrants. They also realize that political refugees who flee to the United States to escape totalitarian regimes in their native lands do so because the US has a reputation of freedom. Most Americans, being proud of that reputation, feel asylum is appropriate. Yet many fear immigrants, and most believe there is a point beyond which immigrants should not be allowed to enter the country. What are the real effects of immigration on society and the economy? Does an anti-immigration policy really “save America for Americans”? What sort of immigration policy is fair, just and sound? The Melting Pot The United States in the …

We Can Have Affordable Health Care

by Jarret B. Wollstein Affordable medical care is now a major concern for most Americans. Nearly 80% agree that our “health care system is headed toward a crisis because of rising costs.” In the last five years, the cost of health insurance has increased over 2½ times faster than inflation. But if you don’t have health insurance, you risk bankruptcy if someone in your family has a serious illness or accident. Consequently, many of us face agonizing choices: How can I pay for medical care and still provide for the other needs of my family? Can I accept a new job if it means losing coverage for a pre-existing condition? As a solution, Bill and Hillary Clinton have proposed government health alliances and health care taxes – in effect, nationalized medical care. And many states are also considering their own form of government medical care, particularly a “single-payer” system, like Canada’s. But how well would government-run medicine really work? We can learn from the experience of Canada, England, and other countries that have had national health insurance for decades. The Worldwide Failure Of National Health Insurance According to Michael Walker of Canada’s prestigious Fraser Institute, the claimed administrative cost-savings in Canada are an illusion: “The Canadian system controls costs not through efficiency, but by rationing health-care delivery.” Long waiting lists and chronic shortages of equipment and services have resulted in waits of up to 4 years for elective surgery. The delay for coronary bypass surgery is now nearly 6 months. Overall, there are now 250,000 Canadians on waiting lists for government-approved operations – and 45% say they are in pain. Britain’s National Health Service also “controls” costs by rationing care. According to the National Center for Policy Analysis, over 1 million Britons are now on waiting lists for operations. For …

The Pollution Solution

by Dr. Mary J. Ruwart We all want a safe, pollution-free environment – and with hope in our hearts many of us have turned to government rules and regulations to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the horrors of a ravaged world. Yet pollution of our air and water still threatens. In South America the rainforests are cleared so rapidly that some of us may live to see them vanish from the earth. In Africa, big game animals are hunted to extinction. Where has our environmental strategy failed? What can we do to make things right again? The Greatest Threat Of All Toxic Waste: Ironically, the greatest toxic polluter of our nation’s environment is the very government we’ve turned to for protection. The greatest polluter is the US military. Pentagon spokesperson Kevin Doxey told the National Academy of Sciences in 1991 that, “We have found some 17,400 contaminated sites at 1,850 installations, not including formerly used sites.” The “contamination” consists of toxic solvents used to de-ice military planes, byproducts of the manufacture of nerve gas and mustard gas, and radioactive debris. In 1988, the Department of Energy estimated that it would take 50 years and $100 billion to clean up a mere 17 of these sites. How can we expect the greatest polluter of all time to effectively halt pollution by business and industry? Radiioactive Waste:Even when the courts recognize that our government is guilty of killing people with pollution, victims have had no recourse. In 1984, a Utah court ruled that 10 out of 24 cases of cancer brought to its attention were due to negligence of the US military in association with nuclear weapons testing. The Court of Appeals ruled that even though the US government was responsible, it would not have to compensate its victims. The government enjoys …

Gun Control, Patriotism & Civil Disobedience

by Jacob G. Hornberger The State of California recently enacted a law which requires owners of semiautomatic weapons to register their guns with the state. But when the law went into effect, thousands of California gun owners, although risking a felony conviction, refused to comply with its requirements. These gun owners were immediately showered with harsh criticism, not only from their public officials, but from their fellow citizens as well. The critics implied, among other things, that since the law had been passed by the duly elected representatives of the people, the gun owners, as members of society, had a duty to comply with its terms. The controversy raised important issues concerning liberty, property, government, patriotism, and civil disobedience. By adopting the welfare-state, planned-economy way of life in the 20th Century, the American people of our time have abandoned the principles of individual freedom and limited government upon which our nation was founded. But they have also rejected and abandoned something of equal importance: the concept of patriotism which characterized America’s Founding Fathers. Two Different Notions Of Patriotism There have been two different notions of patriotism in American history. The one which characterizes the American people of the 20th Century – the one which is taught in our public schools – is this: patriotism means the support of one’s own government and the actions which the government takes on behalf of the citizenry. The idea is that since we live in a democratic society, the majority should have the political power to take any action it desires. And although those in the minority may not like the laws, they are duty-bound as “good” citizens to obey and support them. The distinguishing characteristic of this type of patriotism is that citizens don’t make independent, personal judgments of the rightness or wrongness …

Jobs For Everyone, Without Minimum Wage Laws

by Mark Tier Some years ago, on a ferry crossing Hong Kong’s harbor (before the communist takeover), I struck up a conversation with a black musician from Seattle, who told me how much he preferred Hong Kong to the States. What impressed him most about Hong Kong was that “everybody has a job!” Each time he repeated this comment his eyes would almost caress the Hong Kong skyline. He spoke as if a place where everyone has a job was alien to his experience, as if he thought of Hong Kong as a fantasy land, a place that simply could not exist on Earth. Back home, he told me, unemployment, especially for blacks, is high. He was also puzzled at the widespread influence of the United States here, and the evident esteem in which his country was held when his personal experiences were quite at variance to this image. Something he definitely did not miss, he said, was his treatment by the Seattle police. Back home, most blacks were poor and therefore, treated badly by the police. Those who appeared to have money weren’t much better off. The police assumed they were drug dealers, and treated them badly too. This man’s sense of despair when discussing his life in Seattle led me to reflect that one reason people turn to drugs is the hopelessness engendered by the impossibility of finding a job. And that happens whenever minimum wage laws bar the unskilled from ever finding a job. A minimum-wage law is simply a form of price control: it prevents anyone from selling his labor below a certain price. Whenever a minimum price is established, some portion of the good or service involved will not find a buyer. Just as the European Community’s establishment of a minimum price for butter has resulted in a …

Privatization: Providing Better Services With Lower Taxes

by Robert Poole, Jr. All around the world, government services and enterprises are being shifted into the private sector via a phenomenon known as privatization. In Britain, nationalized industries such as British Airways and Jaguar have been returned to investor-ownership via stock offerings. Similarly, in Chile, hundreds of firms nationalized by the Allende government have been returned to private ownership. But privatization goes further than simply re-turning once-private firms to the business sector. Margaret Thatcher’s government privatized over 1.5 million council houses – public housing units which were created by the public sector. It also privatized the major airports, the gas utility, and the telephone system – all of which had always been in the public sector. Likewise, the Japanese government is privatizing Nippon Telephone and Japan National Railways, which have been fixtures of the public sector. So in a very real sense, privatization is actually dismantling big government, not merely correcting the excesses of socialist regimes. The Move Toward Privatization Privatization was first identified as a phenomenon in the mid-1970s in the United States when the trend of municipal governments to purchase service from private firms under contract was discussed in Reason magazine. This ultimately led to the creation of the Local Government Center by Mark Frazier and Robert Poole in 1976 – the first think-tank devoted to researching privatization. In the late 1970s, LGC’s materials came to the attention of Ronald Reagan’s speech-writers, several of whom went on to hold White House domestic policy positions and promote privatization within his administration. Also in 1977-79, LGC privatization materials began being used by British local council members John Blundell and Michael Forsythe. This lead to a wave of local-service contracting-out which began at Wandsworth. Inspired by these developments, Eamonn Butler and Madsen Pirie set up the Adam Smith Institute in …