By Ron Paul
If Americans were honest with themselves they would acknowledge that the Republic is no more. We now live in a police state. If we do not recognize and resist this development, freedom and prosperity for all Americans will continue to deteriorate. All liberties in America today are under siege.
It didn’t happen overnight. It took many years of neglect for our liberties to be given away so casually for a promise of security from the politicians. The tragic part is that the more security was promised — physical and economic — the less liberty was protected.
With cradle-to-grave welfare protecting all citizens from any mistakes and a perpetual global war on terrorism, which a majority of Americans were convinced was absolutely necessary for our survival, our security and prosperity have been sacrificed.
[This essay first appeared at Dr. Paul’s website, Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity. — DJT]
It was all based on lies and ignorance. Many came to believe that their best interests were served by giving up a little freedom now and then to gain a better life.
The trap was set. At the beginning of a cycle that systematically undermines liberty with delusions of easy prosperity, the change may actually seem to be beneficial to a few. But to me that’s like excusing embezzlement as a road to leisure and wealth — eventually payment and punishment always come due. One cannot escape the fact that a society’s wealth cannot be sustained or increased without work and productive effort. Yes, some criminal elements can benefit for a while, but reality always sets in.
Reality is now setting in for America and for that matter for most of the world. The piper will get his due even if “the children” have to suffer. The deception of promising “success” has lasted for quite a while. It was accomplished by ever-increasing taxes, deficits, borrowing, and printing press money. In the meantime the policing powers of the federal government were systematically and significantly expanded. No one cared much, as there seemed to be enough “gravy” for the rich, the poor, the politicians, and the bureaucrats.
Warfare/welfare state requires police control
As the size of government grew and cracks in the system became readily apparent, a federal police force was needed to regulate our lives and the economy, as well as to protect us from ourselves and make sure the redistribution of a shrinking economic pie was “fair” to all. Central economic planning requires an economic police force to monitor every transaction of all Americans. Special interests were quick to get governments to regulate everything we put in our bodies: food, medications, and even politically correct ideas. IRS employees soon needed to carry guns to maximize revenue collections.
The global commitment to perpetual war, though present for decades, exploded in size and scope after 9/11. If there weren’t enough economic reasons to monitor everything we did, fanatics used the excuse of national security to condition the American people to accept total surveillance of all by the NSA, the TSA, FISA courts, the CIA, and the FBI. The people even became sympathetic to our government’s policy of torture.
To keep the people obedient to statism that originated at the federal level of government, control of education was required. It is now recognized that central control of education has actually ruined education, while costs have skyrocketed. National control of medical care has brought a similar result. This has meant more money for bureaucrats, as well as drug, insurance, and health management companies, and less money for medical care. Constantly more police are required to run our lives at greater costs while providing less benefit. “Nationalizing” both medical care and education has provided a great incentive to increase the policing powers of the federal government.
The predictable poverty that results from such a terrible system is now upon us and is a strong motivation for the militarization of local police as part of the expansion of the national police state. Temporary and perceived benefits of government overreach and expanded policing powers end up becoming the real problem. By the time it is understood that these “benefits” are artificial, government power and special interests have gained control of a system designed to serve them and not the people the programs were purported to help. The victims are left hanging and taught that too much freedom is the source of the problem, prompting even more support for the policing power of the state.
Today the failure of central economic planning and of the US as world policeman is everywhere to be found. This is especially noticeable in the police war on the lawbreakers — real and unreal — in America. The failures of social and economic policy of the past 50 years have led to a mounting friction between the local police and the rights of the people. Local police have been militarized and have become an integral part of the national police state. A police culture that accepts the principle of initiating unjustified violence against citizens has become a serious problem.
The news is constant. If it’s not Ferguson, it’s New York City. If not New York City, it’s Chicago or Detroit or Cleveland. And I believe the violence in our cities is only in its early stages. We had a taste of the conflict in the 1960s, but the fundamental values of equal justice and economic opportunity have receded further from reality. Failing to understand why the past 50 years of government expansion to eradicate poverty has only worsened the conditions of our cities will guarantee that the violent conflicts we see erupting today will only get worse.
Fight for equal protection distorted by ‘war on poverty’
Fifty years ago, as a result of Martin Luther King Jr.’s leadership in a plea for equal justice, LBJ declared war on poverty. Poverty was seen at that time as the major contributing factor in the plight of those living in the inner city. King’s dream was to make sure all people will be judged by the “content of their character” and not by “the color of their skin.” Good advice, but it was never followed. Residual racism remains, but the excuse for every shortcoming in the failed cities is said to be due to the color of one’s skin.
The very expensive war on poverty has after 50 years only made matters worse, compounding the problems of poverty and inflation while hurting most of the people the “war” was supposed to help. Currently our government spends over $1 trillion per year on anti-poverty programs. Over the past 50 years, over $16 trillion was spent, i.e., wasted. And yet poverty and dire economic conditions remain the major factor in the violence that persists, which incites or gives the police the excuse to overreact to maintain order. The plans and expectations for the war on poverty must have been seriously flawed.
Although the degree of poverty is different for the various races in the United States, all categories — Asian, white, Hispanic, and black — have had a steady increase in real median income from 1964 until the year 2000, when the first of many bubbles started bursting. In all four race categories incomes are lower since then. With the economy moving into the next stage of liquidation of bad investment and debt, we should expect this trend to continue. Economic setbacks and a decrease in real income are not limited to blacks in the inner city. The setback for the young has been dramatically worse than for the older generations, aggravating the problem of violent crime in our cities.
The “progress” of the early years of the war on poverty is understandable because the payment that always must be paid was delayed. The deficits and the borrowing and printing of money were unsustainable. It should not be difficult to understand that the welfare benefits, the bloated government, the excessive salaries, and the promised pensions for thousands of nonproductive bureaucrats in Detroit would lead to bankruptcy. The benefits had to be reduced. If policies don’t change and the politicians continue to be elected by wild promises, the disaster will continue. How can the provocateurs blame racism for the plight of the middle class in Detroit?
We must get people to reject flawed economic policy if we want a real war on poverty. LBJ’s war on poverty was no more successful than his Vietnam War — or any war since, for that matter. A national government that can print money as needed to finance extraordinary extravagance can function longer than a city, state, or private entity, but it too must eventually “file for bankruptcy” albeit in a different fashion. As we are now seeing, the bankruptcy of a nation also involves poverty for many. This situation will continue to worsen. Since poverty is a major contributing factor to the violence of excessive police militarization, some fundamentals must be understood. The economic theories of Paul Samuelson, Paul Krugman, John Maynard Keynes and all those who claim to know how to “regulate” the economy to benefit the poor, must be challenged and abandoned.
So far reality has not yet set in. The poor grow in numbers as the middle class shrinks and the privileged class that benefits from government spending and government control of the monetary system thrives. The political demagogues and the authoritarians feed the flames of resentment that develop between the rich and the poor as class warfare and racial strife take over. They care little and understand less what liberty is all about — the more chaos there is, the more laws they seek to pass.
The victimized inner cities
This social disruption has motivated the enthusiastic growth and militarization of our local police departments. The law and order crowd thrives on excessive laws and regulations that no U.S. citizen can escape. The out-of-control war on drugs is the worst part, and it generates the greatest danger in poverty-ridden areas via out-of-control police. It is estimated that these conditions have generated up to 80,000 SWAT raids per year in the United States. Most are in poor neighborhoods and involve black homes and businesses being hit disproportionately. This involves a high percentage of no-knock attacks. As can be expected many totally innocent people are killed in the process. Property damage is routine and compensation is rare. The routine use of civil forfeiture of property has become an abomination, totally out of control, which significantly contributes to the chaos. It should not be a surprise to see resentment building up against the police under these conditions. The violent reaction against local merchants in retaliation for police actions further aggravates the situation —hardly a recipe for a safe neighborhood.
Though poverty and excessive laws associated with the war on drugs are significant factors in the conflicts that are routine in the inner-city, the overreaction by both sides continues to make the situation much worse. As a result, policing in general is out of control, and anything suggesting racial confrontation leads to rioting, looting, and property destruction. Civil liberties are ignored by the police, and the private property of innocent bystanders is disregarded by those resenting police violence. When police overreact and unfairly enforce the law, it elicits a violent reaction from those on the receiving end. This only escalates the problem. It’s an invitation for outside provocateurs to rush in and aggravate the racial tensions — all the while never trying to understand the real reasons behind police militarization and the cause of poverty.
The military-industrial complex now systematically lobbies to provide to local police departments the newest and most sophisticated weaponry — just as they sell weapons to the United States government to fight undeclared wars overseas. Drug laws are pushed by many corporate interests as well. Pharmaceutical companies, alcohol companies, and private prison systems all support of the insane war on drugs. The victims are the poor who suffer with a messed up economy and have no easy access to jobs. A natural temptation is to become a drug dealer. Violent activities arising from the drug war making drug transactions a criminal undertaking create demand in communities for strict law enforcement.
Why do the race baiters have so much success in making this type of conflict a racial problem alone? Unfortunately many of them make a living off stirring up trouble. If the situation were understood in terms of police brutality and poverty, the evening news would be dramatically different. Turning it into strictly a racial conflict narrows the discussion, and the idea of responsibility for one’s action no longer needs to be discussed.
The race factor seems to stir up the emotions. Mob-like responses can be achieved, which further inflames the situation. Out of control police and an entire segment of our population taught that responsibility for one’s actions is a negative are a volatile mix.
Justice under the law requires that people cannot be punished or rewarded because of the color of their skin, but unfortunately King’s claim that only a person’s character counts is forgotten.
The entitlement mentality is a source of much anger and misunderstanding. It leads people who see themselves as victims to one conclusion: they are entitled to be taken care of. They believe that more government transfer payments are the solution. They claim that they deserve to be taken care of and that, if they are not, there’s trouble to be had — which only opens the door to more police overreactions.
There is agreement with my contention that poverty is a big problem and the source of much trouble. Therefore, it is said, someone must take care of it. If one trillion dollars per year doesn’t do the job, then make it $2 trillion. If the war on poverty’s $16 trillion hasn’t worked, make it $32 trillion. This sentiment reflects the entitlement mentality that has taught many that some people have a “right” to government handouts and that the rich must pay. This is an idea that is deeply flawed, and it stirs up class warfare on top of racial animosities and police brutality.
The blanket demand that all wealthy individuals owe support to the poor through government welfare programs is not an example of equal justice under the law. It is an example of egalitarianism gone awry. Welfare, which is the use of force to transfer wealth from one group to another, is based on a moral principle of equality that in fact is not moral and does not work. The wealthy special interests, such as banks, the military-industrial complex, the medical industry, the drug industry, and many other corporatists, quickly gain control of the system. Crumbs may be thrown to the poor, but the principle of wealth transfer is hijacked and used for corporate and foreign welfare instead of wealth transfers to the poor.
Many people do indeed gain wealth unfairly with today’s system, which adds to the envy shared by many and especially the poor. But this is a problem that is not solved by indiscriminately placing blame on successful businesses. The result would be the country and the whole world becoming poorer while resentment rises. Honest profits of successful entrepreneurs are quite different than profits of the corporate elite who gain control of the government and, as a consequence, accumulate obscene wealth by “robbing” the middle class. To blame and destroy those who make an honest living by satisfying consumers without the use of special benefits from the government is destructive to liberty and wealth.
Reforms that are driven by envy of successful people making an honest living will not address the problem of poverty. Poverty is actually made worse by an aggressive sense of victimization.
Many factors are involved in the crisis of our cities, including the following:
- Police brutality, militarization of the police, excessive laws, courts and law enforcement efforts ignoring the principles of equal justice
- Racism that exists to some degree on both sides of the conflict
- Rampant crime reflecting structural poverty
- Absence of an understanding of the difference between earned and stolen wealth,
- Race baiting
- The entitlement mentality, self-reliance not being a goal for many, and the breakdown of the family unit
- The war on drugs
- The lack of economic understanding regarding the Federal Reserve, taxes, welfare, economic consequences of constant war, deficits, and excessive government spending.
True satisfaction comes from productive effort and self-reliance and not from a government transferring wealth in an effort to bring about an egalitarian society. The absence of an understanding of the nonaggression principle makes it difficult for positive reforms to develop. Unfortunately hypocrisy has come to equal “common sense.” Placing confidence in people who thrive on wielding government power and who spend a lifetime using it to benefit special interests is not a wise policy.
The people have too little confidence that most problems can be solved in a voluntary manner in a society that cherishes civil liberties. There’s never an admission that government problem-solving doesn’t work. Government-created problems are a road to poverty and resentment. Too many people believe that “free stuff” from the government can solve our problems. They mistakenly believe that deficits don’t matter and that wealth can come from a printing press.
The recent high profile episodes of racial conflict involving police killings and the violence in some neighborhoods have been a fertile environment for the demagogues and those who thrive on racial conflict.
Some have suggested that sensitivity training for all police personnel should be required, to teach proper ways to deal with the public. Though there’s a lot of extenuating circumstances that provoke overreaction by the police, I’m not optimistic that the problem will be helped much by sensitivity training. Retraining the police won’t touch the complex problems that pit the police against the victims of complex social conditions generated by hate, violence and bad economic policies. The high profile episodes of police violence and overreaction are a consequence of conditions that in many ways were generated by government policy.
If social engineering intended to produce economic equality fails, more of the same cannot possibly be the solution. Seeking and promoting equal justice has nothing to do with welfare redistribution. On the contrary: equal justice requires the end of welfare redistribution. Redistribution is a process that is always destined to help a small minority, whether in an economy like ours that endorses central economic planning or in one run by radical fascists or communists. While advocates claim that it’s the duty of government to pursue economic equality, all efforts fail to achieve that goal, while gutting the principle of equal justice.
The rich are getting richer, but why?
Under an authoritarian regime, those in power take care of themselves. This always leads to poverty and discrepancy in wealth distribution. Eventually the social strife that is predictable leads to an overthrow of the government. The Soviet communist leaders never suffered from want, but even they were routed when the people in the Soviet system decided that they had had enough.
We must realize that we are not exempt from a breakdown of our system. The strife that we are witnessing is a reflection of a growing number of people who are recognizing the discrepancy between rich and poor, the weak and the powerful, Wall Street and Main Street. The courts are obviously failing at meting out justice fairly and impartially. Money and race have a lot to do with how arrests, convictions, and incarcerations are carried out. That provides motivation for some people to become angry and violently strike out against anyone who appears to have more than they do.
While the courts fail to follow the rules of equal justice, those who react violently believe that attacking almost anyone is justifiable in seeking what they claim is justice. Talk of the 99 percent and 1 percent is not just sloganeering. It reveals a problem generated by government and a situation in which some people believe that they have a “right” to be taken care of rather than just a right to live in a free and just society where all persons are treated equally under the law.
Indeed the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer. The extreme current inequality is not a consequence of free markets and true liberty. Rather it results from the welfare state that, as always, morphs into a system that provides excesses for the powerful few. Better management of the welfare system does not help. That only changes the types of authoritarians in charge. Both political parties are financed by Wall Street, the big banks, and the military-industrial complex. Getting rich by being part of the government class is the problem. Wealth achieved by hard work is quite a bit different. Opening the door to this opportunity is achievable by following the principle of life, liberty, and property.
The economic interventionist system under which we live today rewards those who benefit from government economic planning by the Federal Reserve System, access to government contracts, and targeted special regulations to help one group over the other. The insiders benefit during the bubble phase of the business cycle and are the first ones in line for the bailouts. The poor, for whom welfare is supposedly designed to help and for whom the politicians justify the spending, end up with the crumbs while the Wall Street/banking elites thrive in good times and bad. There are two problems. First is conceding the principle that government has the moral authority to redistribute wealth. Second is believing the redistribution will be managed wisely and without corruption.
All government management ends up being unwise, corrupt, and wasteful. The money interests inevitably prevail. Belief that “good” bureaucrats and politicians can be found to manage the economy and achieve equity in distribution is a dream that always ends up a nightmare. To make even a modest attempt at this goal requires government to use aggression against one group for the benefit of another. This authority must be denied to government. We must limit the government’s role to protecting equal justice in defense of life, liberty, and property.
Currently the political system in America and in most of the rest of the world is not motivated to seek this limited goal for government. Thus the move toward unfair concentration of wealth in the few and a dramatic increase in the number of people living in poverty as the middle class shrinks. Since there is little understanding of the economic system that is a major contributing factor to the economic problems, it can be expected to exacerbate social and class conflict. The killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson plus many similar incidents are signs of a serious economic and political crisis that is not limited to police brutality and runaway violence.
Entitlement mentality behind breakdown
Police brutality and militarization may well induce a violent event far beyond what we have seen in Ferguson. It also can serve as an excuse. But it is not the root cause of turmoil. The real cause is poverty, the entitlement mentality, and the breakdown of the rule of law. Moral decay and the national police state are the real culprits.
More police with improved training will not do much to deal with this growing conflict. Bowing to entitlement demands from the “victims” will not be helpful in a bankrupt system. We have too many police, too many laws, and too much exemption of government officials from the crimes they commit. Both adding police and increasing entitlements involve expanding the role of government in an effort to solve problems that too much government has already caused. Government can only be expanded by diminishing the people’s liberty. This problem can only be ended by maximizing liberty and getting people to realize that self-reliance, hard work, and the absence of coercive force by individuals and government is the only way to reverse the downward trend from which we are suffering.
The battle will no longer be to get the government to pick sides in a conflict between rich and poor, black and white, young and old, or the lawless police versus the lawless demands of entitlement recipients demanding their “fair share.” There has to be an understanding that productive effort and self-reliance on the part of everyone is required for a free society to thrive.