It is difficult to limit the scope of such a list, since every bit of liberty is precious and the government knows no bounds in its attempt to curtail freedom. Truth be told, there need only be one item on the list – the state – for it is the single greatest threat to liberty, from which all other threats originate.
The Drug War (war on property)
All forms of prohibition are wars against property. When the state decides to prohibit the consumption of certain goods, property rights are abridged. This process is also inherently arbitrary; itself a contradiction to the principle of liberty, since it usurps decision making authority from individuals and places it with a third party. How could anyone truly be considered free if someone else assumes the power to determine what they may or may not own? Furthermore, those who accept prohibition must necessarily accept all other forms of social engineering and surrender control of their persons. The great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises explained this concept thusly:
[O]nce the principle is admitted that it is the duty of government to protect the individual against his own foolishness, no serious objections can be advanced against further encroachments. A good case could be made out in favor of the prohibition of alcohol and nicotine. And why limit the government’s benevolent providence to the protection of the individual’s body only? Is not the harm a man can inflict on his mind and soul even more disastrous than any bodily evils? Why not prevent him from reading bad books and seeing bad plays, from looking at bad paintings and statues and from hearing bad music?
The destruction of our freedom is not however limited to the direct effects of the drug war. Some of the more egregious assaults on freedom are visited upon bystanders and others not engaged in the drug industry. Innocent people are routinely caught in the crossfire between rival gangs, falsely arrested, or otherwise have their homes, vehicles, and persons violated by the police.
Civil asset forfeiture has become a widely-used tool in the war on drugs; so much so that rival police agencies often compete – almost to the point of violent confrontation – with one another to be the first to seize property. These laws don’t even require criminal charges, let alone a conviction, to allow cash or other assets to be taken by law enforcement. So it isn’t just non-violent individuals involved in the drug trade who suffer, which is bad enough, but outside parties also lose their property and even their lives.
The Food War (war on our bodies)
Everything said of the war on drugs can also be said of the war on food. They’re essentially the same, often fought by the same agencies, and under the same pretenses, namely our own welfare. However, unlike the drug police, who are there ostensibly to target certain segments of the population, the food police have everyone in mind when they go to work. The author C.S. Lewis is renowned for his insight into the tyranny of good intentions, which he described this way:
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
The one thing which must be added is that not only does the moral busybody sleep well at night, but so many others approve as well. In this way their tyrannical behavior is often rationalized by the general population, no matter how antithetical it is to freedom.
There are promising indicators that the war on drugs is losing popularity. The State of California came close to decriminalizing marijuana a few years ago, and nearly one in two Americans now support decriminalizing some drugs. These are wonderful trends to be sure; however, it’s doubtful that as many would welcome the disbandment of the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health and Human Services, and other members of the Food-and-Drug-Industrial-Complex.
It should be obvious that we own our bodies, and therefore have ultimate authority over what foods we eat. Under the tyranny of moral busybodies however, this has been usurped and used against us. Our property rights – the bedrock of a civilized society – then slowly erode. The sale of foods deemed unhealthy, such as (raw) milk or cheese, is banned; alternative medicines and their practitioners are targeted and silenced. Those who dare to engage in this forbidden trade lose their products, their businesses, and their livelihoods.
Due to innumerable interventions in the economy, such as patents, tariffs, quotas, regulation, and the tax code, Americans are incentivized to consume food and drugs that are destructive to their health, while truly healthy items are pushed to the fringe, forced out of business, or simply outlawed. It should come as no surprise that such policies are lobbied for and promoted by the politically well-connected businesses in bed with government.
The Currency War (war on our livelihood)
Individual liberty is greatly dependent on the ability to support oneself financially, so governments have a natural interest in restricting financial freedom and privacy. This is accomplished in many ways and the actions of governments have many consequences. The nation-state’s premier weapon in the war on money is nothing new. From the first Roman coins clipped, to the latest key strokes at the Federal Reserve Bank, governments and their agents have always sought to increase the money supply. This allows them to expand their programs of war and welfare.
This is principally accomplished by establishing monopolies through legal tender laws. The private minting of currency was once common practice, and those who earned reputations for fair and accurate production of money did very well. Their customers enjoyed quality products, and those who traded with them also benefited. This is how money should be produced. In this way the money supply tends to remain more stable, and as production levels increase, prices fall, allowing an increasing standard of living.
Governments though, are limited by such a system, and find it difficult to finance war and welfare. Private bankers too are restricted by this, so they have an interest in gaining control over the financial system. When these two organizations collude, individual liberty begins to steadily erode. The expansion of the money supply causes a number of ills, including the business cycle and price inflation. This encourages corporatism, and failing banks are more easily bailed out. The people are more apt to demand further regulation as well, and the demand for welfare of every kind increases.
In the end it doesn’t matter whether the war on currency is a direct attempt to restrict freedom, or the results of money manipulation simply lead to less liberty. The point is that government control over money and banking leads to poverty and despotism, plain and simple.
War (war on humanity)
War is of course evil because its ends are death and destruction. While other wars carried out by the state wreak havoc on humanity, they at least carry the pretense of serving the victims. In the case of war however, no one questions the end result, and few question the motives. Everyone knows that killing is the goal. Those who do challenge the state on this matter are branded as traitors and often persecuted for it.
It’s no surprise then that some of the most despotic measures ever taken by governments happen during times of war, and are used to support the war effort. For the US it didn’t take more than a few years before the Alien and Sedition Acts were passed. conscripted to fight During the War Between the States habeas corpus was revoked, journalists critical of the war had their presses destroyed and were thrown in jail, and income taxation was enacted. Individuals are conscripted to fight, and those found guilty of desertion are put to death. The twentieth century brought the detention of millions of people in concentration camps, not only places like Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, but here, in the “land of the free.”
Today we endure the TSA, which has caused untold pain and misery for so many individuals. Travelers in America have no right to privacy, no expectation of security in their persons or their effects. The federal government has attempted to preempt TV broadcasts for an emergency address system, of course. There are now efforts to establish government control over the internet, again all for our security. For many years a network of prisons – some secret, some open – has been established all over the world where people are detained for years, many without access to attorneys or any form of justice system. Torture is practically accepted in our society, where most see at as perhaps a necessary evil, but necessary nonetheless. The federal government has reinforced it’s prerogative to indefinitely detain citizens, and Senators in open hearings mock those who challenge this egregious affront to liberty. Another hallmark of the warfare state is the established policy of summary execution by drone strike. Citizens have virtually no legal protections from an executive who determines their guilt in secret, with secret evidence, and orders their death. All of this and more comes from the state’s need to wage war.
The Privacy War (war that makes all others possible)
The war on privacy, which comes to us courtesy of the National Security State, is the means by which the government wages all of its other wars. Without the ability to monitor, track, and catalog the day-to-day individual behavior, the centralized state is unable to carry out all of its other freedom-crushing activity.
To fight the drug war governments track the financial activities of drug dealers. States pass laws to collect data on the sales of over the counter medication, paints, solvents, and other household items used in meth production. Such surveillance and restriction on trade have led to the prosecution of innocent parents, only looking to relieve their children’s cold symptoms.
Federal agents pose as customers at health food stores, hoping to goad employees into giving them medical advice, thereby incriminating themselves. Those who offer advice violate laws and often stores are forced to close their doors. The same sting operations are carried out against peaceful farmers. They must be very cautious when dealing with strangers because agents of the government pose as customers, only to return with guns to seize their property and ruin their businesses.
The IRS tracks much of the activity of citizens and never tires of new ways to collect government revenue. Governments all over the world seek ways to undermine cash economies, in the hopes of making it easier to monitor and tax commerce. Financial institutions are required to collect ever more information on their customers, and to report “suspicious” activity. Several years ago an attempt was made to require a national ID card, which would be used to monitor Americans.
The Patriot Act is used to spy on citizens’ virtually every move. Financial privacy is long dead, along with the need for warrants to view phone records, and listen to phone calls, read e-mails, and search library records. The Department of Homeland Security employs agents to troll social network sites looking for dissidents and snoop on internet activity.
At least because most of this despotic behavior occurs at the national level, state and local nullification is an option for redress. In fact, in every category nullification has been used, or is now in the process, to restore liberty. Here’s to hoping we can nullify it all, and once again be free.