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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Interventionism and the Connecticut Horror

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Following up on my blog post of December 17 on the shootings in Connecticut, "Those Government Gun-Free Zones," I wish to make a supplemental point, one about interventionism.

It appears increasingly likely that the Connecticut massacre will lead to some sort of gun-control measure being enacted by Congress.

Will whatever measure they enact mean that there will be no more massacres? Of course not. There have to be underlying reasons as to why these types of horrors occur here in the United States and not, say, in Switzerland, where most everyone owns assault rifles and semi-automatic pistols and keeps them in his home. (See my article "The Banality of Evil," for one possible explanation.) And since murderers here in the United States will always be able to find guns, including in a black market, whatever measure they enact is not going to bring an end to mass shootings. It would be far wiser to address and confront the root causes of such horrors rather than impose gun control on the citizenry.

When the next massacre does occur, what will statists say? Will they say, "Well, our gun-control measure has obviously failed. It's time to repeal what we did back in 2012"?

Nope. There is no way that any statist would ever acknowledge the failure of statism. Instead, what they're going to say is, "This only goes to show that the gun-control measure we enacted was too weak. We need to strengthen it with tighter gun controls."

And then, what happens if another massacre occurs? Will they then admit failure and repeal the previous gun-control measures? Not on your life. They will do the same thing as before, enacting a much fiercer gun-control measure.

How do we know that this will happen? Because that's the nature of interventionism. An initial intervention inevitably becomes a series of new interventions whose purpose is to fix the failures and problems of the previous interventions, with the outcome being ever-more government control over the lives of the citizenry.

Consider two examples -- the war on drugs and the war on immigrants.

At first, they made possession and distribution of drugs illegal. But that intervention didn't stop people from violating the law. Instead of simply admitting failure, which statists never do, they just began enacting an endless series of drug-war interventions. Things like warrantless searches, tightening the border, mandatory-minimum sentences, financial reporting requirements, no-knock raids, spying on people, encouraging snitches, asset forfeiture, framing innocent people, sending the army into the U.S. border regions and into Latin America, and much, much more.

The result has been ever more failure, death, destruction, and violence that emanates from the drug war itself and ever more control over the lives of the American people. Yet, the last thing statists want to do is just admit that it was wrong to enact the initial intervention by making the possession and distribution of drugs illegal. Despite decades of manifest failure and destructiveness, they still won't re-legalize drugs.

The same thing has happened in the war on immigrants. First they made it illegal for foreigners to enter the United States without official permission. Soon, however, U.S. officials discovered that many foreigners were simply not complying with the law. Rather than admit that the intervention was a failure and repeal it, they instead began enacting a series of ever-tightening interventions. Things like roving border searches of automobiles, warrantless searches of farms and ranches along the border, tightened inspections at border checkpoints, inspection checkpoints inside the United States, requiring dark-skinned Americans to carry their papers with them while traveling away from the border, raids on American businesses, making it illegal to transport or harbor illegal immigrants, and constructing a Berlin-Wall type of structure along the Texas-Mexican border.

Through it all, statists simply refused to admit that the initial intervention had failed. No statist is ever going to do that. Instead, they always say that the problem is "There is still too much freedom" or, in other words, that the previous interventions haven't been "tough enough." In the meantime, their drug-war and immigrant-war interventions have succeeded in turning the U.S. border regions into a police state, not to mention the wasteland of death, violence, and corruption that the drug war has brought to Mexico and the rest of Latin America.

The Connecticut horror also provides a good example of how statists seize upon crises to expand government control over people's lives and fortunes, especially through interventionism. They did it during the Great Depression. They did it in World War II. They did it in the Cold War. They did it with 9/11.

But hopefully, as more people see how the interventionist process works, especially compared to the free society, the tide can be turned in favor of liberty, not only with respect to guns, drugs, and immigration, but also with the rest of our lives.
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. View these interviews at and from Full Context. Send him email.

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