Liberty vs. Leviathan

Chronicling Liberty's battle against Leviathan


Today’s email update from The Future of Freedom Foundation points us to James Madison‘s observations of war.

Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds are added to those of subduing the force of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes and the opportunities of fraud growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals engendered by both. No nation could reserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

Madison goes on to remind us of the separation of powers and the reasons for such:

The Constitution expressly and exclusively vests in the legislature the power of declaring a state of war; it was proposed that the executive might, in the recess of the legislature, declare the United States to be in a state of war.

The Constitution expressly and exclusively vests in the legislature the power of raising armies: it was proposed, that in the recess of the legislature, the executive might, at its pleasure, raise or not raise an army of ten, fifteen, or twenty-five thousand men.

The Constitution expressly and exclusively vests in the legislature the power of creating offices; it was proposed that the executive, in the recess of the legislature, might create offices, as well as appoint officers, for an army of ten, fifteen, or twenty-five thousand men.

A delegation of such powers would have struck, not only at the fabric of our Constitution, but at the foundation of all well organized and well checked governments.

The separation of the power of declaring war from that of conducting it is wisely contrived to exclude the danger of its being declared for the sake of its being conducted.

The separation of the power of raising armies from the power of commanding them is intended to prevent the raising of armies for the sake of commanding them.

The separation of the power of creating offices from that of filling them is an essential guard against the temptation to create offices for the sake of gratifying favorites or multiplying dependents.

Where would be the difference between the blending of these incompatible powers, by surrendering the legislative part of them into the hands of the executive, and by assuming the executive part of them into the hands of the legislature? In either case the principle would be equally destroyed, and the consequences equally dangerous.

An attempt to answer these observations by appealing to the virtues of the present chief magistrate and to the confidence justly placed in them will be little calculated either for his genuine patriotism or for the sound judgment of the American public.

The people of the United States would not merit the praise universally allowed to their intelligence if they did not distinguish between the respect due to the man and the functions belonging to the office. In expressing the former, there is no limit or guide but the feelings of their grateful hearts. In deciding the latter, they will consult the Constitution; they will consider human nature, and, looking beyond the character of the existing magistrate, fix their eyes on the precedent which must descend to his successors.

James Madison ~ “Political Observations” 20 April 1795

We have ignored his wisdom at our own peril.


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Winds of more war

If goods don’t cross borders, armies will. ~~ attributed to Frederic Bastiat

In 1941, Roosevelt “…closed the Panama Canal to Japanese shipping, seized Japanese assets in the United States, and placed a truly effective embargo on shipments of petroleum products, iron, steel, and metal products – restrictions that were sure to infuriate the military-dominated government in Tokyo.”

~ Robert B. Stinnett, Day of Deceit, p. 120

…support of sanctions on foreign companies that: export refined petroleum products, including gasoline, to Iran; help maintain Iran’s domestic refining capacity; provide ships or shipping services to transport such products; underwrite those shipments to Iran; or finance or broker those shipments. Although these proposed sanctions are a serious start, we urge you to consider other, targeted sanctions as may be required to demonstrate our seriousness to the Iranian regime.

~ 47 Christian leaders, amazingly “on behalf of millions of Christians”, urging the Senate to pass economic sanctions against Iran

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Jealousy and Disorder

Every day in the Catholic Church parishioners around the world read the same Scripture passages during the Mass – an Old Testament reading, a responsorial Psalm, a New Testament reading and a Gospel passage.  I thought today’s New Testament reading from the Epistle of James was especially pertinent to our times.  James is writing to Christians of course, pointing out the consequences, disorder and evil practices, of their passions, jealousy and selfish ambition, and calling them to conversion and prayer in a way that denies their passions.

Beloved: Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.  But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.  And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.  Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from?  Is it not from your passions that make war within your members?  You covet but do not possess.  You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war.  You do not possess because you do not ask.  You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

As fallen creatures, we have enough troubles brought upon us and our neighbors by indulging these passions on our own.  How much worse off are we having those in government incite these passions in us for their own ends.

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The good of the draft?

Recently someone asked me for my opinion on a matter. That someone would actually do so left me both stunned and honored. They wanted my advice on joining the military. Thankfully, this person, let’s call him Joe, is in no hurry so I have time to collect and organize my thoughts and put them in writing. This little bit today is part of my initial thinking.

As I’ve thought about Joe’s request and reflected on recent events and my own past, it occurred to me that my generation had a resource to aid in this decision that Joe and his generation are lacking: an older generation that was drafted. While on the one hand this is good in that there no longer is a draft, on the other, it puts Joe’s generation at a distinct disadvantage.

I faced this question during my senior year in college. It was then that I decided to pursue a military career. For as long as I can remember I had always been infatuated with flying. Serving in the military, while not always a volunteered activity, had been part of my family dating back to the Revolutionary war. So, when I discovered that I could become a naval aviator, even with less than perfect eyesight, I jumped at the chance. (Not a pilot mind you, but as a weapons or flight officer.) For various reasons that I won’t go into now, it didn’t work out.

I provide that sketchy background to say this. During the months that I was filling out paperwork, getting physicals and working out to get in top physical shape, I had memories from my past and voices of the present warning me, directly and indirectly, against the possible pitfalls of signing up.

From the dinner table of my boyhood I could recall stories of the chicken manure games superiors played with my dad and his fellow draftees during his stint in the Army of the 1950s; stories of digging holes, burying cigarette butts, then re-digging the hole to find the butt; of attributing his distaste for camping to bivouacking in pup tents in the German winters while stationed in Germany for 18 months; of not being allowed to take a break from policing the grounds unless he smoked, so he started smoking. And while he was able to see much of Europe and make some good friends, we always knew that there were two years of his life that were not his.

Other family memories, include stories of an uncle who joined the Marines for a year thus avoiding a two year conscription in the Army, only to be called up during the Korean conflict. Another uncle was drafted and, all things considered, was fortunate to be stationed in Okinawa rather than Vietnam. I’ll never forget the sadness on my grandmother’s face on Christmas when her house was full of her family, sons, daughters-in-law, grandchildren, everyone except my uncle and aunt. Also, on the home front side were memories of my mom telling of the hardships of her father being in Egypt during WWII. Thankfully, he returned home safely.

Besides memories there were also voices from the present sounding warnings. One in particular was a teacher at the school where I was a student teacher. He had been in the Marines during the Vietnam era. Just weeks before I took the oath he tactfully but very clearly let me know he thought I was nuts to want to be in the military. He related the hardships and the living conditions of the Marine Corps along with more chicken manure stories of life on base and in the field.

Contrast this brief sketch of my experience with what young people today have – slick, Hollywood commercials and recruiting videos that tell of adventure, money and prestige; promises of bonuses and a college education. What’s left untold is the commitment that they are making and servile state in which they will be living during their enlistment.

But it gets even worse.

Recently I attended an air show at a local military post. Over the years I’ve been to and enjoyed several, but this was the first one I’ve been to as one who has decidedly become less conservative and more libertarian in political thought. Throughout the day I observed several troubling things but just three will suffice to show what Joe and his friends are up against today.

First was the number of children in military garb. The two groups that I was able to identify were the Macomb County Young Marines and members of the Civil Air Patrol. What was so disturbing was the combination of their young age and their enthusiasm and seriousness as they made their way around the grounds in military formation.


Secondly, was the way and how often the show announcer lauded the fact that military personnel are stationed in “over 120 countries” around the world protecting American interests. It was a point of pride and honor throughout the day and a fact that demanded our recognition and honor of all those in uniform. And finally, the worst of all, was the blatant and crass way in which the military was courting the very young with their armaments. In one exhibit was the Army’s virtual tour of Iraq. Apparently, playing video games that engage the enemy wasn’t enough. At another exhibit, as you see here,

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youngsters were able to handle weapons from automatic “assault” rifles to light anti-tank weapons. Not only handle them but handle them carelessly and with no guidance or instruction in the proper handling of firearms. If I were to let my children handle weapons in such a manner at the local range, I’d be asked to leave.

Now to my point. Young people today are inundated with military propaganda from all sides and it’s met with very little opposition. For all of the bad in the draft, one positive thing was that it gave young men from my generation an older generation of citizens who knew what it was like to live without freedom. They knew better than to think the military would give them an advantage in life. They knew that the military took some of the best years of their youth, forcing them to postpone their dreams and ambitions at the risk of losing their lives. In opposition to the propaganda of the state and military industrial complex, it’s up to those of us from my generation to keep this message alive and pass it along to the generations that follow.

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Martyr of Charity

Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Martyr of Charity, who gave his life so that Franciszek Gajowniczek could live.  Since learning of him years ago I’ve been drawn to his courage to speak Truth to power and his trust in Divine Love.

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“Mentality of war”

I’m nearly finished reading The March of Freedom which has better acquainted me with some people I already knew of (Friedman, Mises, Röpke) and introduced me to people I’ve never heard of before (Robert Nisbet, Frank Meyer, Midge Decter).  The editor has compiled a list of 15 “conservatives” (in quotes because some of the subjects are not usually considered conservative) and written a short biography of each.  Along with the bio the editor has included an essay authored by the featured individual.  Which brings me to one of those names I had not heard of before: Richard M. Weaver.

Weaver’s “Up From Liberalism“, his featured essay in the book, is his own account of his journey from socialism to conservativism.  Near the end of his chronicle he discusses some of the dangers of technology and offers these prescient remarks:

The deadly trap into which the pride of the modern world in technology and invention has led us is not often described in its real nature. It has produced a world condition of unheard-of instability. The only way in which this instability can be overcome even temporarily is through rigid, centralized control of the national life. And the only way that a rigid, centralized control can be maintained is to keep the people living in a mentality of war. One can do this by filling them with desire of conquest, or one can do it by keeping them fearful of a real or imaginary enemy. Then one has a trump card to play on every occasion. If there is any relaxing or any resentment of controls, one has only to invoke “the national security” to silence opposition and even render it disreputable. We in the United States are living under the second of these policies now. The choice appears to lie between chaos and perpetual preparation for war, and the trouble with preparation for war is that it always issues in war.

Penned in 1965, Weaver was not advocating this rigid control but was concerned with the prospects of nuclear conflict.  Even with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain almost twenty years ago we still seem to be living in an era of perpetual war for perpetual peace, whether it be in “fighting them over there” or preventing others from developing the types of weapons we have.  The Western Confucian provides a recent example of this mentality in Neocons More Dangerous Than Nork Nukes.

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Evangelist for Freedom

Wilhelm Röpke was a man whose life and work we all should be familiar with during these days of economic turmoil. With the recent bank interventions and bailouts, government controlled bankruptcies of automotive companies and calls for energy independence, his voice needs to be heard again. Fifty years ago Röpke penned a short memoir, entitled “The Economic Necessity of Freedom”, which outlined the development of his thought over the years. Even fifty years removed, his observations still ring true and he provides wisdom for the challenges of the day.

Born in 1899 in Schwarmstedt, Germany, and a descendant of a long line of devout Lutherans, Röpke came into a world on the brink of disastrous global change. He once described his childhood as an idyllic existence of “confident ease…unimaginable freedom and almost cloudless optimism” and viewed himself as a “…true child of the 19th century, though with one foot in the 20th”. It would all come to an end though during his teens. Serving in the German army during World War I, Röpke received the Iron Cross for bravery. After the war he became an economist and spoke against the economic policies of postwar Germany. Similar to today, “[i]t was a struggle against economic nationalism, the groups that supported it, or the particular strategies it employed – a struggle against monopolies, heavy industry, and large-scale farming interests, against the inexcusable inflation, whose engineers obscured what they were doing with fantastic monetary theories, against the aberrations of the policy of protective tariffs, against the final madness of autarky.” In 1933, he characterized the Nazi rise to power as a “new form of barbarism” which resulted in a self-imposed exile to Turkey and eventually Switzerland. From Switzerland he helped provide the intellectual foundation and encouragement upon which Germany could be rebuilt after World War II.

As with many of his era, Röpke marked 1914 as a turning point globally and personally. Globally, the First World War was the “cataclysm” that shaped the first half of the 20th century. On a personal level, it was the horrors of the war which conceived his life’s mission and directed the studies and labors of his adult life.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Bubbles and Empires

In his most recent column, Justin Raimondo explains how “The Bubble of Empire” has popped.  He marks the beginnings of this bubble at 60 years ago or so. It was 56 years ago that Garet Garrett wrote “Rise of Empire” and warned us of the very troubles Raimondo observes.  For a condensed version of “Rise of Empire” see here or for an even shorter summary see my article.

A bubble of empire was not the only bubble Garrett wrote about.  With eery similarities to today, he chronicled another bubble that broke the world during a Republican administration while a Democrat was waiting in the wings.

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A New Blog

By way of the Irish Liberty Forum we learn of a new, interesting blog – The Christian Libertarian.  See the most recent post that has a dramatization of Mark Twain’s piece “The War Prayer”.

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Principles and Pragmatics

Giuliani et al. challenged Ron Paul last year when he mentioned blowback.  One from the inside and in the know confirms Paul’s view.  (HT to LewRockwell blog).

Torture and abuse are against my moral fabric. The cliche still bears repeating: Such outrages are inconsistent with American principles. And then there’s the pragmatic side: Torture and abuse cost American lives.


I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq...It’s no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse.


Americans, including officers like myself, must fight to protect our values not only from al-Qaeda but also from those within our own country who would erode them.

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