Wit and wisdom of Harry Browne

* Abortion: Given the government’s record with the War on Poverty and the War on Drugs, we can assume that a War on Abortion would lead within five years to men having abortions.

* Anarchy: Some people say that Libertarians want anarchy. But anarchy is what we have now. Our cities aren’t safe, our schools are centers of violence, the politicians have turned the rule of law into a chaotic web of millions of regulations and mandates. Libertarians want to restore order by removing, wherever possible, the destabilizing influence of government.

* Antitrust laws: The standard argument for anti-trust law is that a large company can eliminate all its competition through low prices and giveaways — and then raise its prices to the sky after the competition is gone. And yet no one has ever cited a real-life example of a company that was able to do this. The day a company tries to abuse its customers, new competition suddenly springs out of the bushes — except when anti-trust laws prevent companies from entering a market to compete.

* Big Business: “If government were reduced, what would prevent big business from becoming too powerful?” Competition. So long as there is a General Motors, there will be a Ford, a Chrysler, a Toyota — offering to treat customers, stockholders, and employees better than General Motors.

* Bill of Rights: The Bill of Rights is a literal and absolute document. The First Amendment says you have a right to speak out even if the government thinks it has a “compelling interest” in shutting you up. The Second Amendment says you have the right to keep and bear arms even if some madman in Texas shoots up a restaurant. The Fourth Amendment says you have a right to be safe from search and seizure even if some DEA agent thinks you fit the profile of a drug dealer. The government has no right to interfere with your freedoms under any circumstances.

* Campaign Finance Laws: The problem with politics isn’t the money, it’s the power. So long as politicians have the power to grant favors, exemptions, and business protection, people will find some way to subvert them — if not with money now, then with promises to take care of them later. The only way we will clean up campaign financing is by taking power away from the politicians — reducing the federal government to just the functions specified in the Constitution.

* Christians: Christians should vote Libertarian because we’re the only party that will take away the power of government to inflict one person’s values on another. This not only will make Christians safe from others with alien values, it also will make the others feel safe from Christians — so they no longer will feel the need to fight them.

* Compassion: In my experience, people who are truly compassionate rarely use the word “compassion.” Those who do talk compassion generally intend to be compassionate with your money, not their own. It’s wrong for someone to confiscate your money, give it to someone else, and call that “compassion.”

* Compromise: They say that politics is the art of compromise. And that’s true. The politicians compromise away our money, our civil liberties, and our property.

* Conservatives & Liberals: Conservatives say the government can’t end poverty by force, but they believe it can use force to make people moral. Liberals say government can’t make people be moral, but they believe it can end poverty. Neither group attempts to explain why government is so clumsy and destructive in one area but a paragon of efficiency and benevolence in the other.

* Corruption: It is pointless to talk about corruption in government. Every government program is corruption, because it is organized on the basis of who has the most political influence. Thus corruption — the buying and selling of legislators — is inherent in every government program.

* Defense & the Military: The Constitution authorizes the federal government to defend us from enemies — not run around the world creating enemies. The politicians justify U.S. military power by saying, “It’s still a dangerous world out there.” But if it is dangerous to us, it’s because our government has repeatedly stuck its nose in matters that are none of our business — and thereby created enemies all over the world.

* Defense & the Military: The government can’t keep the peace in Washington, DC, but it sends troops on “peacekeeping missions” to Somalia and Haiti — to save those countries from being run by the wrong thugs.

* Disaster Relief: It makes no sense for the people of Missouri to pay to rebuild Florida after a hurricane — only to have the people of Florida pay to rebuild Missouri after a flood. In both cases, Washington, DC takes an enormous cut. Each state would be much better off taking care of its own problems.

* Drug War: There are no violent gangs fighting over aspirin territories. There are no violent gangs fighting over whisky territories or computer territories or anything else that’s legal. There are only criminal gangs fighting over territories covering drugs, gambling, prostitution, and other victimless crimes. Making a non-violent activity a crime creates a black market, which attracts criminals and gangs, which turns what was once a relatively harmless activity affecting a small group of people into a widespread epidemic of drug use and gang warfare.

* Education: If we repeal the income tax, you’ll be able to afford to put your children in any private or religious school you want — where they’ll be taught the subjects and values you want them to learn, not those imposed by the educational bureaucracy. Every attempt to fix education through national standards, testing, vouchers, charter schools, or some other Band-Aid amounts to just another government program that requires you to continue fighting to make the program work as you want.

* Environment: Most pollution takes place on government property — on government lands and roads, in government lakes, rivers, and streams. If someone dumped garbage on your property every day, you’d call the police and get them to stop the trespasser from polluting your property. But government allowed companies to dump toxic wastes in its lakes and streams, and to clear-cut or strip-mine its lands. Then, when public outrage became overwhelming, the government responded by passing new laws and setting up new agencies that harass companies and property owners who have always kept far better care of their property than the government has.

* Extremism: Is it extreme to want the government to abide by the Constitution? To believe that when federal, state, and local taxes amount to 48% of the national income, government is too big and oppressive? To think that people should be free to invest their retirement money as they see fit? To believe that the Bill of Rights should be honored literally?

* FDA: If you had a package that absolutely had to be somewhere in the U.S. tomorrow morning, would you send it by the Post Office — which is a government agency — or by Federal Express, a private company that can make a profit only if it keeps its promise to you? If your life depended on the accurate testing of a medicine, would you want it done by a government agency or by a company whose success depended on absolute accuracy?

* Free Market: The free market punishes irresponsibility. Government rewards it.

* Free trade: The so-called “trade war” is actually a battle in which special interests and politicians are pitted against consumers. The only jobs saved by protectionism are those of the politicians and bureaucrats who get to decide what we will be allowed to buy. Trade barriers have never protected a sinking industry for very long.

* Freedom: Whatever the issue, let freedom offer us a hundred choices, instead of having government force one answer on everyone.

* Government: I want a government small enough to fit inside the Constitution.

* Government: We elect a Republican president and government gets bigger. We elect a Democratic president and government gets bigger. We elect a Democratic Congress or a Republican Congress and government gets bigger. We are told “the era of big government is over” and government gets bigger. Welfare is reformed and government gets bigger. We’re told that Congress has made “tough budget cuts” and government gets bigger. Whatever happens, government just gets bigger and bigger and bigger.

* Gun Control: The politicians routinely pass laws that prevent you from defending yourself. But they don’t disarm themselves. Members of the Secret Service, the FBI, and other federal agencies charged with protecting politicians are always well armed.

* Health Care: Today 51% of all health-care dollars in America are spent by governments — not insurance companies, employers, or individuals, but by governments. If there is a crisis in health care — and there certainly is — the government, not the free market, is responsible for it.

* Immigration: Immigrants used to come to America seeking freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom from government. Now they come looking for free health care, free education, and a free lunch.

* Internal Revenue Service: The IRS can impose penalties on you for any of 150 different reasons. In 1992 it imposed 33 million such penalties on taxpayers. Did you get one? If not, maybe your turn will come next year. You may think a penalty is unlikely because you fill out your tax return so carefully, but Money magazine estimated that almost half of all penalty notices the IRS mails are incorrect, and that the IRS collects up to $7 billion in mistaken penalties each year.

* Laws: Every time you help pass a law you think is needed, you make it easier for others to pass a law you won’t like. Give the government the weapons to fight your enemy and it will use them against you.

* Libertarians: I don’t agree with the idea that a libertarian is someone who is fiscally conservative and socially liberal. It is a mistake to define libertarians in terms of conservatives or liberals. Conservative politicians are as fiscally imprudent as liberals, and liberal politicians are as contemptuous of individual rights as conservatives. Libertarians stand for individual liberty and personal responsibility on all issues at all times. Conservatives and liberals each sometimes take positions similar to libertarians, but — unlike libertarians — there is no consistent principle running through all their political positions.

* Matching Funds: I don’t believe in government welfare for individuals or corporations — and I certainly don’t believe in it for politicians.

* Morality: If you ask the government to impose morality, then moral questions will be decided by whoever has the most political power.

* Politicians: Politicians play cruel jokes on us. They talk of plans to bring peace to the world, when their real interest is in subsidizing military contractors. They speak of “empowering” minorities, when their real interest is in empowering the leaders of special-interest groups. They talk of helping the poor, but eagerly put them out of work with minimum wage laws. Whatever they proclaim publicly, there always seems to be someone in the background with extraordinary political influence who benefits far more than those the politicians claim to help.

* Politics: The great delusion of political activity is the belief that you can have the government do exactly what you want — that, somehow, you can get it to perform some function for some good purpose, with nothing bad thrown into the bargain — and that the program you envision will be carried out dutifully by thousands of bureaucrats in just the way you think it should be handled.

* Quotas: Imagine what it will be like when the federal dictators perfect their quota regulations. A company of 100 employees will have to include, among others, one Jewish, Puerto-Rican, female sales manager; one Buddhist, Abyssinian office manager; and one black, gay, Catholic Indian as bookkeeper.

* Regulations: Whenever the government fails to prevent a plane crash, the event is cited as justification for having the government prevent plane crashes.

* Republicans: Republicans campaign like Libertarians and govern like Democrats.

* Republicans and Democrats: The Democrats say a particular crisis is so severe that they must take another $300 from you. The Republicans say, “No, it’s not that bad; we need to take only $200.” Or the Republicans say a threat is so great they must take away three more of your civil rights. The Democrats counter by saying, “No, that’s too extreme; destroying two civil rights will be enough.” Whatever the issue, both sides agree it’s a reason for more government, and that you should pay for it. And no matter what price or intrusion they eventually agree upon, within a few years the cost will always be far greater than either side had asked for originally.

* Responsibility: Government seems to operate on the principle that if even one individual is incapable of using his freedom competently, no one can be allowed to be free.

* Safety Net: The most secure safety net in the world is the generosity of family, friends, churches, service clubs, foundations, the United Way, and other charitable agencies. These people are determined to help. Government bureaucrats are determined to enlarge their power by keeping as many people as possible on welfare.

* Selling Liberty: If you want to win an argument, appeal to natural rights or economic theory. If you want to win a convert, appeal to self-interest. No one will pay much attention to you until you show how your proposals will change his life for the better.

* Selling Liberty: Working to acquaint people with our message isn’t always as much fun as sitting around thinking the American people aren’t smart enough to understand our superior ideas, but it’s a lot more productive.

* Smoking: Even people who defend the right to smoke often say that smoking is irrational. Why? Because it increases your chance of getting lung cancer? Hamburgers increase your chance of having a heart attack. Driving a motorcycle increases your chance of being killed in an accident. Even riding in a car is a risk. Life is full of risks. We decide which ones we will take on the basis of the benefits as we perceive them, combined with the risks as we perceive them. No two people will perceive these benefits and risks in the same way. An act one person considers irrational may be a source of great pleasure to another — something so tasty that it makes life worth living. The whole concept of a free society is based on the assumption that no one can decide what others should want.

* Social Security: So long as Social Security remains in government’s hands, it will be in trouble. We can’t leave our retirement money lying around on the table, because the politicians will grab it and spend it on their favorite pork barrel projects.

* Taxes: Federal, state, and local taxes take 48% of the national income. That means if you and your spouse both work, one of you is working for the government and the other is working for your family.

* Utopian Thinking: Robert Bork has said that Libertarians have an unrealistic “sweet view of human nature,” and that is why they oppose government attempts to impose morality. He has this matter precisely backward. It is because there are evil, incompetent people in the world that we must never give government the power to enforce morality, economic equality, or any other social goal. The coercive power of government is always a beacon to those who want to dominate others — summoning the worst dregs of society to Washington to use that power to impose their will upon others.

* Waste In Government: There is no waste in government. Politicians create programs for the specific purpose of helping their friends and political supporters — to make it easier to re-elect the politicians. The re-election rate of incumbents proves that the programs are very efficient; they do exactly what they’re designed to do.

* Wasted Vote: The only way you waste your vote is by casting it for someone you know will make government bigger. If you want your vote to be counted for smaller government, you have to vote Libertarian. Voting for the lesser of evils endorses the evils, and guarantees that you’ll never have anything but evils to choose from.

* Welfare: Who is helped by being made a ward of the state, forced to live in slums, cornered in a housing development to be preyed upon by criminals and drug dealers, and unable to take a job without losing money on the deal? Only politicians and bureaucrats benefit from welfare — and that’s why every welfare reform leads to bigger budgets and more people on welfare.

* Zero: I’m for a flat tax — as long as the flat rate is zero. The object is to get rid of big government, not find a new way of financing it.