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No Presidential Debate on Fundamental Issues

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Obama, Romneyby Jacob G. Hornberger

The real shame of the Obama-Romney race will be the lack of debate on the fundamental issues facing our nation. Alas, the sad reality is that we’ve got a race between two statists who are battling over which one of them will make the better leader of a statist system. And that means that the debates and discussions are going to be over the most efficient way to run the statist system rather than over the morality and efficacy of the statist system itself.

Let’s consider some examples.

1. The drug war. As statists, Obama and Romney both enthusiastically endorse the drug war. Therefore, their battle is going to be over which one of them will be the better drug-warrior in chief. Their positions will be oriented toward explaining how many drug offenders will be punished and how victory will be possible in another 5 years or so.

There will be no debate over whether the drug war should be continued. In fact, given that mainstream reporters and presidential debate panelists are statists themselves, the probability is that the libertarian position of simply ending the drug war by legalizing drugs won’t even be mentioned. It will simply be a given that notwithstanding decades of failure to achieve a drug-free society and decades of collateral violence and corruption, the drug war must and will go on.

2. The welfare state. As statists, both Obama and Romney ardently believe in the welfare state. Sure, Romney is certain to repeat libertarian-like economic mantras, such as “free enterprise, private property, and limited government.” And he’s surely going to call Obama a socialist. But such mantras and finger-pointing are obviously ridiculous when they come from someone who loves and supports such socialistic programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education grants, food stamps, foreign aid, and all the rest.

Thus, there will be no debate or discussion over the existence of the welfare state itself. It won’t occur to anyone in the mainstream press or the presidential debate panelists to even ask whether welfare-state programs should be repealed. The assumption of every statist is that the welfare state is now a permanent feature of American life and, therefore, that we’ve just got to get the best people in public office to make it work.

3. The managed economy. As statists, both Obama and Romney believe in a government-managed economy. Thus, their principal battle is over which one of them will make a better job-creator-in-chief.

Neither candidate will challenge the notion of a government-managed economy. Neither one will declare that the government should be creating jobs for people. The concept of a genuine free market — that is, a market free entirely of government control or manipulation — won’t even come up.

4. The warfare state. As statists, both Obama and Romney both embrace the warfare state, including the vast, permanent military-industrial complex, the thousands of domestic military bases, the empire of overseas military bases, invasions, foreign aid, torture, assassinations, occupations, sanctions, the war on terrorism, embargoes, the CIA, and the entire national security state.

Thus, there will be no discussion or debate on whether the United States should abandon its programs of imperialism, foreign interventionism, and foreign aid, including aid to dictatorships. The assumption of both candidates and the mainstream press will be that the warfare state is now a permanent part of American life and must not be tampered with in any fundamental way.

Moreover, neither candidate will challenge the war on terrorism or show that the threat of terrorism comes from U.S. foreign policy. As statists, they both believe in the war on terrorism and feel that it must now go on indefinitely. They both buy into the notion that anti-American terrorism is rooted in hatred for America’s “freedom and values.”

5. Civil liberties. As statists, both Obama and Romney are willing to sacrifice civil liberties in the quest to keep America “safe.” Thus, they both believe in military arrests of civilians, assassinations, torture, and indefinite detention, all without trial by jury. They both favor military tribunals and denial of the principles found in the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eight Amendments. They both believe in having the military wield supreme power over civilians as part of the “war on terrorism.”

Thus, there will be no debate over the vital importance of civil liberties in a free society or over the reasons our American ancestors demanded the inclusion of the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments. There will also be no debate over whether such important aspects of liberty should ever be suspended, no matter what the “emergency.”

6. Immigration. As statists, both Obama and Romney favor the decades-long war on immigrants. Thus, they both favor heightened enforcement of immigration laws, including raids on private businesses and deportations.

Thus, there will be no debate over whether there should be immigration laws themselves. No one will mention that Americans once lived without immigration controls, which contributed to the economic vitality of the society.

7. Sound money. As statists, both Obama and Romney favor paper money and the Federal Reserve System. They both endorse the decades-long debasement of the dollar as a way to get the economy moving again.

Thus, there will be no debate over gold and silver coins, the monetary system established by the Constitution, which was used by our nation for more than 100 years. There will be no debate over whether the Fed should be abolished. The debate will inevitably revolve around which candidate will get to choose the chairman of the Federal Reserve.

8. Spending. As statists, both Obama and Romney will issue the standard exclamations against out-of-control federal spending and debt. But since they favor the welfare-state programs and the warfare-state programs on which such spending is devoted, their exclamations will be meaningless.

There will be no debate over abolishing welfare-state programs and warfare-state programs, which would bring spending and borrowing to reasonable levels.

9. Income taxation. As statists, both Obama and Romney ardently believe in the IRS and the federal income tax, especially since this is one of the primary vehicles that gets the welfare-warfare state funded.

Thus, there will be no debate over whether the income tax should simply be repealed. There will be no discussion over the fact that Americans lived without a federal income tax for more than a century.

So, the debates between Obama and Romney are going to be more than boring. They’re also going to be worthless given that they will be devoted to discussing a system that is morally and economically bankrupt.

When a system fails to work, it’s time to consider a new system. Unfortunately, at a time when people should be considering libertarianism, the nation is faced with two statists battling over which one of them is the better statist.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.


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