The truth is that any form of authoritarian control—any type of “government,” whether constitutional, democratic, socialist, fascist, or anything else—will result in a set of masters forcibly oppressing a group of slaves. That is what “authority” is—all it ever has been, and all it ever could be, no matter how many layers of euphemisms and pleasant rhetoric are used in an attempt to hide it. – Larken Rose
It’s no secret that the US government continues to grow larger, more oppressive, and more authoritarian with each passing year.
If one were to attempt to write down all of the ways the government impedes liberty and stomps all over the people it is supposed to serve, it would take days…perhaps weeks…to accomplish.
So, this list is by no means exhaustive, but here are 8 ways the control-freak US government is sabotaging freedom and making life more difficult for citizens.
The War on Drugs
Cannabis has been illegal at the federal level since 1970, when Congress placed it under Schedule I. It was supposed to be a provisional classification. Back then, not much was known about the plant.
In 1972, the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse released a report favoring decriminalization of cannabis. The Commission’s chairman, Raymond P. Shafer, presented a report to Congress and the public entitled “Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding,” which favored ending marijuana prohibition and adopting other methods to discourage use.
The Commission’s report said that while public sentiment tended to view marijuana users as dangerous, they actually found users to be more timid, sleepy, and passive. It concluded that cannabis did not cause widespread danger to society. It recommended using social measures other than criminalization to discourage use, and compared its use to that of alcohol.
But the Nixon administration took no action to implement the recommendation, and the reasons are pretty damn nefarious:
President Richard Nixon saw pot prohibition as a way to destroy the antiwar left, according to clandestine recordings made by Nixon in the White House as well as statements from his staff to the press. Nixon convened The National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse (what became known as the Shafer Commission) to engineer scientific support for cannabis’s Schedule I placement. “I want a goddamn strong statement on marijuana,” Nixon said in tapes from 1971. “Can I get that out of this sonofabitching, uh, domestic council? … I mean one on marijuana that just tears the ass out of them.”
Nixon aid John Ehrlichman told journalist Dan Baum in 1994, according to an article published in Harper’s Magazine in 2016, the truth about the origins of the War on Drugs:
You want to know what this was really all about? The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news.
Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.
The War on the People is a more apt title for Nixon’s sinister plan. Unfortunately, the consequences did not end with his reign: the long-term effects have been devastating to society. The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world (land of the free, indeed), and about half of those imprisoned are locked up on drug charges. Who pays for the drug war and the associated mass incarceration? Taxpayers. Each year, the war on drugs costs us $51,000,000,000.
And there’s no end in sight.
On August 11, 2016, the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced – for the 4th time – that it would not reclassify marijuana. The plant will remain a Schedule I drug. Despite a substantial and growing body of evidence that cannabis NOT a danger to society and even offers incredible health benefits, the agency has opted to keep it illegal at the federal level. Why? Well, it just might have something to do with the DEA’s highly profitable Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program. In 2014, via this program, 4,300,833 cannabis plants were seized, 6,310 arrests were made, and the value of assets seized from “cultivators” totaled $27,342,950.59.
Even states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use are not immune from the DEA’s eradication programs:
Last year, they continued in Washington and Oregon. Full state breakdowns have not been provided, but a DEA spokesman said that just under 36,000 marijuana plants were destroyed in Washington last year at a cost to federal taxpayers of about $950,000, or roughly $26 per plant.
In many states, the eradication program money is used to fund aerial operations involving helicopters searching for marijuana plants. Sometimes, overzealous or untrained officers seize perfectly legal plants, like okra, mistaking them for marijuana.
On August 31, the DEA announced that it was going to wage war on another medicinal plant – kratom. The agency plans to list it under Schedule I, like cannabis.
A group of kratom vendors filed a lawsuit against the government to block the move, angry advocates took to social media in protest, and scientists expressed concern over whether they would be able to continue kratom research. After widespread and VERY vocal outrage, the DEA announced it would postpone the scheduling…to allow time for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to “expedite research” on the plant.
Translation: The DEA is going to get the FDA to pretend to investigate kratom. The FDA will not actually conduct any research, but will claim that it did, and will say it found that kratom is dangerous. The FDA will tell the DEA that listing the medicinal plant under Schedule I is justified. The DEA will do that very thing, and the War on Drugs will shift its focus from cannabis (which is expected to become legal in at least five more states this year) to kratom.
You see, we can’t have kratom being legal and available, because it poses a serious threat to Big Pharma, and pharmaceutical companies and the FDA have a cozy relationship. The FDA has a lot to lose by allowing medicinal plants to be fully legal: the agency has collected $7.67 billion in user fees since pharmaceutical manufacturers began paying the fees in 1992. It costs big bucks to get the FDA to put its seal of approval on a drug. Both cannabis and kratom show a great deal of promise in treating and managing a wide range of serious and chronic health problems. Kratom can be used in place of prescription opiates in the management of pain – and also can treat opiate addiction. And because both cannabis and kratom are plants that are easily grown, we don’t need Big Pharma to provide them for us.
It used to be that police departments focused on solving real crimes – ones with an actual victim. But there’s no money to be made there. While the number of rapes that occur in the US is said to be steadily declining, the country still frequently finds itself among nations with the highest number of confirmed rapes in the world. Obtaining physical evidence of rape is crucial to convicting offenders, and that evidence is collected via the use of rape kits.
But it seems that police departments don’t really care about nabbing rapists. After all, what’s in it for them?
As we recently reported:
Last year, Harold Medlock, Chief of Police for the Fayettville Police Department in North Carolina, admitted that between 1995 and 2008, 333 of their rape kits were destroyed to make more space in their evidence room, of which, 167 were for unsolved crimes.
Even when these kits aren’t destroyed, many of them sit around for years without being tested. It’s been estimated that there is a massive backlog of about 400,000 rape kits in this country, though the actual number may be even higher since many police departments don’t keep track of this statistic.
Rapists are free, roaming the streets…while non-violent drug users are locked in cages.
“Law enforcement” departments and the government are using sophisticated surveillance and tracking technology to watch us and catch us breaking the smallest of laws (license plate readers can now inform police if you have not gotten car inspections or complied with emissions test requirements, for example). You would think that all of this technology would mean more actual, violent crimes are being solved. Not so – in fact, despite the ever-growing police state, cops are solving LESS murders:
In criminal justice, clearance rates are used as a measure of crimes solved by the police. The clearance rate is calculated by dividing the number of crimes that are “cleared” (a charge being laid) by the total number of crimes recorded.
In the United States, the murder clearance rate in 1965 was more than 90 percent. Since the inception of the war on drugs, the murder clearance rate has plummeted to an average of less than 65 percent per year.
This decline is in spite of there being far fewer murders. It is also in spite of new technological developments to help police solve crimes, like DNA testing, advanced forensic labs, and unethical spying devices like the stingray.
Solving rapes and murders are not profitable endeavors for police departments.
Speaking of that, there’s something else government thugs like to do…
Civil Asset Forfeiture
This racket allows
armed government thugs cops to seize your property – cash, jewelry, cars – and even your home – without charging or convicting you with a crime. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments are supposed to prohibit the governmental takings of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, but the thugs have found a way around that.
In civil asset forfeiture cases the government proceeds directly against your property. YOU don’t need to be convicted of a crime, so criminal procedure does not apply. And because the forfeiture is against your property, you are a third party claimant in related court proceedings.
This practice is, in essence, legalized theft.
Asset forfeiture creates huge incentives for law enforcement officers to “police for profit.” The money can be used for salaries and to purchase advanced equipment and all kinds of fun stuff for police departments.
In 2014 alone, federal authorities seized over $5 billion in assets. That’s more than the $3.9 billion stolen by everyday criminals in the same year.
That’s right: Law enforcement agencies are stealing more from us than the criminals cops are supposed to protect us from. Wrap your head around that.
Expanding Police State
George Orwell’s classic novel was not meant to be an instruction manual, but here we are.
Americans may not be able to admit it to themselves but the military soldiers parading on the streets as police officers, police-operated tanks, and horrifying number of imprisoned citizens have spoken for them. The number of Americans brutalized physically and mentally by those who are sworn to “serve and protect” are speaking clearly enough.
The relatively recent concept of “pain compliance,” “rough interrogation,” and “rough rides” coupled with the long held tradition but fast increasing commonality of direct beatings, shootings, murders, and “on-site executions” by police in America have had the final say.
And we, the taxpayers, are being forced to pay for this.
The amount spent on domestic counter-terrorism since 9/11 is a shocking $1 trillion. This is only for “homeland security measures,” not the overseas so-called War on Terrorism. Yet, we are more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist. Go figure.
Yes, there are industries that profit from people being locked up. Police unions, private prison corporations, and prison guard unions are three of them. Continuing the War on Drugs, which leads to nearly half of all imprisonments, benefits the alcohol and beer industries, and of course – Big Pharma (those industries hate competition!). All of these groups have powerful lobbies that influence policy.
Destruction of the Healthcare System
The Obama administration promised Americans that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would allow us to keep our plans and our doctors, that our premiums would be lower, that families making less than $250,000 per year would not see any form of tax increase, that we would have more choices and lower costs, and that every American would be insured.
Not a single one of those promises has been kept. In fact, the opposite of every one of those claims is now true, and the middle class is suffering the most.
Prior to the birth of the ACA, government meddling in healthcare made it more expensive, as the Mises Institute explains:
The U.S. “health care cost crisis” didn’t start until 1965. The government increased demand with the passage of Medicare and Medicaid while restricting the supply of doctors and hospitals. Health care prices responded at twice the rate of inflation.
The history of medical cost inflation and government interference in health care markets appears to support the hypothesis that prices were set by the laws of supply and demand before 1980 and perhaps 1990. Even the degree of monopolization and nationalization promoted by politicians before 1965 was not enough to cause significant cost inflation and spending increases until demands created by Medicare and Medicaid outstripped the restricted supply of physicians and hospitals.
This should have been a cautionary tale, but government is not one to learn from history (nor does it care, as long as there is a chance to extort money from the people). Instead of butting out of the healthcare market, the government doubled down.
Also from Mises:
…Americans also spend large amounts of private funds on health care. And, thanks to continued increases in health care regulation brought on by Obamacare, health care premiums will continue to increase. In June the Associated Press reported: “Premiums for popular low-cost medical plans under the federal health care law are expected to go up an average of 11 percent next year…’Premiums are going up faster in 2017 than they have in past years,’ said Cynthia Cox, lead author of the analysis.”
Essentially, Americans pay twice for health care. They pay once through taxation and regulation which increases subsidies. The subsidies in turn raise prices, just as subsidies always do (ceteris paribus). And then, Americans pay a second time when the time comes to pay those subsidy-inflated prices out of pocket.
Expect this to get worse. As Obamacare collapses, single payer will be ushered in.
If the government wants your private property for their purposes, they may take it or regulate it through the power of eminent domain. Government officials can legally force you to sell them your property if they want the land for redevelopment plans, for instance.
In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court decided (Kelo v. London) that held government officials could use eminent domain to take private property based on nothing more than a promise to generate more tax revenue.
A large eminent domain case is currently being argued in Connecticut, and it is particularly disturbing. Instead of the government contacting a private developer to advance a redevelopment plan (as in Kelo), the reverse is happening. That is, the government of West Haven didn’t come up with the idea to tear down private properties to build a shopping mall – a private developer did, and it is using the force of government to get what it wants. This is not only wrong, but is unconstitutional.
Speaking of government taking property…
You don’t truly own much in the US these days. Even if your home or car is paid for in full, the government will expect you to pay taxes on those pieces of property for eternity. And if you fail to pay, guess what? They’ll come and take it…no matter how little you “owe.”
In one particularly heinous example of this, a woman lost her home over an unpaid interest charge of a whopping $6.30.
All you have to do is miss a tax payment for the harsh reality of home “ownership” to slap you in the face.
Eileen Battisti of Aliquippa, PA, found that out the hard way. When Anthony, her husband, died in 2004, she paid off the mortgage with proceeds from his life insurance.
In September 2011, she lost her home, valued at around $280,000, over an unpaid interest charge of $6.30.
Her house was sold at auction for $116,000.
In July 2015, Battisti won back her home after four years of court battles over the property.
Xui Lui of Georgia purchased a condo in 2011. She paid for the unit in cash, but didn’t pay a $95 tax bill for the property that year. In 2014, Lui received notice that her home was sold at auction over the unpaid bill, despite her having paid all city and county taxes every year except for the first year she bought the condo! Certified letters warning Lui of the outstanding tax bill were returned to the city because a clerical error didn’t include her full address. City officials themselves never picked up on the problem either, despite the fact that the notices sent to Lui kept being returned to sender. The problem? The warnings were mailed without Lui’s name or address posted on the letters. An October 2014 update on this case states that Lui was offered the option to keep her condo…if she paid $300 in late fees – for something that wasn’t even her fault.
In the article Dear Homeowner: If You’re Paying $260,000 in Property Taxes Over 20 Years, What Exactly Do You “Own”? Charles Hugh Smith says, “If we understand property taxes as a ‘lease from the local government for the right to gamble on another housing bubble arising,’ we see ‘ownership’ in a different light.”:
If the homeowner owes local government $13,000 a year in property taxes, what does the homeowner “own” once they pay $260,000 in property taxes over 20 years?
The American income tax is perhaps the most dramatic example of how government grows at the expense of liberty. Slowly. Constantly. Inexorably.
A chart created by ATR shows just how much the income tax alone has grown since its inception:
In 2015, Americans handed over more than five trillion dollars to federal, state, and local governments – about 30 percent of what they earn.
If you worked during all 52 weeks of 2015, more than 16 weeks of your labor went to the IRS.
That’s almost $1 trillion more than we spend on food, clothing, and housing put together.
Of course, the income tax is far from being the only tax we are forced to pay, as Michael Snyder explains:
…there are dozens of other taxes that Americans pay every year. Of course not everyone pays all of these taxes, but without a doubt we are all being taxed into oblivion. It is like death by a thousand paper cuts. Our politicians have become extremely creative in finding ways to extract money from all of us, and most Americans don’t even realize what is being done to them. By the time it is all said and done, a significant portion of the population ends up paying more than half of what they earn to the government.
I believe Ron Paul and Judge Andrew Napolitano said it best…
This concludes Part 1 of our exploration of the ways government stomps all over us.
Stay tuned for Part 2.