“Everything the State says is a lie, and everything it has it has stolen.”
~ Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra
Judge Andrew Napolitano opens his new book, Lies the Government Told You, with that quote, and that’s the book’s theme: the State is our enemy because it constantly lies, steals, and kills.
That’s a pretty radical idea, so this is a radical book.
This is not a book about “public policy,” about how we might limit the rate of government’s growth, or about how to “reform” this or that program. It’s not really even about “getting back to the Constitution.”
Instead, this book is about exposing the criminal acts of our rulers in Washington, and about abolishing and repealing powers and programs wholesale.
How principled is Napolitano here?
Take eminent domain. Even some libertarians decry “eminent-domain abuse” and complain about government taking property for purposes that aren’t a “public use” as the Constitution supposedly requires – as though taking people’s property by force for some purposes might be okay.
Judge Napolitano will have none of that. He writes that the concept of private property inherently entails “the right to exclude [others] . . . even the right to exclude the government.” So instead of wanting to curb the “abuses” or condoning eminent domain in some cases, Napolitano says abolish eminent domain.
Through such stances, Judge Napolitano, here as never before, shows himself to be solidly in the same uncompromising libertarian camp as his fellow LewRockwell.com columnists. Also, throughout the book, he cites names that will be familiar to LRC readers, such as Murray Rothbard, Lew Rockwell, Ron Paul (who wrote the foreword), Thomas DiLorenzo, and William Anderson. And the book takes the “libertarian populist” tone often found on LRC, including just the right balance of scholarly analysis, easy readability, and moral outrage. So if you like the website, Lewrockwell.com, you’ll almost certainly like this book.
It shows a lot of courage for Napolitano to take this approach, given that he works at Fox News Channel alongside some people who attack anyone who opposes the warfare and police state as not merely wrong but un-American and evil.
Each chapter in Judge Napolitano’s book attacks a different government lie. These are not the ordinary, petty lies the partisan hacks on cable news channels accuse politicians from the other party of telling. These are big, fundamental lies that underlie the State’s ostensible legitimacy, such as:
You’ll notice that these are guarantees supposedly provided by the Constitution. But as Napolitano shows, the Constitution has failed to stop government from violating our rights.
For example, the First Amendment didn’t stop the government from violating free-speech rights during World War I, didn’t stop the government from imposing a “Fairness Doctrine” limiting speech over the airwaves, and doesn’t stop the government from routinely suppressing “commercial speech.”
The Constitution’s protections also conveniently disappear when the government considers an emergency important enough.
And the government will ignore the presumption of innocence if it wants to hold you without bail before a trial. It will even ignore evidence of your actual innocence if it has decided you should be executed, as Napolitano says “lawless, heartless future President” George W. Bush did when, as Texas governor, he insisted on executing Leones Torres Herrera despite another man’s confession to his alleged crime.
Other chapters show how various other government promises to respect rights (starting with the Declaration of Independence’s claim that “all men are created equal”) are mere lip service. Others respectively attack the lies of activist judges, gun controllers, nanny statists, drug warriors, and others who think they should run our lives for our own good. Others show how presidents, Republican and Democrat alike, lie when they say they don’t want to go to war and when they offer “facts” in making the case for war.
The “Free-Market” Lie
One of the most important chapters addresses this government lie: “America has a free market.” The State is inherently opposed to the market, of course, but U.S. politicians love to hail “free enterprise” and the “free market” for their own self-interested purposes. Doing so makes them sound decent and reasonable because even today many people have at least some vague sense that the market is the source of our prosperity. More importantly, politicians love to promote the idea that we have a free market because that means when things go wrong in the economy, they can blame the market, rather than accept blame themselves, and claim that they need more power to overcome the market’s alleged failures.
Napolitano refutes this lie by pointing out (citing George Reisman) that we have more than 73,000 pages of detailed economic regulations, which are hardly compatible with anything like a genuine free market. And he provides some reasons why government is the source of, not the solution to, our current economic problems. He devotes an additional chapter to attacking the dishonesty and destructiveness of the Federal Reserve and government-enabled fractional-reserve banking.
Something for Everyone
Lies the Government Told You is a great book to give to your friends who are sympathetic to some libertarian ideas – perhaps they are Tea Partiers, Glenn Beck listeners, or similar – but still have an excessive amount of faith (i.e., any faith) in the State and politicians to turn things around.
For that matter, it is also worth giving the book to your more sensible liberal friends who may still be under the delusion that the Obama Administration and other Democrats are somehow more honest and less bloodthirsty than their Republican counterparts.
And even if you’re already converted to Judge Napolitano’s libertarian view, the book still has much to offer because it’s loaded with interesting, useful information about both history and current events, at least some of which is sure to be new to you.
For example, he reveals ugly facts about the excessively revered Founding Fathers – like George Washington, who not only owned slaves, but also reportedly had their teeth pulled to make a set of dentures for himself. And he gives up-to-date details about how the government is using the Patriot Act and other totalitarian innovations to take away our privacy and freedom.
How to Fight Back?
The book’s conclusion (read it here) suggests three things that will be necessary to undo all the damage the government has done.
First, “we must acknowledge that through the actions of the government we have lost much of the freedom that we once thought was guaranteed by the Constitution, our laws, and our values.” Second, he writes, we must recognize that we do not have a two-party system in this country; we have one party, the Big Government Party.” Third, he suggests, the “millions of young people who reject both wretched visions of the Big Government Party . . . need either to form a Liberty Party or to build on the libertarian base of the Republican Party.”
Judge Napolitano’s book will surely help many people take the first two steps. That last item is a taller order. There are more libertarians today than ever before, but we’re still a small minority. We’ll need to do a lot more educational work before we can have much political success.
Still, Ron Paul has shown that a presidential campaign can be a great educational tool and bring many more people into the libertarian movement – so political activity may be worthwhile for that limited purpose. But it’s worth it only if we have a candidate who understands the importance of educating for liberty, can convey ideas exceptionally well, and can refuse to waver on principle even when under fire from vicious, lying opponents. I hope Ron Paul will do all those things again in 2012, as he did so well in 2008. But if he doesn’t want to, Lies the Government Told You suggests that there is at least one other man in America who would be up to the task.
J. H. Huebert [send him mail] is the author of Libertarianism Today, available in July. He is also an attorney, Adjunct Professor of Law at Ohio Northern University College of Law, and an Adjunct Scholar of the Mises Institute. Visit his website.