Jeffrey Tucker

A horrifying aspect of modern life is how nearly daily threats to fundamental freedoms and human rights nearly require that citizens become politically aware and active.

Here we are struggling to put food on the table, cultivate a civilized private life, support things we care about, manage our households, and otherwise meet all the challenges of modern life, and then some jerk politician pushes some dangerous legislation that poses an all-out attack on everything we take for granted.

One of those things we take for granted is the freedom to disagree with the government and its policies.

Consider now the Enemy Expatriation Act now being pushed by Republican Charles Dent of Pennsylvania and Democrat Joe Leiberman of Connecticut. This act adds to existing law that makes it a crime to support materially governments with which the U.S. is at war.

As Dent explains, the U.S. no longer limits its wars to governments. It takes on what it calls terrorists without regard to national identity. Therefore, he says, we need a new law that grants broader power to the state to crush its home-grown foes.

The Enemy Expatriation Act therefore allows the U.S. government to strip citizenship from anyone who is found to be “engaging in, or purposefully and materially supporting, hostilities against the United States.”

This proposal is surely the worst proposed law since the Alien and Sedition Acts, against which the entire citizenry reacted by making Thomas Jefferson president in 1800 so that he could bring some sanity back to public life. The new version of these old laws would effectively forbid speaking or blogging against any foreign-policy related policy of the United States, with the unthinkable penalty of permanent banishment.

When I heard the name of the law, I also thought of the World War I law called the Trading with the Enemy Act. It was designed to bring about speech controls during wartime. You would get jailed for expressing any doubt about the war. But the law never went away, and was the thing invoked by FDR in 1933 when he confiscated gold. So far as I know, this law is still on the books.

So anyone who tells you that the Enemy Expatriation Act is actually narrow, that it doesn’t forbid civil disagreement with the government, that it won’t actually bring about routine banishment of responsible critics, that anyone who sounds alarm bells is hysterical…don’t believe a word of it. Every new power government has government will use, and always and eventually in the worst possible way, if not immediately then eventually.

Bureaucracies love this sort of law. “It is the invariable habit of bureaucracies, at all times and everywhere,” wrote H.L. Mencken, “to assume… that every citizen is a criminal. Their one apparent purpose, pursued with a relentless and furious diligence, is to convert the assumption into a fact. They hunt endlessly for proofs, and, when proofs are lacking, for mere suspicions.”

I’m not even sure that it is necessary to read the fine print to discover this. The chief sponsors are actually rather open about it. Their slogan seems to be “Government: love it or we’ll destroy you.” In their view, these are extraordinary times that call for extraordinary measures. One of those measures is for the U.S. government to begin acting exactly like the terrorists that the government claims to oppose.

This isn’t unusual. It always seem to happen in wartime. We fight tyranny abroad by becoming more tyrannical at home. We oppose internment camps abroad by building them at home for those who doubt the merit of the policy. We oppose the creation and proliferation of dangerous weapons abroad by creating and proliferating more of them ourselves. We fight Islamic extremism by instituting national thought and speech controls, punishable by expatriation.

The more objectionable and egregious a government policy is, the more the government depends on brute force to enforce it. So you can know for sure that when such laws are proposed that there are plans for the wars of the future to be even more objectionable, immoral, and unjust than the wars of the past. If you have to criminalize and banish dissent, it is likely that every intelligent person is going to be a target.

But what of those people who really are seething in anger to the point that they actually do feel some sympathy for enemies abroad? Are the bill’s sponsors correct that such a person has relinquished his right to be a citizen?

Again, let Mencken speak: “The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naive and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair.”

This seems about right. The traditional notion of American citizenship is very different from that of the old world. It is not about loyalty to the regime. It is not about the willingness to hold your tongue when you disagree with the civic priority of the moment. It is about the love of liberty, and surely being wholly free to disagree with the powers that be is the core of what it means to be free.

The ironic effect of a law like this is that the best citizens we have will end up being stripped of their citizenship, leaving only the cowards, sycophants, and brainless as the model citizens with full rights to live here and vote. Granted, it is the dream of every government that all its subjects obey without question. That day that dream comes true is that day we should all welcome banishment.

Regards,

Jeffrey Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker
  • Pingback: It’s Treason to Disagree « Evil of indifference

  • Desertrat

    If you look at many of the revolutions of the 20th century and the methodology of the guerilla warfare, part of it was to get a government to create ever more Draconian laws for control of the citizenry–until the citizenry itself then joined the revolution.

    Here, the inherent lust for power is driving the creation of these abhorrent laws–which will, eventually lead to some sort of revolution. “It’s what people do.” Blowback, unintended consequences, unanticipated side-effects: Whatever term suits.

    Politicians are slow learners.

    And the main problem with a revolution is that a Czar gets replaced by a Stalin…

  • DoesNotMatter

    What you are talking about has already happened in Russia. 4 generations of communism have stripped the Russian population of any initiative, courage, individuality to the point that the entire population is now rabble. everyone who showed these qualities either fled the country or was killed in the Gulag. They are a depressed people with falling birth rates. They are not even replacing themselves. In a century there may be no russia. 75 years of Communism may well have destroyed Russia for all time to come. Likely, they will never recover for communism. You don’t like a certain country or a certain people? All you need to do is promote communism there. It’s game over after that. Seems like cancer, really! There is no recovery.

Recent Articles

Maestro
The Real Reason the US Media Hates Vladimir Putin

Marc Faber

The U.S., Russia, the EU and Ukraine all met in Geneva, where all sides agreed to halt all violence and provocations in Ukraine. But the news media are still taking an antagonistic stance toward Vladimir Putin and Russia. What gives? Today, Marc Faber explains the hypocrisy behind U.S. foreign policy... and the BS the news media are pushing about it...


Video
How a Toy Robot Upended the Aerospace Industry

Kate Incontrera

One of the world's foremost innovators - Wired Magazine's former editor-in-chief, Chris Anderson - talks about the future of innovation, his company 3D Robotics and how he built the world's first Lego-operated drone at his dining room table.


Laissez Faire
The Only Solution for the Obamacare Problem

Loren Heal

Politicians talk about the uninsured. Special interests argue on behalf of those with pre-existing conditions. But why is no one wondering how doctors are affected by Obamacare? They're the ones on the front lines dealing directly with new patients, as well as the red tape that makes bureaucracies go round. Loren Heal explores further...


Huge Gains From Smart Money With No Sex Appeal

Greg Guenthner

Since the beginning of March, hedge funds have been steadily moving out of growth stocks. So it's not coincidence this sector has fallen in tandem. But the question is, where is the "smart money" headed now? Greg Guenthner examines the current, decidedly "unsexy" trend in the market. Read on...


Extra!
High Frequency Trading: An Aid to Economic Collapse

John Rubino

Thanks in part to Michael Lewis's book Flash Boys, High Frequency Trading (HFT) is front and center for this round of the news cycle. Today, John Rubino continues the discussion, explaing why HFT is so dangerous, and how public awareness of it is affecting something called the "trust horizon." Read on...