OPINION:  Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. - The Attack and Its Aftermath

The terrorist attack in September did immense damage to life and property, damage which the federal government has compounded with its wartime response, which has come at the expense of the freedom of the American people. The very merit of freedom itself has been called into question. If the terrorists desired to do maximum damage, they would have hoped for just such a response.

The problem began with an immense consolidation of power in the presidency, which was given the power to use "all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided" the attacks. Such a sweeping transfer of power is contrary to the law and tradition of a free society, and we can only pray it won't be abused. But it was only the beginning of the problems.

In the days that followed, a short list of suggested responses included public works programs, national ID cards, conscription, much higher taxes, federalized airlines, tax-funded rail systems, travel permits, email spying, increased wiretaps, doubled military spending, exchange controls, price controls, national economic planning, martial law, nuclear war, rationing, massive debt accumulation, and censorship.

These proposals came from the left, right, and center. The advocacy of statism has known no partisan bounds. Some of these proposals went into effect, others are still in play, and some we will be spared thanks to public resistance and the wisdom of some people in the administration counseling prudence and restraint. It is a shame that a society of law should have to so heavily depend on the discretion of men to maintain its freedom. We need to remind ourselves of the nature of government. It is like fire, said George Washington, a dangerous servant and fearful master. Its only mode is coercion. And its edicts, even the most innocuous, are enforced at the point of a gun. Its power is used in unpredictable ways, and it brings unexpected and often disastrous results. Government destabilizes society, takes away freedom, shackles economic growth, and preys on prosperity.

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A former congressional chief of staff to Ron Paul, Llewellyn H. Rockwell is the founder and president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and editor of LewRockwell.com.  He is author of The Left, The Right and the StateSpeaking of Liberty (2010) and Against the Left:  A Rothbardian Libertarianism (2019). This was originally published in the December 2001 edition of The Free Market