Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – I do not like this term “national security.” It is too ubiquitous. The 18th and 19th century version of that would be “common defense.” It would be very specific and it would be a very limited power to be used very cautiously and judiciously. The operative word is defense, not offense, not humanitarian. Check out today’s transcript for the rest…
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: Ivan Eland has a most intriguing, must-read post at The American Conservative magazine. I believe this is part of the January print issue. It’s called “From War to Welfare.” There’s a lot of talk today about how the end of the days, the Chinese are just waiting. They have a navy that is ready to stage from Pearl Harbor or somewhere from around the Hawaiian Islands and they will be steaming for San Francisco if the sequester goes through. This is what the decepticons, the neocons, the warmongers, the war hawks are saying about the sequester. We won’t be able to fulfill our global naval mission. Can you give me an example of what a global naval mission is?
My impression of the navy — again, this is from an 18th century definition, maybe even a 19th century definition, maybe even an early 20th century definition — is that its purpose is not for a global force of good. It is not to distribute relief supplies to indigents in Rwanda. It’s not to rescue anyone that’s not an American citizen on the high seas. It’s not to police anyone else’s transportation of cargo. It is specifically to defend the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf of Mexico coasts of the United States and its member states, and to supervise and see to it that its commerce on the high seas arrives at its destination without either being seized by a foreign country or pilfered by pirates. This is why the Constitution allowed Congress to set sentences to deal with piracy on the high seas. This is the purpose of our navy.
It is not to go and surround the Persian Gulf. It’s not to blockade someone we think we don’t like in another part of the world you can’t even pick out on a map. It’s not to accentuate the defense of Great Britain or anything of that sort. It’s not to be camped out in the Okinawa harbor or in a harbor in Japan because we think it’s a good idea to do so. It’s for none of these things. Number one, none of these things have anything to do with common defense. Number two, they are quite exorbitantly expensive.
This fear that all of a sudden if a ship is not on the high seas then we’re going to suffer and bad guys will come and get us, I beg to differ. Maybe if the navy was just doing what I described it ought to be doing — and God bless them for doing it and they most certainly should under the Constitution — then we wouldn’t have global missions to defund. We wouldn’t have naval bases in 185,000 countries around the world. We probably have naval ships — we just don’t know about them — that sail the heavens. They’re on their way to the stargate right now. I’m being ridiculous to make a point. People lose track of just how expensive a standing army is and what it does to the rest of the public’s money. Ivan Eland has got this figured out.
Conservatives should be leery of jumping into wars not only because American power may become overextended—especially in a time of fiscal crisis—but because war makes government expand rapidly at home, even in areas outside of national security.
Mike: I do not like this term “national security.” It is too ubiquitous. The 18th and 19th century version of that would be “common defense.” It would be very specific and it would be a very limited power to be used very cautiously and judiciously. The operative word is defense, not offense, not humanitarian. We can all get together in large groups and agree that we want to send relief to Rwanda. Hire the Skipper, Gilligan, Mr. and Mrs. Howell, Mary Ann and Ginger and put it on their boat and sail it over to Rwanda. What if they encounter pirates? See Article I, Section 8 Navy clause and Mike’s explanation of it.
During wars—especially big conflicts that require mobilization of the entire society to fight them—interest groups see the government doing things it didn’t do, or wasn’t allowed to do, previously. After the conflict, newly empowered bureaucrats and constituency groups benefiting from wartime expansion lobby to keep at least some of the new measures in place. The creation of the Food Administration during World War I, for example, ultimately led to the expectation in the farm sector that government regulation could prop up farmers’ incomes.
Even more fundamental, however, is the impact that war has on a government’s ability to finance its expansion at home. The potential for tax revenues determines how big government can grow and the number and size of programs that can be supported. (Even deficit financing is based on confidence in the government’s ability to raise funds through taxes.) And war is the force that has most often led to new and greater sources of nourishment for Leviathan. According to W. Elliot Brownlee, author of Federal Taxation in America: A Short History, “moments of sweeping change in tax regimes have come invariably during the nation’s great emergencies—the constitutional crisis of the 1780s, the three major wars [the Civil War, World War I, and World War II], and the Great Depression.”
A case in point is the income tax, one of the most intrusive and economically irrational taxes a government can impose. One commissioner of Internal Revenue went so far as to say in 1871 that the income tax was “the one of all others most obnoxious to the genius of our people, being inquisitorial in its nature, and dragging into public view an exposition of the most private pecuniary affairs of the citizen.” [Mike: How many of you have discussed your tax situation and the IRS harassing you with your friends? I have. I am. I will be later today.] Unlike sales or excise taxes, which inhibit consumption, the income tax penalizes economically productive work and the just rewards for it—thereby dragging down prosperity.
Mike: He goes into greater detail. It’s a wonderful ride through history about how the government has expanded and used war and defense as an excuse to do it. Folks, all you have to do is look at what “conservatives” are whining about the most today. I’m talking about the decepticons, the Grahams and McCains out there. What are they whining about? Hell, just turn to the pages of the Washington Times today. You don’t even have to wonder about it. J.D. Gordon, writing at the Washington Times today, “Cutting into bone is no way to trim defense.” Really? Bone? Cutting into bone? The Pentagon is going to spend $660 billion this year instead of $730 billion and that’s cutting into bone? I would say then that the bone is much too large and could use a dose of republican leukemia. How about that? We’ll eat the bone marrow out of the bone. The bone needs to be shrunk.
End Mike Church Show Transcript