now have received over a thousand emails in response to my articles
on the terrorist attacks. I regret that I can't reply individually
to them. Nor is it possible even to reply in print to many of the
thoughtful suggestions, complaints, or proposals that readers have
there is one common theme I can deal with here one that runs through
all the proposals for retaliation the assumption that the retaliation
can be done in a way that achieves many good purposes with no bad
be summarized in the statement, "I believe we can retaliate with
few innocent people killed, and Afghanistan may be a better place
when we leave."
something very important is overlooked in almost every proposal I've
you believe the U.S. government can eradicate the terrorist threat,
you're assuming it will design, create, and carry out the plan the
way you imagine it.
you endorse the idea that our government should invade Afghanistan,
or occupy the Middle East, or conduct "surgical strikes"
against terrorist sanctuaries, or round up a particular class of people
within the US, you automatically assume it will be done as you imagine
with no bad side effects.
is a problem common to all government programs. You see suffering
or danger, and in your imagination you see a government program eliminating
it. But in the real world the program could operate as you expect
only if you were a dictator having at your disposal all of government's
power to compel everyone involved to do things your way.)
in fact it won't be done your way. This isn't Burger King.
program you support will be carried out by the same kind of people
who bombed a pharmaceutical factory in the Sudan, who fired cruise
missiles into the terrorist camp that wasn't there in Afghanistan,
who saw American troops humiliated in Lebanon and Somalia, who went
to war with Iraq to keep oil plentiful but then forcibly prohibited
the buying of most Iraqi oil afterward, who were going to stop Panama
from being a drug conduit and instead left Panama completely defenseless
against the drug trade.
doesn't mean the same kind of failures will happen again, but it does
mean almost certainly that what you propose is not what you'll get.
overlooked in the support for unleashing the military, the FBI, the
CIA, and other crime-fighting or war-making agencies is simply this:
government that's supposed to win the War on Terrorism is the same
one that's been waging the War on Drugs, the War on Poverty, the War
on Crime, and the War on Illiteracy. Perhaps we should pay more attention
to its track record.
Bush said, "We will rid the world of the evildoers." Perhaps
he could start with Washington, D.C. and if he gets rid of the
evildoers. there, he could move on to some other part of America
and if he succeeds there, he could extend the program to the rest
of America and if he succeeds there, he could ask the Canadians
if they want our help and if he succeeds there, he could go on
to the Mexicans, the Haitians, the rest of Latin America, and then
the Europeans, and so on.
start with the whole world? Doesn't that seem a little pretentious
for a government with such a sorry record of failures?
sounds flippant, I'm sorry, but I get pretty tired of hearing all
these promises made to justify taking more of my life away from me
when none of the thousands of promises made already has come even
close to being fulfilled.
does government fail to keep its promises?
you ask the government to do anything, you transform what had been
a financial, scientific, military, moral, or social matter into a
program you propose will turn into one more Christmas tree on which
every politician can hang his favorite pork-barrel boondoggle and
can use to sneak through his favorite scheme for controlling your
life and money.
programs too often wind up doing the opposite of what their original
supporters had expected. Look how programs to end racial discrimination
have produced racial quotas, how federal programs to improve education
have turned schools into laboratories for crackpot social theories,
how "welfare reform" has greatly increased the cost of welfare,
how "good works" to foreign countries have produced such
programs produce such strange results because the "public servants"
who design and execute the programs have a wholly different agenda
from the public who support them.
You Aren't a
don't control the government. And your dreams of what government can
achieve are just that dreams. They bear no resemblance to what
government will really do if your program is enacted.
is going to do someone's bidding, is it likely to be your bidding
or that of people far more determined, far wealthier, and far more
influential than you are people who see the operation as a chance
to further their own self-interest?
why libertarians are so all-fired determined to reduce government
to as small an entity as we can where it can do as little damage
as possible and be used as little as possible for someone's gain at
someone else's expense.
why it makes no sense to entrust government with the job of bringing
peace to the world. It can no more do that than Caesar could. And
it can no more rid the world of evildoers. or make it "safe for
democracy" than it can stamp out drugs or poverty.
as government is supposed to be the instrument of our protection,
we can ask it to seek out, capture, try, and punish the specific people
involved in the specific attacks and hope that it doesn't kill
too many innocent bystanders in the process. But think twice no,
think a hundred times before sending it on a mission to cleanse
the world of evil.
our long-term safety, we must quit entrusting our government with
world police powers.
will we learn that government is not our salvation?