By Jacob G. Hornberger
CNN's Wolf Blitzer made an interesting and
revealing observation last night while discussing exit
polls that CNN had conducted. Blitzer's observation
provides good insight into how mainstream political
commentators and pundits think when it comes to such
issues as the economy and foreign policy.
Voters were given a list of issues and asked which
one was most important to them. The economy received
around 40 percent and foreign policy received
something like 9 percent. This led Blitzer to comment
that most people placed a high priority on the economy
in the election and a low priority on foreign policy.
What Blitzer and so many others like him in the
mainstream press fail to recognize, however, is the
close interrelationship between the economy and
foreign policy. They're unable — or unwilling — to see
that it's foreign policy, in large part, that is
responsible for America's bad economic conditions.
After all, to suggest that foreign policy is one of
the major causes of the bad economy is to point the
finger in the direction of the U.S. military, the
military-industrial complex, and the CIA. Composing
what has become known as the "national-security
state," these entities have, over time, become the
driving force of U.S. foreign policy.
To speak ill of the military, the MIC, and the CIA
is, in the minds of the mainstream press, akin to
heresy, lack of patriotism, or even treason. It's just
not done by a responsible, mainstream media. They feel
that the nation is at war and that we've got to stay
together and support the troops. In the minds of the
mainstream press, the last thing they want to be doing
is creating division in the country by suggesting that
the military, the MIC, and the CIA are responsible, in
large part, for the country's depressed economic
Equally important, most mainstream commentators
wouldn't ever buy it anyway. For them, a recession or
a depression just sort of hits countries willy-nilly,
just like the flu does. The last thing on their minds
is the possibility that the government itself is the
cause of the recession or depression. On the contrary,
they see the government as the medicine — the solution
— to a bad economy.
For them, that's what the presidential election is
largely all about — selecting the person who would
likely be the best manager of the economy. Once he's
in office, the president is expected to whatever is
necessary to bring an end to the recession or
depression with a myriad of government actions and
programs. He's expected to save the country from the
economic crisis or emergency, just like, they say,
Franklin Roosevelt did during the Great Depression.
The reality, however, is completely different. The
reality is that foreign policy is a major contributing
cause of America's depressed economic conditions.
One of the root causes of America's economic woes
is the high level of federal spending. Part of the
problem is obviously the welfare state. Another part
is the regulated economy and interventionist programs,
such as the drug war.
But another root cause of federal spending involves
the national-security state — the military
establishment, the military-industrial-complex, the
CIA, the NSA, and all of the other aspects of what
libertarians refer to as the warfare state. Included
here, of course, are the expenses associated with the
invasions and long-term occupations of Iraq and
Afghanistan, the hundreds of overseas military bases,
the thousands of domestic bases, drone operations,
military involvement in the drug war, the operation of
overseas prisons, and so forth.
How does all this spending contribute to poor
economic conditions? This is the one of things that
mainstream commentators and pundits just don't get.
They see all that federal spending on the military and
CIA as an economic boon, one that serves as a constant
"stimulus" to economic activity. In their minds,
billions of dollars in military spending means jobs
for soldiers, contractors, suppliers,
weapons-producers, road builders, and countless other
people. The mainstreamers see that all that spending
as something good. Think how many jobs it produces!
Alas, they are unable to see that it's actually all
destructive — that it is, in fact, a major
contributing cause to depressed economic conditions in
The key to a wealthy, dynamic, energetic,
prosperous economy lies in the extent to which people
are free to engage in economic enterprise, trade with
others, and accumulate wealth. As people begin saving
their wealth, that adds to the level of capital that
is available to businesses. Businesses use people's
savings to purchase equipment, tools, and facilities
that are intended to make workers more productive. As
productivity rises, so do income and wealth.
That's the only way for people's standard of living
to go up. Free enterprise, free trade, and rising
accumulation of savings and capital.
Now, enter the welfare-warfare state. Let's say
that federal officials confiscate 50 percent of
people's income, half of which is spent on the welfare
state and regulated economy and the other half on the
That 50 percent confiscation is going to have a
severe depressing effect on economic conditions.
That's 50 percent less wealth that is going into a
rising standard of living for people.
Then, to make the situation worse, the government
uses much of that money to attract people away from
the private sector and into the public sector. Thus,
those people are no longer part of the sector that is
producing wealth. They are part of the sector that is
now living off of the wealth that has been
Add to the confiscation of wealth a myriad of rules
and regulations interfering with people's ability to
enter into occupations and on their ability to trade
with others around the world (e.g., sanctions and
embargoes) and it becomes easy to see how an
ever-growing government sector operates not as a
stimulus but rather as a depressant.
And then you've got the debt aspect. Once spending
exceeds what officials consider is a reasonable level
of taxation, they resort to borrowing money to finance
the excess spending. They don't want any tax revolts
and they know that people usually don't revolt over
too much government debt. They tell people not to
worry about the debt — that by the time it comes due,
they'll be dead anyway.
When the level of debt becomes excessive, that's
when they resort to inflation, which is a process by
which government pays off its debt with newly printed
paper money. That's where the Federal Reserve comes
in. That's its function. It inflates the money supply
in order to permit officials to continue spending and
borrowing. The value of the dollar plummets, as
reflected by ever-rising prices in society. Needless
to say, the mainstream commentators and pundits
inevitably blame this on greed rather than on the
government. Moral and spiritual values inevitably
plunge in an era of inflation.
So, once one sees that the government is the cause
of a depressed economy or an impoverished nation, the
solution becomes clear: repeal the welfare state
programs, end the drug war and other
regulatory/interventionist programs, and dismantle the
vast permanent military establishment — i.e., close
all the foreign and domestic military bases, discharge
the troops into the private sector, and get rid of the
CIA, the NSA, and other parts of America's Cold War
That would produce several positive effects. All
the wealth that was being confiscated to fund the
welfare-warfare state can now remain in the hands of
the private sector, where it rightfully belongs. And
all the people in the public sector, including those
in military and CIA, will now be in the private
sector, where they will be holding productive jobs
that contribute to rising standards of living.
What should CNN have asked people? Instead of
compartmentalizing the issues, a much better question
would have been: "How concerned are you that the
federal government's welfare state and warfare state,
including the taxation, spending, debt, and inflation
used to fund them, are sending our nation down the
road to destruction?"
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the
Future of Freedom Foundation.