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If Bush Is Not a Liar

Then the case for government intervention crumbles.

by James Leroy Wilson
February 3, 2005

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The recent “election” in Iraq is trumpeted as some sort of triumph or redemption of the War Party. But the neo-imperialists carry on like one of the Grammatica sis- uh, brothers, celebrating an extra point.* All decent people want a restoration of peace, running water, electricity, etc. in Iraq. But the hawks and other worshippers of President Bush can not use any future success as an ex post facto justification for invading a defenseless country that posed no threat to us.

The common charge of anti-war critics is that President Bush lied us into the war in Iraq. The reply of Bush’s defenders is that the President acted with the best intelligence available, and that even Democrats in Congress and a significant number of other nations agreed.

What if Bush’s defenders were correct? What if everyone, from CIA agents on the ground, all the way up to the President himself, were doing their honest best in searching for the truth? What if no intelligence that reached the President’s desk was undoctored, and that the President himself was never inclined to go to war, and only did so because he felt he had no other choice?

Giving the President and his Administration the benefit of all that doubt, only one conclusion can be made: Government not only does not work, it is so completely and systematically incapable of performing even its supposed primary function, that nothing it attempts is worthy of our confidence and faith.

We spent $40 billion a year on intelligence, yet dropped the ball before 9-11. We spent that much, and still were wrong about Saddam Hussein’s links to Al Qaeda and his weapons programs. We spend billions fighting a war in Afghanistan only to see the drug lords, who according to the government are almost as bad as terrorists, prevail. We spend hundreds of billions trying to put down an insurgency in Iraq that all the honest, hard-working, Middle Eastern intelligence operatives and specialists failed to foresee.

Forgive us, Republicans, for impugning the integrity of the President and his staff. Libertarian critics of the war knew all along that government doesn’t work. But if Bush is not a liar, even we didn’t realize that the governmental apparatus could screw up so often and so disastrously.

National defense is admitted by all to be the first function of the federal government. This is the one thing government has to get right, and one of the few functions that many libertarians believe is necessary. Yet with a military budget that is larger than our closest rival’s by hundreds of billions of dollars, we can not even secure Iraq’s roads.

What does this say about government? If it fails here, where can it succeed?

Are our public schools, subject to the national standards of the No Child Left Behind Act, teaching kids according to the Best Available Theories of Education? “Yes, we raised a generation of dolts, but how we’re we to know?” Are findings from HHS about obesity rates based on the best available medical research and statistical methods? Is the government correct in its estimate of the number of AIDS cases in Africa?

Do the FDA and DEA really know the difference between a safe and unsafe drug? Between a moral and an immoral drug?

In our giant, complex economy, is the government’s estimate of the inflation rate correct? How about the Gross Domestic Product? The unemployment rate? Or even the budget deficit? How about the census?

Does the nation’s poverty line accord with anyone’s actual experience? Do not factors such as property values and cost of living vary according to location? Think of the number of deaths from guns, vehicles, smoking, drugs - how do we know that the government’s stats are accurate?

Take Social Security and Medicare - are we to trust the government’s predictions of when they will start running deficits? Is the President correct that Social Security needs to be reformed, as opposed to, say, abolished?

Do our law enforcement tactics lead to the imprisonment of the guilty and the sparing of the innocent? Are the high-tech methods of spying and data collection, that report “suspicious” activity of Americans, immune to error?

It seems that, no matter how well-intentioned the President is, the only logical solution is to dismantle as much of the federal government as we can. If, despite the billions and billions we spend, it can not even acquire the information that would keep us out of war, then we can’t trust any of its “facts” and statistics. If the government’s “information” leads it to intervene in another country that poses no threat to us, then we should not let the government’s “information” justify its intervention into our markets or our personal lives. Obviously, intervention based on false information will do more harm then good.

Ironically, the case for libertarianism is far stronger under the premise that Bush thought he was telling the truth about Iraq. If Bush is a liar, many people will think that only this Administration is the problem, and not the Presidency itself. But if Bush is at heart an honest man, then the problem is not the people in charge of the government, but government itself.

* The “Grammatica sisters” joke was taken from a caller of Jim Rome’s sports-talk radio show well over a year ago. I think it was Greg in Vegas, but it may have been someone else, who referred to someone “celebrating like one of the Grammatica sisters after an extra point in week three.” Rome’s response to the call included “... and lay off the Grammatica sisters. What did they ever do to you?”

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Mike Thomson from Paeonian Springs, VA writes:
February 3, 2005
A question, JLW: Suppose wisdom was to break out all over and the 265 million of us who reside in the geographic region known as the United States decided we didn't want government anymore. How would we go about dismantling it and what kind of system would replace it?

James Leroy Wilson from Indpendent Country writes:
February 7, 2005
My reply will be this week's column.

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