Do the young lives we sacrifice and billions of tax dollars we spend in Afghanistan make us safer? If we traded freely with Iran, would we suddenly find ourselves under attack from atomic bombs? Are we getting our money’s worth for all the foreign aid we give to other countries?
I don’t think so, certainly not, and no way.
The federal government’s tendency to attack other countries and topple their leaders (unconstitutionally, without a vote in Congress) doesn’t make us safer—it makes the people we attack hate us, and it pushes us further in debt. Free trade doesn’t open us up to attacks—countries like trading because it makes them more prosperous. Giving other countries money in the form of foreign aid is a pretty good deal for them, but I don’t think it’s helping us balance our budget. And while our government is apparently very intent on spreading freedom in other places by killing off dictators and giving away our money, it seems to feel we need to dial down the amount of freedom in our own country.
Our federal government tells us that laws like the Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act exist to make us safer. The Patriot Act allows the government to spy on us—the government has the power to send “national security letters” to internet providers, banks, and other institutions demanding that they provide the government with our private information (including login information for online accounts we have, bank records, and more) without our knowledge. The NDAA allows for the “indefinite detention” of American citizens without trial. That doesn’t make us safe. That means we can be spied on without a warrant and imprisoned without a trial.
It’s certainly possible that the Patriot Act helps the government catch potential criminals before they can finish their evil plans. But by that logic, shouldn’t the federal government install cameras inside every American household? That would cut down domestic abuse, I bet. We don’t let the government post armed soldiers on every street corner, but wouldn’t that discourage all sorts of crime—harassment, pick-pocketing, etc.? We don’t allow these measures because they would invade our privacy in such a visible way. The Patriot Act lives on because we can’t keep an eye on it—it’s under the radar. And that’s what makes it even more dangerous.
When other countries pass similar laws that chip away at civil liberties, we condemn their leaders as tyrants. Often, our government places sanctions on them that make it harder for them to trade. Sometimes it sends in troops and money. I want to see our government show that same zeal for freedom here in the United States.