If you ask a 10-year-old what constitutes a threat to national security, he’ll talk about threats to the border, bombs, mass killings, things like that. But if you ask the Department of Homeland Security, they’ll say it’s counterfeit underwear, music, and lipstick being sold at a flea market. Its rationale for this strange view of its jurisdiction is that counterfeit merchandise harms corporations, which harms the economy, which is a matter of national security. But by this reasoning, nothing is outside the purview of Homeland Security, because all activities affect the economy.
The black irony of this whole thing is that it is actually the state which is destroying the economy by spending us into oblivion, proving once again that our greatest enemy is the privileged criminal organization we call the state. But whatever.
Normal humans tend to have a common-sense view of what constitutes “security,” but when the state has a monopoly on security, it will define in any way that will give it more power, no matter how stupid the definition. Sane people in this world understand that counterfeit Under Armour is not a threat to national security, but the state is under relentless pressure to spend ever more money, and it will not let common sense stand in the way. I predicted this in my book in the chapter titled Can We Limit Government?
Whatever goods or services a government provides, they are merely the excuse to tax. If the government supplies many goods and services it has many excuses to tax, but a single one will do. The government operates outside of the laws of economics, so there’s no economic reason not to provide an unneeded amount of it. Since it has a monopoly on the legal use of violence to collect the tax, there’s no institutional limitation either. No one can physically resist its production of unneeded, unwanted amounts of the service. The only limitation is whatever it can get away with politically.
A government with a monopoly on security production would provide as much security as it could get away with politically. It would forever increase spending, taxes, and deficits until the economy collapsed. It would secretly allow security crises to occur in order to frighten the public into accepting more security. It would even secretly cause security violations when necessary to obtain more public acceptance of increased security measures, as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives did in selling weapons to Mexican drug cartels, while complaining about the need for more gun control to prevent that very thing from happening.
In order to expand the scope of its responsibilities, the government would expand the definition of security to include concepts we don’t normally think of as “security.” Food safety, clothing safety, construction safety, transportation safety, telephone safety, and so on; there’s no end to the amount of safety you could provide if only given the task. The government would have multi-billion-dollar educational programs to teach children how to cross the street, how much television to watch, or how to avoid dog bites. There would be a “textiles police force” patrolling the schools and inspecting what the kids were wearing to make sure their clothes didn’t pose a health hazard. In a very real sense, healthcare is a matter of national security; the healthier the population, the better the army that can be conscripted to fight the government’s wars. Under an ever-expanding definition, the government would assess any conceivable risk and regulate every human activity on the basis of its effect on “national security.”
In this way we see that there is no real difference between the kind of service the government provides and how much it provides. If you limit the kind of service, the government simply redefines services so that they fall under the one nominal constitutional power. What you eat, what your kids learn at school, and how much water you use all become a matter of national security, and under the pretense of providing a single service, the government ends up doing everything.
The only way we can stop the relentless assault on our liberties is to stop spending. There’s always some excuse, some rationale for the state’s exercise of power and its expenditure of money, and that’s why we’re spending $10 billion a day. It has to stop. You just have to learn to say “no.”