Finley: Another war on freedom

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

When a president declares war, better hang on tight to your civil liberties, your independence and your wallet.

Casting a societal ill as an existential threat and rallying the nation’s resources to attack it always starts as a virtuous instinct. But it inevitably makes the government a more dominant force in our lives, demands the sacrifice of individual freedoms, coerces collectivism and transfers vast sums out of taxpayer pockets. And it almost never succeeds.

Lyndon Johnson launched the War on Poverty 50 years ago with the laudable objective of eliminating want. More than $15 trillion has been spent on anti-poverty programs, many of which had the unintended consequence of destroying individual initiative and wrecking families. The federal government expanded its reach into a wide range of areas for which it had no constitutional mandate, making Washington stronger and the states weaker.

Today, nearly half of Americans are in some way dependent on the government. Yet the U.S. poverty rate remains in the 15 percent range, only slightly below the 17 percent rate of 1965.

Richard Nixon declared a War on Drugs, believing the ancient human urge to escape reality through mind and mood altering substances had become a national scourge. Again, it was waged by multiplying the bureaucracy. It has ravaged America’s urban neighborhoods, torn apart families and filled prisons. It enabled such outrages against the Constitution as civil forfeiture and random drug tests. It costs nearly $100 billion a year.

And still, 44 percent of Americans say they have used marijuana, slightly more than 30 years ago.

George W. Bush led America into the War on Terror after the September 11 attacks. A frightened nation traded freedoms for the promise of security. The Orwellian prophecy of a constantly watched society became reality. And one more time the bureaucracy exploded.

Instead of throttling terrorism, a frightening terroristic monster is consuming the Middle East and using the Internet to radicalize American citizens.

Here we go again. President Barack Obama went to Alaska last week to escalate the War on Climate Change, visiting a melting glacier whose diminishing may be caused by man-made factors, or could be part of a historic cycle. Once more, Americans are told they are in a military-style fight for survival. NBC is titling its upcoming series on the shrinking Arctic ice cap as, “A battle for the top of the world.”

This war promises to be more costly and intrusive than its predecessors. Federalism will not survive Washington’s usurping of state authority to forge a cohesive climate change campaign. As restrictions on energy production and industrial activity drive up the cost of just about everything, more Americans will require federal subsidies to get by. Government will become even more dominant, and individuals less free to choose how they want to live.

And in the end, it will be no more successful in achieving its mission. Maybe it’s time we gave peace a chance.

Follow Nolan Finley on Twitter at @nolanfinleydn