Everyone knows that Adolph Hitler was the absolute dictator of Germany for 12 years, but most people don’t realize he got that power legally. In 1933, the democratically elected German Reichstag passed what came to be known as the Enabling Act, which gave Hitler the power to rule however he pleased.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate voted to give the president so much power that it reminds me of a first step down that road. In a military authorization bill, the Senate inserted a clause that gives a president the power to have the military arrest a U.S. citizen and send him to a military prison — to be held indefinitely with no trial. Isn’t that something you would have expected from Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia?
Let me repeat that. This legislation will allow a president to unilaterally send any American to rot in jail with no hope of appealing to a court for a trial. All he has to do is claim the person is a suspect in some kind of terror-related crime. And we know that no president will ever misuse his power in order to achieve other purposes. Right? And we know the authorities never jump to conclusions and falsely arrest an American in terror-related cases. Right?
If you trust any person with that kind of power, you’re either naive or insane.
The best perspective I’ve seen on this comes from a Facebook post by Igor Prohorov of Henrico, Va. He puts this serious issue in terms of his own family’s history:
“I’m originally from Ukraine. Some members of my family were imprisoned without trial and taken away to Gulags in Siberia and forced to work as slaves. One of them is my step-grandfather and he still has a hard time talking about his horrible experiences. My family has immigrated to this country to escape authoritarian government, only to find out that the free people of this country are so careless about their own liberties here. We must never allow our government to detain anyone without a trial and hold them indefinitely. This is not what America is all about and anyone who supports this tyranny is destined to suffer the most from it.”
If that doesn’t give you chills, I don’t know how to get through to you.
People such as Sens. John McCain and Carl Levin — who sponsored the measure — assure us that a president needs this power to fight terrorism. Hitler and his Nazi government said the same thing when they got the Reichstag to give him power in 1933. Hitler wasn’t getting this power to become a dictator. Oh, no. The bill was called the “Law for Removing the Distress of the People and the Reich.” It was sold as a way to help the country through a time of crisis. Hitler never relinquished that total power. Politicians almost ever voluntarily give up power.
We have a lot of well-meaning people in this country who argue for limited government, but I’d like to know what evidence there is that politicians are ever going to respect the meaning of “limited government.” Over the last century, we have watched the federal government grow ever larger and seize more and more powers. Sometimes, those powers are taken in the name of fighting some temporary threat, but those “temporary” measures almost never end.
I don’t trust any politician with this power. I don’t care whether it’s Barack Obama or George W. Bush or even Ron Paul. And even if you could trust the president today, what about the ones who come later? What makes you think you can trust them?
The coercive state system is broken, but it’s broken in its basic design. The idea that an institution can be given the power to force people to obey it — but that it will limit itself to protecting the rights of the people it’s given the power to coerce — is backwards from the start.
The coercive state has to go, because this country is still on the road to serfdom — and it ultimately leads to open tyranny. But by the time you find yourself or your family in prison, it will be too late. You need to decide how you’re going to deal with that now — while there’s still time.