Judge Andrew P. Napolitano is the popular senior judicial analyst for the Fox News Channel and the former host of “FreedomWatch” on Fox Business Network. The youngest judge with life tenure in the history of New Jersey’s Superior Court, he presided over more than 150 jury trials between 1987 and 1995. For 11 years, the judge taught constitutional-law classes at Seton Hall. A bestselling author who has written a half-dozen books on government power, his next work, “Theodore and Woodrow: How Two American Presidents Destroyed Your Consitutional Freedoms,” will be published by Thomas Nelson in October. You can find out more about Judge Napolitano’s work at judgenap.com.
Decker: I look at the freedoms we are giving up so rapidly, and I can’t believe Americans stand for it. Just one example is the hundreds of millions of dollars that are extracted from motorists every year from the traffic-camera scam, and no one marches on city hall and says stop. That’s a single instance of how people now exist to serve the state instead of the other way around. We’re all in trouble when citizens no longer resist the government inclination to suppress our rights. What hope is there for what you call “a nation of sheep”?
Napolitano: There is little hope. Add to the scameras at most traffic intersections the continuous unlawful and unconstitutional monitoring of our telephone calls, computer uses and banking transactions. And add to that the drones, federal-agent-written search warrants and CIA spying inside the United States and you come to the regrettable conclusion that the government has succeeded in foisting upon us the myth that the loss of freedom equals safety. Who will keep us safe from the government? When will our privacy return? Does anyone believe that freedom surrendered comes back? Of course not. The government never willingly shares or gives up power.
Decker: Liberals wave off fears of Big Brother running amuck as right-wing paranoia, but the mobilization of domestic spy drones makes clear that the state does not recognize the individual’s right to privacy. What are the implications and dangers of having spy drones operating on our own soil?
Napolitano: The implications are profound. In 10 years, according to the U.S. Air Force, there will be 30,000 drones over America on any day — some the size of golf balls, some the size of mosquitoes. This will produce a society in which all we do will be watched. That will produce behavior intended to please the government watchers or to deceive them. It will seriously impair personal liberty. It will eviscerate that most American of rights — the right to be left alone.
Decker: I’ve been saying for years that there really is no such thing as private property in America anymore. Everything is so overtaxed and over-regulated that we don’t actually own anything — especially land; we merely occupy it until bureaucrats decide they want to do something else with it, such as using eminent domain to steal land from its owner and give it to a private developer to build a Walmart. Am I overreacting, or is our right to property truly threatened?
Napolitano: Madison lost this one for us in Philadelphia in 1787. There, Hamilton argued that the government can take any property it wants — just as the king could in Britain — while Madison meekly made Jefferson’s argument that only voluntary transactions are moral and lawful. Madison and Hamilton compromised with the Fifth Amendment’s takings clause which lets the government take private property for public purposes at fair value. So the government — any government, it needn’t be a government that has direct jurisdiction over the land — can turn the family farm into a prison or a backyard into a parking garage or an office building into a single-room occupancy hotel. As for real-estate taxes, they are theft committed by a criminal gang that wears neckties and employs police and is accepted by the populace.
Decker: You’ve written and talked a lot about the “evils of the Federal Reserve system.” What’s the basic flaw with U.S. monetary policy and the Fed and how should it be fixed?
Napolitano: The basic flaws have been the transfer of monetary policy to a private bank and the exemption of that bank from the counterfeiting laws and the rejection of commodity-based currency. All this was orchestrated in the Progressive era by folks who loved big government and hated and feared sound money and personal freedom. This has led to $16 trillion in debt, which will no doubt reach $20 trillion by 2016 if the president is re-elected. That debt will be unsustainable and will result in either war or authoritarianism here.
Decker: With U.S. federal debt surpassing the entire gross domestic product of the largest economy in the history of the world, it’s scary how out of control the government has become. Washington profligacy imperils the very existence of our grand republican experiment. Unfortunately, I think libertarians get too distracted by fringe social issues such as prostitution, same-sex marriage and legalization of hard-core drugs, which compromises their important mission to attack government largesse — which seems to me to be the most pressing crisis of our age. Wouldn’t it be more practical for libertarians to convert mainstream voters to sound fiscal ideas if they stuck to green-eyeshade issues?
Napolitano: Yes, it would. But liberty is rarely lost overnight. It dies slowly. Hence the need for night watchmen who will use the guarantees of the First Amendment to check the government at every turn. Government is essentially the negation of freedom; hence all it does should be presumed immoral, unlawful and unconstitutional. The government at every level must be subjected to severe transparency, and to the presumption that it is stealing freedom. Would I rather have the gold standard than the legalization of drugs? Yes. But I’d really prefer a government that was chained down by the Constitution at all times and under all circumstances and for all purposes.