Last Friday, the President of the United States signed an Executive Order on “National Defense Resources Preparedness,” and it’s gotten no small amount of attention. It seems to commandeer the entire economy — pretty much anything the government needs — in cases of a presidentially (not congressionally) declared “emergency.”
The powers are vast.
The checks and balances, vague.
The whole thing is matter-of-fact, sporting that business-as-usual style we’ve come to know and . . . view suspiciously. A few clauses at the end of the document build up to a sort of finale of weirdness with this clarification: “This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.” It may be about “national security,” but the government has certainly protected itself. Against us.
Reasons for angst? Yes.
But the angst should not be conceived as new.
Economic historian Robert Higgs, writing for The Independent Institute, notes our long history of what he calls “fascist central planning.” Citing his own milestone work Crisis and Leviathan, he fingers warfare as the major rationale behind the centralization of power and industry. Under the Defense Production Act of the Truman Era, “the president has lawful authority to control virtually the whole of the U.S. economy whenever he chooses to do so and states that the national defense requires such a government takeover.”
It’s breathtaking. It’s sweeping. It’s almost ancient.
And it shows how important actual peace is to our freedoms, our property rights, our very lives.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.