Just Like The Stasi

by Jacob G. Hornberger
Dec. 03, 2014

Don't you just love those Americans who celebrate how free they are under America's national-security state system?

I wonder if such Americans also celebrated how free people were who lived under East Germany's national-security state system.

I just read an interesting story in the New York Times about how the East German Stasi was confiscating art from wealthy East Germans. They would simply raid people's homes, take valuable art, and then sell it, putting the money into the state's coffers. According to the article, "between 1973 and 1989 the East German police, known as the Stasi, seized more than 200,000 objects in hundreds of raids."

Why did the authorities do that? Because the government needed the money.

Why not simply raise taxes? Because people don't like paying taxes. Anyway, why go through the taxing process when you can just barge into people's homes and take their possessions?

As I read that article, what immediately occurred to me was that that is precisely what law-enforcement officials, the DEA, and the IRS are doing today in the United States. They're simply stopping people on the highways and seizing large amounts of cash from them or going to banks and ordering the bank to turn over people's money to the state. They call the process "asset forfeiture," a name that I'm sure the Stasi would have approved of for what they were doing.

Under asset forfeiture, people aren't charged with a crime. They just have their assets forcibly taken from them. If anyone forcibly objects, he is carted away to jail for resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer in the performance of his duties.

At least that's not as bad as what the East German regime did to 79-year-old German Helmuth Meissner, who objected to the taking of his artwork. They committed him to a psychiatric hospital and labeled him an enemy of the state. And why not? What could be crazier and more unpatriotic than to oppose the government's stealing of your property to fund its activities?

Moreover, the Stasi didn't limit their looting to artwork. In Meissner's case, they also hauled away typewriters, measuring tapes, and coffee makers.

U.S. officials do not limit their looting to cash either. They are currently stealing people's cars, homes, businesses, and other assets. In fact, I'll bet that in some instances the loot even includes art work.

Why are state, local, and federal officials engaged in the same sort of conduct that the Stasi were involved in? The answer is the same: state and local governments and the federal government are strapped for cash. The federal government is especially desperate, just like the East German government was, given its need to pay for the ever-burgeoning expenses of both a welfare state and warfare state.

Anyway, taxes are unpopular. Why not just go out and confiscate people's money directly? It sure is easier.

Well, that caused me to wonder where the name Stasi came from, and so I went to Wikipedia. You'll love this. The actual name for the Stasi (in English) was: The Ministry of State Security.

Yes, state security! Isn't that what America's national-security state all about -- to protect the security of the state?

Guess how the Stasi protected state security.

Yes, through massive surveillance over the East German people! Yes, just like the NSA does over the American people! According to Wikipedia, "People in East Germany were subjected to a variety of techniques, including audio and video surveillance of their homes, reading mail..."

Whoa! Sound familiar? That's what the NSA does! To keep us free, of course.

Think about the Stasi's looting of wealthy people's artwork and its massive, secret surveillance of East Germans the next time you hear someone singing, "Thank God I'm an American because at least I know I'm free under America's national-security state apparatus."
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Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News' Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano's show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.













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