Much has been made of late about the North Korean government’s actions: Taepodong 2 missile tests, underground nuclear testing, massive naval exercises, bellicose threats, and the detention of two American female journalists – ostensibly in a forced labor camp. At present, a U.S. Navy destroyer is shadowing the Kang Nam I, a North Korean cargo vessel believed to be headed towards Myanmar with a cargo of missiles or other weapons.
Barack Obama and others in the political world have called loudly for universal condemnation of these events, seeking multi-governmental sanctions against the North Korean state. To be sure, the North Korean government is arguably the most ruthless and oppressive example of a state currently in existence. The directives of communist dictator Kim Jong-Il exude arrogance and violence.
Fundamentally, however, is America any different? In some ways yes, and in some ways, no.
Americans may tend to forget that they are living under a government which conducts military exercises all the time and on a far greater scale than North Korea, with bases all over the world. Only Russia’s government possesses and controls more nuclear weapons than America’s. North Korea’s government is believed to possibly possess two. The U.S. military has prosecuted a wholly unprovoked war in Iraq for six years now, at a cost of untold lives and billions of dollars stolen from taxpayers at gunpoint by the IRS and other taxing agencies. Even Americans living abroad are subject to paying taxes to the IRS, just like in Turkey, and Vietnam … and North Korea. No other states on earth engage in this practice.
Currently, over two million people languish in prisons across America – a number greater both by itself and per capita than any prisoner population under any other government in the world. Over half of them are entirely non-violent victims of drug laws, tax laws, or other U.S. government policies. An estimated 200,000 people may fill North Korea’s jails and concentration camps, out of a population of 23 million.
The American government routinely sells weapons – even nuclear ones – to other governments deemed acceptable by those in Washington, D.C. Where, after all, did Israel or India acquire nuclear technology?
Can Americans honestly deceive themselves into believing that the U.S. government’s stances are anything but entirely hypocritical? Rationalizing that the “American way of life” under government as we know it is somehow morally superior to its North Korean counterpart appears just a little ridiculous when held up to the light of rational analysis.
No, no one is likely at this point in time to come and arrest me for writing these words – unlike if I were in North Korea engaging in criticism of that government. Yet, like any North Korean who wants to stay out of trouble, I must pay the taxes government demands, stay away from anything the government disapproves of me having, and tolerate the fact that its soldiers are killing and brutalizing people who live in other lands while its police – who are becoming increasingly militarized – beat, tase, brutallize, and often kill my fellow man right here at home, often for doing nothing more than behaving in ways other than politicians approve.
The big question Americans need to start asking themselves is not whether an American democratic style government is better than a North Korean communist one (remember too, the North Koreans refer to their society as the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”), but whether free markets and individual liberty are preferable to any form of government in the first place.