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Contra Imperium: The Christian Case Against American Imperialism and the Security/Police State

A deep division is occurring in America. It is dividing family members and friends into opposing ideological camps. The ideological split between previously gracious and forbearing individuals is caused by two aspects of growing statism.

  • Tom Rose,
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A deep division is occurring in America. It is dividing family members and friends into opposing ideological camps. The ideological split between previously gracious and forbearing individuals is caused by two aspects of growing statism:

First, America’s military expansion overseas—i.e., imperial hegemony.

Second, the domestic growth of what is known as a security/police state—i.e., the domestic program of government rulers to induce among the populace a ready acceptance of the idea of foreign imperialism through the generation of mass fear coupled with the forceful suppression of political dissent.

In one camp are those who claim the Bush Administration’s preemptive invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq (and the proposed invasions of Lebanon, Syria, and Iran) are unconstitutional, unwise, unnecessary, and do nothing but inflame Islamic hatred of America. Some in this camp believe that President Bush does not possess true authority. They believe that the real power brokers are the war-mongering neoconservatives who, in turn, answer to the more shadowy rulers who seek to meld our American Republic into the international “New World Order.” As you might have heard, recent surveys reveal that 36 percent of the American population now believe that the U.S. government had some hand in the “terrorist” attacks of 9/11—that it was an “inside job.” According to this growing view, these attacks were allegedly contrived to justify the two-pronged policy of preemptive foreign war and the establishment of a domestic security/police state.

Included in the allegations of the first camp is that the present administration is being compromised by gross sexual immorality, as in the case of James Guckert (a.k.a. “Jeff Gannon”), the homosexual pornographer who advertises himself as a male prostitute and who had ready access to the White House through a White House press pass.  More recent is the exposure of pedophiles in Congress, like ex-Florida Congressman Mark Foley, who quickly resigned when the fact of his illicit emails to young male congressional pages was made public. Such moral indiscretions demonstrate a clear weakness in political leadership during a time of war and national security.

The opposing camp argues, “No way!” They state that President Bush had an “experience” and is a “born-again” Christian. They relate that Bush’s political staff, during his first presidential campaign, told how Bush allegedly led a young teenager to Christ. Therefore, the president would not engage in any under-the-table maneuvers for political reasons. They argue that, instead of opposing President Bush’s preemptive attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq and his regime-change occupation of these countries, Americans should support him and the patriotic troops who are protecting America against “Islamic terrorism.” And if future intelligence indicates that Iran is achieving nuclear capability, then America and her allies should uphold the president in his efforts “to protect our country” against this nuclear threat from radical Islamic leaders.

Perhaps the best way to shed light on this divisive subject is first to consider foreign imperialism and domestic statism in ancient history, and second, Great Britain, the greatest imperial nation of all times.

We will then consider the United States of America to see how our own country gradually became, though unrecognized by most Americans, a full-fledged imperial state overseas and a corresponding security/police state domestically.

Finally, we will evaluate the double-sided problem of foreign imperialism and domestic statism from a Biblical perspective.

The issue of building empires, either domestic or foreign, is completely contrary to God’s Word. In man’s first world-empire-building attempt, the Tower of Babel, God confused the language and dispersed the people (Gen. 11:1–9). God’s clear plan for civil government is for the establishment of small, democratic-republic civil units, not large, unitary dictator-type units (Exod. 18:13–26). To be Biblical, America should abhor foreign possessions and international entanglements like the United Nations, NAFTA, etc.

Imperialism in Ancient History

A survey of ancient civilizations—as cited by the Preacher in the book of Ecclesiastes—shows “there is no new thing under the sun” (1:9). Accordingly, it is not surprising to discover that civil rulers, from the earliest kingdoms to those of the present time, all wielded hegemonic power to expand their borders by land or sea. Generally, the motive to attack other nations was to seize their wealth and to gain control of their natural resources, trade routes, or the seas.

Sometimes the motivation to make war on other nations was simply to eliminate them as competitors in trade. This was the case in Rome’s long-continued attacks on Carthage during three Punic Wars (264–146 B.C.). “Carthago delenda est!” (“Carthage must be destroyed!”) was the cry on Rome’s senate floor by those who stood to benefit from war. A similar motivation was behind Britain’s assaults against Germany leading to World War I because the “British Crown” feared competition from Germany’s rapidly expanding industrial capability.

What we today call “special interests” were usually behind inciting a pro-war attitude among the public. It was so in early history, and it is so today. Even in early history, it was essential for empire builders to instill in the common people a willingness to sacrifice their lives and the lives of their children as “cannon fodder” to expand their country’s imperialistic hegemony.

Here is a summary of key events of imperialistic hegemony in ancient history:

The Hyksos

Around 1720 B.C., the Hyksos, a Semitic people from Palestine, invaded the Delta area of Egypt and made all of Egypt tributary. The irresistible power of the Hyksos came from their temporary monopoly of two new weapons of war: the powerful composite bow of wood and horn and the much-feared horse-drawn chariot, which had sharp swords extending from the hubs of the wheels to slice up opposing foot soldiers. These awful war chariots generated great fear among the enemy.

It was during this pro-Semitic rule of the Hyksos in Egypt that Jacob and his family migrated to Egypt during Joseph’s reign as administrator. After some time, the Egyptians were able to expel the Hyksos because they adopted the new weapons that were introduced by the Hyksos invaders.

The Hittites

About 1450 B.C., the Hittites established themselves in eastern Asia Minor. They had developed an iron metallurgy that gave them improved weapons. Their horse-drawn chariots (inherited from the Hyksos) and iron-tipped spears and swords provided a strong military advantage and enabled them to expand their borders and conquer the people of central Asia Minor. The Hittite Empire included Syria, which had been lost to them by Egypt. Once again, superior military technology and the fear it generated among the enemy was the key to imperial expansion.

The Kingdom of Solomon

Shortly after 1200 B.C., an invasion of Indo-European peoples destroyed the Hittite Empire. The chief importance of the Hittites was the culture they passed on to the Greeks (who settled along the Aegean coast of Asia Minor) and the knowledge of iron metallurgy, which later gave the Philistines military dominance over the Israelites during the time of King Saul (1095–1055 B.C.).

Liberation of the area of Palestine from the hegemony of competing empires then allowed the Old Testament Israelites to grow and expand under the reigns of Kings Saul, David, and Solomon.

Solomon established an oriental-type, military-based empire similar to others in the Mideast. He maintained a formidable military force of 40,000 stalls of horses for chariots and 12,000 horsemen (1 Kings 4:20–28). His harem numbered 700 wives and 300 concubines. Burdensome expenditures and impressed labor were used to erect a grandiose temple and house for Solomon (1 Kings 6 & 7).

Under Solomon’s rule, the democratic republic of the Hebrews was turned into an autocratic empire (“like other nations”), which grew fat on wealth and tribute wrested from foreign nations. This was a typical growth-of-empire process that would be followed by other empires in the future. Gold and riches flowed into Solomon’s empire, but the internal cost to ordinary citizens was heavy taxation and the loss of individual freedom.

Eventually, burdensome taxes motivated the Hebrew people to rebel during the reign of Solomon’s son Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:16). This was a Biblical/historical instance of the principle of governmental interposition through which God raises up an intermediate magistrate to rally the people against rulers who have turned tyrannical.

Later Empires

The Assyrians, a Semitic people from the upper Tigris, subdued Babylon in 721 B.C. and gained control of the Fertile Crescent (which extends northward from where the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers pour into the Persian Gulf, westward to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, and southward to Palestine).

The offensive strategy of the Assyrian Empire in foreign conquests is important to note because similar steps were used both by earlier and subsequent empires:

  1. The use of superior war-making technology to overwhelm the enemy; in the case of the Assyrians: the much-feared military chariots, mounted cavalry, and sophisticated siege engines.
  2. A policy of generating terror among the peoples they attacked.
  3. A very efficient system of political administration.
  4. Destruction of the national
    unity of conquered peoples by mass deportations.
  5. Strong support of the empire’s domestic commercial classes who would profit from trading over large areas that were united by political and economic stability.

Expansion of the Assyrian Empire was quite successful, but, around 650 B.C. the ethnic population of Assyria had been so decimated by continued wars that the rulers had to depend on hired mercenary troops and levies from the nations they conquered. This weakened the empire and enabled Egypt to regain its independence. Also the Medes, an Indo-European people who had established themselves on the Iranian plateau about 1000 B.C., east of Assyria, refused further tribute. By 625 B.C. the Chaldeans, who had gradually filtered into Babylonia, revolted; and by 612 B.C. the Chaldeans and Medes joined to destroy Nineveh, the capital. Thus, we see that empires are built through force and by inciting fear among the enemy, but are themselves eventually destroyed by force.

The Roman Empire was notorious for how members of its Senate conspired to expand Roman hegemony for their own personal benefit—money and power—to the eventual ruin of the empire, which reached its zenith about A.D. 180. The Roman soldiers, who wielded the notorious short sword, generated great fear and hate among the enemy by leaving battlefields strewn with decapitated heads, and arms and legs. Today, the same tactic is used via mass cluster bombing and the use of depleted uranium (which causes deplorable birth malformations among the nations under attack).

Octavian Augustus (27 B.C.) attempted to restore the old Roman virtues of self-reliance, personal integrity, discipline, and family cohesion; but the aristocracy, in its moral decadence, was generally unconcerned about the drift of their country (like our modern Congress?). In the cities, unemployed mobs, long degraded by government-provided free bread and circuses (similar to our modern welfare payments and TV?) had lost interest in hard work. Later, a steady debauching of Rome’s currency was a telltale sign of its moral, political, and economic corruption. (A comparable decline in purchasing power of the U.S. dollar has occurred since creation of the Federal Reserve Bank in 1913!)

Earlier empires (the Persian and that of Greece), and later empires (Byzantium, the Mongol and Ottoman, and those in India and China), all rose through the use of power and fear, and then declined. Generally the pertinent facts are similar: the lust for land, power, and riches at the expense of weaker nations; the greedy self-interests of those who benefit financially from imperial expansion; and the growth domestically of freedom-destroying statism.

The British Empire

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Portugal, Spain, England, France, and the Dutch all expanded their hegemony internationally. Each used the rapidly developing technology of gunpowder (cannons and small arms) to conquer and enslave less-advanced nations and to dominate their cultures.

Britain’s rise to become the preeminent world empire rested on the leading technology she had in arms manufacture and shipbuilding. This made her able to dominate less-advanced countries on both land and sea, thereby expanding her hegemony all over the world. Her boast was “the sun never sets” on her empire.

At home the common people were mentally conditioned, at great personal loss of life and limb, to serve as recruits in the imperial army and navy. This was accomplished through government propaganda and the willing participation of a compliant press that was largely controlled by commercial and financial special interest groups represented in Parliament. In this, note the similarity to the Senate of the Roman Empire. Blood flowed freely wherever Britain’s hegemony was extended (India, China, Africa, and elsewhere); immense riches flowed into the coffers of the Crown and members of the ruling elite.

Queen Elizabeth had incorporated the English East India Company in 1600. This created a monopoly of trade, producing vast wealth for her and other stockholders.

History textbooks downplay two main sources of the Queen’s vast wealth (accumulated tax-free) and of the wealth of other empire elites in Britain and Europe:

  1. The opium trade. Tea and spices could not possibly generate the vast income needed to station British soldiers at the Khyber Pass, only one of many places where imperial troops were posted.
  2. The African slave trade. Britain joined it in 1503, first to supply cheap labor to her sugar plantations in the West Indies, then later (in the 1600s and1700s) to supply cheap labor to the plantation owners in Colonial America.

Trade in opium and slaves provided the foundation for many family fortunes now enjoyed by descendants of the British and European royalty, as well as for elite families of New England in America today—though much effort is made to conceal these dark facts of history.

The Bank of England was founded in 1694 to provide the king with funds to pay for foreign wars. The Bank’s charter allowed it to charge 8 percent on monies loaned to the government and gave the Bank a monopoly for issuing credit-based banknotes on which it could collect interest. Credit financing made it easier to fund expansion of the empire overseas. The Bank is still located in “the City” of London, an independent entity not under the British government.

British imperialism reached its zenith after World War I when Palestine, Iraq, and large parts of Africa were designated as her “protectorates” by the League of Nations, which Britain greatly influenced. This allowed Britain to gain effective control of the rich oil reserves of Arab countries. This set the stage for the volatile situation we see in the Mideast today. Britain also gained effective control of vast mineral reserves and other riches in Africa.

After World War II, the extensive British Empire quickly crumbled, going the way of all empires, as freedom-minded peoples demanded self-determination.

America’s Path to Empire

In 1896 the U.S. Congress passed a resolution to intervene in a rebellion of Cubans against Spain, but President Grover Cleveland, an anti-imperialist, refused to get the U.S. involved. When pressured, he declared that if Congress declared war, he would not, as commander-in-chief, issue the necessary order to mobilize the army. Thus, Cleveland courageously opposed public opinion, which was being stirred up by special interests who had commercial ties to Cuba. Earlier, in 1893, Cleveland, against strong public opinion, had stopped the annexation of Hawaii, which was being engineered by commercial interests in Hawaii who had wrongly deposed Queen Liliuokalani.

In contrast, when the U.S. battleship Maine blew up in Havana harbor on February 15, 1898, President William McKinley, who did not want hostilities, reluctantly yielded to public pressure stirred up by special interests and a cooperative press. So America declared war against Spain, which ceded Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines to the United States, and thereby gained effective control of Cuba. This was America’s great step toward building a foreign empire.

One immediate effect of our venture into empire building was the rebellion of our prior allies in the war, the Philippine patriots, who demanded self-determination. The resulting Philippine resistance was overcome by American military strength, but it took three years and the deployment of 60,000 American troops to put down the rebellion.

In subsequent years, America’s foreign entanglements drew us into a long series of foreign wars, lasting more than a century. In each instance, there is sufficient evidence suggesting U.S. government deception of the American people in order to create support for war.

America’s engagement in World War I came after the sinking of the Lusitania, which the Germans accused the British of causing in order to bring the U.S. into the war. Much has also been written about FDR’s inducing the Japanese to attack the naval ships at Pearl Harbor. Also, Truman is alleged to have tricked North Korea into attacking South Korea, thus launching an unconstitutional war for America. And it is now a documented fact that LBJ lied to the American public about the Gulf of Tonkin incident—the alleged event that caused an immediate escalation of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

In the 1991 war “Desert Storm,” Iraq invaded Kuwait after being told that the U.S. “had no interest” in Iraq’s territorial dispute with Kuwait. It is also now well established that many of the atrocities alleged to have been perpetrated by Iraqi forces in Kuwait are fraudulent. These false allegations were used to stir up a pro-war attitude among the American public.

And, finally, the preemptive attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq were based upon faulty intelligence regarding so-called “weapons of mass destruction” and the very questionable events of September 11, 2001. Even today, as Bob Woodward recently revealed in his book State of Denial, the truth about the escalating violence in Iraq is being hid from Americans.

In each of these wars, the net result has been a sharply divided public; a sad waste of young lives; the centralization of more government power in Washington, D.C., especially in the hands of the executive branch (a shocking example is Congress’ recent passage in early October of the “Detainee Bill,” which unconstitutionally gives President Bush sole power to determine who is a “terrorist combatant”—including even American citizens!—and which, also unconstitutionally, provides President Bush retroactively with protection against being accused of the torture of prisoners under the Geneva Convention); tremendous increases in taxation and government regulation; persistent monetary inflation, which causes a steady depreciation in the purchasing value of the U.S. dollar; and a continued loss of individual freedom as citizens are persuaded by political leaders to surrender their God-ordained, self-responsibilities to the government. In short, a caretaker security/police state has developed in America as an inescapable and corresponding part of America’s evolvement into an empire state internationally.

During each war, freedom of the people has suffered, never to be wholly restored, and taxes and government control of the population have continually increased.

Evidences ...

Here are some clear evidences of the growth of American imperialism abroad and the accompanying security/police state domestically:

Burdensome taxes: When civil governments exceed their role in society—their lawless interventions into the spheres of the home, the church, business, and other private associations—their statist programs must be paid for. To wrest needed monies from citizens, the IRS has been set up as an “inquisitor” that has power to “undress people financially” every year, and even to make armed raids to confiscate property on claims of nonpayment. Today the average American must work for over six months each year to pay for federal, state, and local taxes. Compare this with God’s modest tithe of only 10 percent from His people.

Monetary inflation: When citizens start complaining about high taxes, civil rulers then turn to the easier route of a hidden tax called monetary inflation, which gradually siphons off the purchasing power of people’s money. Since the Federal Reserve Bank was established in 1913, the value of the dollar has steadily plummeted to less than 2 percent! Most of this insidious debauchment was caused by our involvement in foreign wars that we had no valid reason to enter, plus numerous unconstitutional government programs that forcefully transfer wealth from the pockets of some citizens to the pockets of others. Frederic Bastiat called this process “legalized theft.”

The “war on drugs”: President Richard Nixon initiated the war on drugs in 1971.

During WWII, the OSS (the Office of Strategic Services, forerunner of the CIA) had to pay Malaysian warriors with heroin because they would not work for money, not even for gold. Thus, the OSS operatives made connection with the international drug cartel that operates through the “Golden Triangle” in Asia. Eventually, drugs literally started flowing into America from the poppy fields of Pakistan and Afghanistan in Asia and from Columbia in South America.

To counter the incoming flood of drugs, the federal government deceitfully started the war on drugs, but, of course, the flood continued. This so-called “war,” through the RICO law, resulted in armed SWAT-team raids all across America and the confiscation of billions of dollars of private property owned by innocent people. Many small operators in the drug scene were arrested, but no arrests of the major kingpins. Today, most local police departments have been effectively “federalized” by the FBI, and about 89 percent of local police departments now have strongly armed paramilitary units whose main job is to break into homes unannounced on drug searches. Almost 500,000 American citizens are now in prison on drug charges. In 1980 the number imprisoned was 50,000.

Secrecy in government operations: Over the years, it has become increasingly difficult for ordinary citizens to discover what politicians and government bureaucrats are doing.

In spite of the Freedom of Information Act, citizen inquiry is often “stonewalled” on the alleged claim that “this is a national security issue”; as if so-called national security issues were more crucial than protecting citizens’ constitutionally protected freedoms. Thus, the domestic web of freedom-destroying legislation and totalitarian government programs, as well as the so-called “black flag operations” of covert U.S. agencies overseas (and in our own country also), continue to undermine the Constitution. For instance, the Bush administration has been quietly advancing a massive “NAFTA Super Highway” that will run along Interstate 35 from the border of Mexico in Texas to the Canadian border north of Duluth, Minnesota. This empire-building scheme will be an accomplished fact, with no constitutional approval, before most Americans become aware of it.

Fear mongering: Throughout history, totalitarian-minded civil rulers have created a domestic climate of fear among the general population to make them more readily accept Orwellian-type regulations and control. Psychological control is much more efficient than using guns. “Foreign enemies” are thus the bogeymen whom the people are brought to fear.

In the modern case of America, it is so-called “Islamic terrorists” that have replaced the previous menace of communism.

A good example of fear mongering is the police-state atmosphere of fear currently surrounding American airports, supposedly to stop “terrorist” hijacking. Most Americans have “bought into” this specious tactic, and they, like sheep being led to slaughter, have been conditioned to continue exposing themselves to the most degrading forms of personal inspection when boarding planes—a clear undermining of the Fourth Amendment.

New repressive federal agencies: As a result of the psychological fear mongering about 9/11, Congress passed the constitutional-subverting “Patriot Acts” and created the KGB-type, police-state agency called “Homeland Security” (note the Orwellian language). This agency has been given the unconstitutional authority to use outright force to destroy Americans’ liberty at the whim of the president. Recently, Homeland Security notified banks that whenever banks are so notified by Homeland Security, bank customers would not be allowed to open their safe-deposit boxes unless a Homeland Security agent was present.

More than 400 governmental units throughout America (states, cities, and counties) have publicly gone on record as opposing the so-called “Patriot Act.” Three cheers! These are acts of governmental interposition.

Every statement above is true, and the list could go on and on; but the important question is, What are we to do?

What Direction Does God Give?

Solutions to the above-mentioned problems are readily found by searching Scripture because God’s Word is designed to guide mankind in how to live in a sinful world populated by not only sinful citizens, but especially by sinful and tyrannically oriented civil rulers (1 Sam. 8).

We are to think God’s thoughts (2 Cor. 10:3–5) in every aspect of our lives and especially in building our social institutions (family, church, businesses and other voluntary organizations, and civil government). We are created in God’s very image and likeness; therefore, we have a God-given right to be free, and we have the responsibility to maintain our freedom so that we can stand self-responsible before God, our Creator and Lord (Gen. 1:26–28; Exod. 8:1).

What we must do is threefold: think Biblically, think economically, and think constitutionally. Note the sequence: both our economic world and our political world must be made to conform to God’s Word.

These United States of America have grown beyond the Biblical pattern. One way of restoring our Constitutional Republic and eliminating the unitary aspect of our national government is to eliminate the Seventeenth Amendment thereby reinstituting the election of senators by state legislatures; and also eliminate the income tax and replace it with a head tax paid to the states in conjunction with requisitions requested by the national government, as we had under the Articles of Confederation. Patrick Henry, a wonderful patriot and believer in decentralized government, said, “I love those requisitions!” because they limited the power of the central government.

Today, our problem is too-big government, too far from home, and no effective way to choke off funds going to the national government. Eliminating the Seventeenth Amendment and restoring the “requisitions” that Patrick Henry so loved would accomplish this. Radical? Yes! But radical in the good sense in that the solution cuts to the very core of the problem.

To bring it about, Americans must ask, “What is the proper role of civil government in society according to the Bible?” This is the second-most important question in life because the answer will determine whether we live in freedom and self-responsibility to God during this life or as serfs to a centralized, autocratic government.

When it comes to burdensome taxes, the solution is clear: God’s gracious tithe, which is paid voluntarily, is limited to only 10 percent, for which God promises to bestow His blessings (Mal. 3:10). Any tax levy near 10 percent approaches tyranny, and any levy above that certainly is tyrannical.

Once again, we must ask, “What is the proper Biblical role of civil government in society?” We find the answer in Romans 13:3–4. Civil government is not designed by God to be a transfer agent to take money from one citizen and transfer it to another citizen (legalized theft). Rather, it is to be a negative force in society, not a regulator of economic activity, but simply a punisher of wrongdoers and lawbreakers.

Monetary inflation is nothing more than a form of insidious taxation that makes it easier for civil rulers to engage in the “legalized theft” process of wresting money from some citizens and giving it to others who happen to be favored by the rulers. Money creation by the Federal Reserve to fund government deficits should be abandoned because it is credit-created debt. Also, our system of fractional banking should be put on a 100-percent-reserve basis to stop banks from creating credit money when extending loans. Savings banks and savings and loan associations worked like this successfully for many, many years. This would end the alleged need for a central bank to supply a “flexible” monetary system and to serve as an alleged “lender of last resort.”

Governmental Interposition

Government by the people cannot function properly unless they know what is going on behind the scenes and understand the Constitution. If the false screen of “national security” continues as it is, our country is doomed to succumb to the security/police state. We live in a very perilous time; and the peril does not exist outside of our country in a fictional cave inhabited by an alleged freedom-hating, Islamic member of al-Qaeda. Our real peril exists in high places inside our own country. We ignore this fact at our peril and at the risk of what kind of country our children and grandchildren will be destined to live in.

What is God’s solution for unseating ungodly rulers who turn tyrannical and for replacing them with rulers of His choice? When King Rehoboam refused the people’s petition, it was, “[T]o your tents, O Israel”!

The principle in God’s solution to tyranny (unconstitutional rule) is called governmental interposition, and it can be done peacefully.

God has the power to turn rulers’ hearts (Prov. 21:1). First, let us pray for this. But also, let us remember that there are many imprecatory prayers in the Bible. They, too, are for our use. God’s final option is the Biblical principle of governmental interposition, whose time, I believe, has come. May God’s will be done to the salvation of America and to the glory of His Kingdom!

  • Tom Rose

Tom is a retired professor of economics, Grove City College, Pennsylvania. He is author of seven books and hundreds of articles dealing with economic and political issues. His articles have regularly appeared in The Christian Statesman, published by the National Reform Association, Pittsburgh, PA, and in many other publications. He and his wife, Ruth, raise registered Barzona cattle on a farm near Mercer, PA, where they also write and publish economic textbooks for use by Christian colleges, high schools, and home educators. Rose’s latest books are: Free Enterprise Economics in America and God, Gold and Civil Government.

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