America — Love It or Leave It

by Harry Browne

April 25, 2003        

Until the 20th century, America minded its own business. John Quincy Adams put it very simply: "America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy." 

But today there are people living here who don't like the American tradition of peace and friendship. They want America to roam the world — attempting to right all the wrongs — no matter how often it fails to achieve its utopian goals.

To those people I say, "If you prefer constant aggression and conflict, why don't you go live in Lebanon?"

America was once the land where individual privacy and civil liberties were highly prized, where government had no power to pry into your political associations, your financial transactions, or your luggage.

But today there are those who don't like that American tradition. They say that national power and nation-building are more important than individualism and privacy.

To them I say, "If you prefer nosy government, why don't you go live in China?"


While European, Asian, and Middle Eastern nations fought their endless wars, perpetually invading and being invaded, causing their citizens to live in constant insecurity and fear, Americans could live happy, peaceful lives.

But some people don't want Americans to live that way. They like the state of siege the Bush administration has foisted on us.

To them I say, "If you prefer living in an insecure, armed state, why don't you go live in Israel?"

America was traditionally the land of free markets and free minds.

Now the politicians and bureaucrats want to control every aspect of our lives. Republicans and Democrats alike endorse the endless forms we must fill out, the government's takeover of medicine, and the myriad regulatory agencies.

To those who approve of that I say, "If you prefer big government, why don't you go live in Sweden?"

Americans were always skeptical of their government — and they still are. Polls routinely show politicians in lower repute than used-car dealers.

But today there are subversive voices telling us to support our government, right or wrong — telling us we must trust our President, even when it's obvious he's been dispensing false information — telling us to cheer for the military, even when they're in the wrong place.

To those who claim we must support our Glorious Leader no matter what he does, I say, "If you prefer blind obedience, why don't you go live in Iran?"

The Pot Attacks

What is truly strange is that these critics of the American way of life — people who prefer the alien values of the Old World — have the audacity to criticize those of us who love America — calling us, of all things, "un-American," "unpatriotic," or "anti-American."

Supposedly it is now naοve, unrealistic, or cowardly to believe in the uniqueness of America. So we are attacked for trying to preserve and restore the very qualities that made America the world's most attractive country.

After all, if we aren't going to be that unique place called America — the place that was once the beacon of liberty and peace, providing light and hope and inspiration to the whole world — what's the point of living here?

The critics of America may try to wrap themselves in the American flag, but their allegiance is actually to some other flag. I don't know where they'd be happiest, but it obviously isn't America.

So to those people I say:  America — love it or leave it.


Harry Browne was the Libertarian Party presidential candidate in 1996 and 2000, and is now the Director of Public Policy for the American Liberty Foundation. You can read more of his articles at