By Doug Newman
June 25, 2007
Posted at Libertarian
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DM wrote earlier this month:
“Seems last we exchanged....I had challenged your notion that the Bill of Rights is in worse and worse shape as the years go by....and that you had said I was wrong and you'd explain in some length in the spring.
”While one-sided accounting will easily persuade most Conservatives and Libertarians.....and make our dire straits something to whine about for a lifetime.....
”I was suggesting that a brief look at the other side of the ledger seems to leave no excuse for whining....and that we should be more appreciative of how free we are and be celebrating every day (though still working for further progress).
”And you were going to say: _____________________________________
Thanks for writing.
In America, we enjoy a measure of freedom. However,
I have said it countless times and I will say it again: GW Bush is not Adolph Hitler. Neither Al Gore nor John Kerry would have been Joe Stalin. We can vote. We can speak. We can write our congressmen. I can write this without fear of doing time in a forced labor camp on the North Slope of Alaska.
We can worship the God of the Bible or we can worship Allah, Vishnu, a cow or Mungabunga. We can promote creation, evolution or any explanation we want for how we came to be. We can amass wealth. We can invent. We can travel. We can consume alcohol. We can smoke those nasty, raunchy, skanky butts. We can listen to all kinds of music. We can read all kinds of books. We can watch all kinds of movies. We can gamble. We can fornicate. We can go to strip joints and mud wrestling venues.
Moreover, we are communicating on the internet. THE FLIPPIN' INTERNET! Freedom, anyone?
And if we don’t like it, we can leave.
So why am I constantly – in your words – whining about our vanishing liberty?
Because, by any objective measure, our liberty is going away.
I unearthed an old column by Joseph Sobran the other day. In it, he writes of Alexis de Tocqueville’s visit to America in the 1830s:
“Tocqueville wondered whether this happy condition could last. He forecast that democracy would devolve into bureaucracy, and we’d wind up with a ‘mild but extensive’ sort of tyranny, ‘without tortures or terrors’, but strong enough to control an essentially timid populace.”
Indeed, we enjoy a measure of liberty. However, we are subject to myriad intrusions on our ability to maneuver through life. And because so many of us think we are free, we are incredibly easy pickings for those who would enslave us.
Tyranny is a lot like cancer. While early detection is a great thing, prevention is a far better thing. Millions have survived both totalitarianism and cancer. I would rather avoid than survive either of these. This is why I am being so vocal NOW, while I can still do so without fear of government retribution. Consider it early detection.
Consider two things about America as we speak:
Our society is one of the most tightly controlled societies on earth. These controls are always sold to us with some good intention in mind, e.g. the environment, the children, a drug-free America, victory over terrorism. However, these controls carry a price: i.e. our lives, our liberty and our pursuit of happiness.
I once read that, in a lot of countries, it is probably not a good idea to run down the main street of town yelling, “Death to the president!” However, these governments are not nearly as intrusive into other areas of life as is the United States government. One reason – among many – that so many jobs are going overseas is that industry is not nearly as tightly regulated.
The Founders’ vision was that of a free society, not a perfect society. With this in mind, they gave us a Constitution that severely limited the size and scope of the federal government. Hence, they gave us three branches of government with an intricate system of checks and balances. They delegated 18 powers to the feds.
Not satisfied, a Virginia delegate named George Mason refused to sign the Constitution because it did not contain a declaration of rights. Mason would lead the charge to develop what we now know as the Bill of Rights. These first ten amendments to the Constitution are a bill of prohibitions on federal activity.
While we have never been perfect in our application of this Bill of Rights, this does not excuse the reckless disregard with which our contemporary ruling class treats it. Indeed, when its provisions are violated, the violators always justify their abuses of power by naming precedents. (When W spied on the American people, his amen corner responded by saying that, “Well, Bill Clinton spied on the American people, too.”)
America has two constitutions. One is written. However, this Constitution is not worth the paper it is printed on if the constitution of the people – i.e. what they are made of – is so weak as to rationalize and justify violations of the written Constitution.
And how is our Bill of Rights violated by the current power elite? Here is a partial list, the result of a brainstorm. I will probably be deluged with e-mails naming all kinds of other intrusions on our freedom.
It has never been my intent to be overly negative or pessimistic. However, it has been my intent to take a defensive posture regarding threats to our freedom. Scripture -- Ezekiel 33:6 -- calls us to be watchmen. It is not “negative” to lock doors, save part of your income, buy insurance, cut down on the carbs or exercise more. It is being cautious. Bad things – theft, bankruptcy, obesity, heart attacks -- can and do happen if we are not careful.
Extremely bad things – 7- and 8-digit body counts -- can and do happen if we do not keep a very close eye on our government. The Founders knew this. And they were not always nice about how they expressed themselves.
All the evil, wicked, mean and nasty things that Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Thomas Payne and others wrote about King George III were directed at a “tyrant” who taxed the colonists at the excruciating rate of about three percent. Moreover, there was no Royal Department of Education, Environmental Protection Ministry or war on drugs in those days.
The result of the rebellion of 1776 was a governmental framework that allowed for greater freedom, productivity, creativity, charity and many other good things than any other society in human history.
And yet millions of Americans are willing to give what remains of this freedom away. Left-wingers are willing to give it away over global warming, which is based on a lot of junk science. Right-wingers are willing to give it away over terrorism, an “enemy” that does not even control the government of Afghanistan and a threat that is totally overblown. Mencken was so right when he stated that:
“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed -- and thus clamorous to be led to safety -- by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
To summarize, there are lots of powerful and well-positioned people who want to deprive Americans of their liberty, and there are millions of Americans who are more than willing to relinquish it. Before they give it up – even temporarily – I would invite them to consider another people who gave up their freedom in 1933 and got it back in 1945. They were the people of Germany. We all know what happened in the interim. Had more Germans been more vocal earlier, Hitler would have been out of power in 1934 and most people never would have heard of him. (1)
I don’t want it to come to this in America. That is why I am being so vocal NOW, while I am free to do so. Eternal vigilance, Jefferson said, is the price of liberty. “Woulda”, “coulda” and “shoulda” are three of the saddest words in the English language. I don’t want to be sitting here -- or in some prison cell -- someday saying, “We woulda kept our freedom and we coulda kept our freedom. We SHOULDA said and done something back in the days when we COULDA!”
(1) For more information read Hitler's Cross by Erwin Lutzer. He discusses in great detail how the German churches, both Protestant and Catholic, aided and abetted Hitler's rise to power.
A question comes to mind as I read your article and the sidebar articles (Fincher) that accompanied it and that was, just what recourse has a defendant, in a trial wherein his adversary is the government, if the Judge acts in a manner that would seem to be that of a complete lackey of the government. As a government toady, he simply subjugates the defendant's rights to a trial by jury by his seemingly illegal and certainly immoral actions of jury sequestration, not from the possible tainting of their judgements by the press but from the actual facts and testimony being heard, pertaining directly to the case. As his actions are completely his to make within his court, a judge who has his own agenda, or is in fact a toady of the government's political arm and thereby an adversary of the defendant in his own right, can simply ensure that "things work out" exactly as the government wants and the only recourse for the defendant, is through the appeal process.
If you would like to link to this or to post it, please include this URL as well as my e-mail.
Freely Speaking: Essays by Doug Newman