The Left's Phony Defense of Freedom

The NSA scandal didn't just reveal PRISM. It also exposed serious hypocrisy in the Democratic Party.

There are many idealistic progressives who've remained opposed to the National Security Agency's data mining programs regardless of who is in the White House. (We can't surrender our freedom for safety, you know!) It's only a shame that these same people have such little reverence for constitutional liberties in other areas of public life.

Really, it's worse than that. Consider the central case of the left these days: "Unfettered" freedom is a tragedy -- decadent, unfair and un-American. So if, as liberals like to argue, it's a moral imperative for Americans to scale back personal liberty to build a cleaner, fairer and healthier world, shouldn't we be willing to do the same to protect the nation from terrorists? Why one and not the other? If Washington can shield you from the vagaries of economic life, why can't it do the same with terrorists?

Soon after news of the NSA's data mining and PRISM programs hit the news, we learned that there are Democrats with an uncanny ability to be malleable, apathetic and partisan in the face of an intrusive state. In January 2006, when George W. Bush was president, Pew Research Center asked Democrats how they felt about the NSA's surveillance programs. Thirty-seven percent labeled the spying "acceptable," and 61 percent said they were unacceptable. The reverse is true today, as 64 percent of Democrats believe that Barack Obama's surveillance programs are acceptable and 34 percent say they're not.

We could see this as an instance of mass hypocrisy if we assumed that the response is driven by a concern for the snooping itself rather than the administration in charge of the snooping. But it's likelier that folks on the left tend to be idealistic about presidents and less concerned about inquisitive NSA agents. (No, Republicans aren't innocent by any stretch. But it's fair to say that they've become more ideologically consistent in their skepticism of state power. This position is now popularly defined as fanaticism.)

Even those Democrats who claim to have a special reverence for privacy regularly support policy that undermines it. If this affection for privacy were unwavering, would they be demanding that we expand government-run background checks on firearms? Would they advocate legislation that forces Americans to ask the Internal Revenue Service for permission to assemble and partake in the political process? Government should be transparent, but shouldn't citizens be free to support politicians without registering with government? And really, how could someone who claims to value privacy support a law such as the individual mandate, which coerces every American citizen to report the status of his health insurance to the IRS?

And why is privacy a more critical liberty than economic freedom -- or any other freedoms regularly pooh-poohed by progressives? Overregulating trade and markets can be more consequential to the freedom of an average person than any data mining program. Just ask a small-business owner.

Let's face it. Most of the concern about these NSA programs is likely driven by an antipathy toward the war on terror rather than a concern about the corroding of constitutional protections. And though I agree with progressives that we've lost too many liberties in this effort, it's a shame they don't believe we're deserving of similar liberty elsewhere in our lives.

H.L. Mencken wasn't exactly right when he wrote, "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." Let's concede that not all alarms are imaginary. Sometimes we are faced with genuine choice between more freedom and more safety. And as it stands, progressives almost always take the path of more safety. Why should it be different this time?

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  • Sevo||

    "It's only a shame that these same people have such little reverence for constitutional liberties in other areas of public life."

    The lefty SF gov't agrees:
    "Richard Lee, Director of Food Safety Program at the Department of Public Health, says [...]“You just can’t go out and sell food on the street. She needs a mobile food facility permit.”
    Of course not! Why, people would be able to buy what they like instead of what we allow!
    http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.co.....zeitgeist/

  • wfieve||

    Start working at home with Google! This is certainly the nicest-work I have ever done . Last Monday I got a new Alfa Romeo from bringing in $7778. I started this 9 months ago and practically straight away started making more than $83 per hour. I work through this link, Bling6.com

  • ||

    "So if, as liberals like to argue, it's a moral imperative for Americans to scale back personal liberty to build a cleaner, fairer and healthier world..."

    That is Tony, understated, in a nutshell.

  • Floridian||

    Does the left ever invoke freedom? I thought they saw it as more of a road block on the way to utopia. I hear the right talk more about freedom in vague terms but never actually support real freedom.

  • NoVAHockey||

    I hear more about happiness than "free-dumb"

  • MOFO.||

    Yes, the left invokes freedom in a perfunctory way so as not to appear as totalitarians. For example, "I believe in freedom of speech, but.." Then they go on to argue for the exact opposite of freedom of speech.

  • Mainer2||

    "Of course I support the Second Amendment, but......"

  • KalkiDas||

    There always, always, ALWAYS is a BUT whenever this argument comes about with leftists.

  • GILMORE||

    FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, FOOL

  • ||

    freedom to die of starvation! heartless freedom lovers!

    lol...

  • JW||

    Does the left ever invoke freedom?

    Of course they do. It begins and ends at the uterine wall.

  • Robert||

    I'm not so sure even there. Although many of them are for freedom there, I suspect a good chunk of their number would like many abortions to be mandatory.

  • Free Society||

    Look at the "Being Liberal" facebook page. It's got a picture of FDR with the words liberty and freedom plastered across it. The left invoke's freedom all the time, they just don't know what it is. But golly it looks swell superimposed over a picture of our Dear Leader (circa 1933).

  • Loki||

    Look at the "Being Liberal" facebook page. It's got a picture of FDR with the words liberty and freedom plastered across it.

    I'd rather not. I'm trying to eat lunch here if you don't mind, and I'm not bolemic.

  • Free Society||

    no one ever got sick from an FDA approved lunch, comrade.

  • Hash Brown||

    They support "positive" freedom. Such as the freedom from worrying about clothes and food that a prison inmate has.

  • Free Society||

    They'll always that because you depend on food to live and the food is not guaranteed, you can't live free. Their logic: if someone else is not a slave to my wants and needs, then I can't be free. Their concept of freedom requires serfdom for someone else.

    The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics kind of applies to the notion of Positive Freedom. In order to be positively free, one must increase the degree of servitude to everyone around them.

  • ||

    And, in general, the freedom from worrying about the scarcity of any resource they want.

    Libertarians usually use freedom as a quick word to describe the Non Aggression Principle: free from initiated violence, i.e., not threatening peaceful people with violence as a means of control and coercion. Getting down to the details requires defining "violence", "the initiation of violence", "peaceful", etc. It gets wordy, so we use the word "freedom."

    Progressives see libertarians claim "freedom" as a principle (not an adjective describing principle), and then claim it as their own, defining it as whatever they want, and stating that we're all morally equivalent because we both want freedom, we just define it differently. So, conscience clear by false equivalency, they have no qualms with forcing their vision down our throats, since, apparently, that's freedom, too, and we'd be shoving our concept of freedom down their throats if we don't let them, i.e., if we resist the initiation of violence.

    It's similar to when libertarians say that they oppose violence, and are accused of being pacifists. We use "violence" instead of "initiation of violence" to avoid wordiness, and people miss the point.

  • sarcasmic||

    “The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.”

    ― Thomas Sowell

    The left are political creatures. All they understand is force. They are willfully ignorant of economics.

  • Brendan||

    "they have no qualms with forcing their vision down our throats, since, apparently, that's freedom, too, and we'd be shoving our concept of freedom down their throats if we don't let them, i.e., if we resist the initiation of violence."

    I always ask people who express that view, and holy shit it's a lot, if they see a difference between a rapist and a would be victim.

    Would a possible rape victim be just as bad as their victim because they would use force to stop a rape?

    The would be victim can claim that the rapist is wrong for attempting to use force or coercion to get the person to do what the rapist wants, at which point progressive logic allows the rapist to counter that he/she is the real victim because the would be victim is using force to get the rapist to do what the victim wants. Only a total piece of shit would really view these two parties as being morally equivalent and/or as both sharing identical or nearly identical morality.

  • Free Society||

    This same fallacy is in modern Tort Law. There are more than a few examples of burglars and muggers being injured by the would-be victim and then having 'legitimate' grounds for a lawsuit. Nevermind that in Common Law, the mugger/burglar forfeits all of their rights, including their right to life, by violating the rights of others.

  • ThatSkepticGuy||

    They want people to be Free from the tyrannies of being able to make their own decisions and a life without constant government intrusion.

    It's how you get totalitarian colostomy bags like Tony screaming at us that we're the REAL statists, or that comment someone copied in another thread of some idiot proclaiming that a six foot cell of concrete and iron bars is preferable to living in a societ which permits consumerism.

    Can't tell you how many Ocutards I heard from who thought Orwell wrote "Freedom is Slavery" in earnest, and that Big Brother was the no-shit protagonist.

  • ||

    But it's fair to say that they've become more ideologically consistent in their skepticism of state power.

    No David, it's not "fair to say" at all. It's only fair to say that TEAM politics has shifted the GOP position back to their supposed ideology, an ideology which is only adhered to when TEAM politics make it convenient.

  • GILMORE||

    +1 team cheerleader

  • Free Society||

    With the recent Reason-Rupe polls in mind, you can see that over 70% of the total electorate is guilty of unprincipled hypocrisy. Horsanyi puts out some good articles from time to time, but he'll always be a dithering Team Red cheerleader.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    So, I guess that's how Rand Paul got elected? Mike Lee? It must be why Ted Cruz is aligning with Paul and Lee, rather than McCain and Graham.

  • ||

    Yes, that's right...they are the GOP. Clearly they run the party and the majority of power players are in lockstep with them and have never shifted their position due to political expediency. Clearly.

  • Free Society||

    Yeah it's not like the names you mentioned are routinely attacked by the GOP establishment or anything... Ever hear of the 2012 Republican National Convention?

  • ||

    "Expos[ing] serious hypocrisy in the Democratic Party" is like exposing serious vanity in the Screen Actors' Guild.

  • Steve G||

    I just love this piece of crap

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/a.....since_1798

  • Hash Brown||

    Gated.

  • ||

    Progressives define freedom as "free of free markets." In that sense, they love freedom.

  • sarcasmic||

    Freedom means asking permission and taking orders. Anything less is chaos.

  • DarrenM||

    Thirty-seven percent labeled the spying "acceptable," and 61 percent said they were unacceptable. The reverse is true today, as 64 percent of Democrats believe that Barack Obama's surveillance programs are acceptable and 34 percent say they're not.

    So, effectively about 46 percent of Democrats are complete hypocrites. That sounds about right.

  • DarrenM||

    Maybe I can get this right this time. 37 percent found it acceptable under both R and D. 34 percent found it unacceptable under both R and D. 2 were undecided apparently. That would be about 27 percent who feel it's more important to cheer for their team.

  • John Galt||

    The over-all numbers of Americans who find it acceptable are large enough to be very disappointing. So much for the myth of "American exceptionalism."

  • ThatSkepticGuy||

    So, for all their complaining and protesting, it turns out the one and only Bush Policy that the Lefties weren't willing to continue and turn up to 11 were the across-the-board tax cuts, which they're STILL scapegoating for the recession and lying their asses off about in their religious insistence that they were "only for the wealthy".

    Hmm.

  • KalkiDas||

    It goes to 11. It's one more.

  • John Galt||

    Apparently, math isn't one of the average Democrat's stronger subjects.

  • PatrickLA||

    Why does the author fail to mention that the exact same flip flop, according to Pew, happened with Republicans? 75% found Bush's snooping acceptable (in 2006), while only 52% find Obama's acceptable (in 2013).

    Link: http://www.people-press.org/20.....or-tactic/

    I would agree that right now the Republicans have "landed" on a preferable position...but that'll only last until the next Repub is elected to the highest office.

  • laureburns665||

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  • KalkiDas||

    Does the camera come included with the gig?

  • John Galt||

    Naked lap dances by her best friend's 625 lb aunt; Hippo Queen.

  • Stephdumas||

    I wonder if it could be a case of Stockholm syndrome?

    On a off-topic sidenote, one Facebook poster named (or nicknamed?) Mark Urbo on this article posted the following then I decided to quote:
    "Old Version:

    Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day.
    Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.

    Updated Version:

    Give a man a welfare check, a free Obama phone with unlimited minutes, free internet, cash for his clunker, a Chevy Volt, food stamps via EBT card, free housing, free contraceptives, free healthcare & medicaid, ninety-nine weeks of unemployment, free meds, forgive his student loans and give him an honorary degree for just trying, buy his “art”, give him a living wage, and show him where to go so the nanny state can wipe his a$$ for him when it comes to any personal responsibility…

    ..and he will vote Democratic in Detroit the rest of his life… ..even after he's dead."

  • wendy31||

    If you think Harold`s story is shocking,, 4 weeks ago my friend's brother also recieved a check for $9195 working 40 hours a month in their apartment and their neighbor's mother`s neighbour was doing this for three months and recieved a check for more than $9195 part time at there pc. applie the information on this address, www.pro76.com

  • nikki_burges||

    my classmate's half-sister makes $89 hourly on the laptop. She has been without work for eight months but last month her pay was $17560 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Go to this web site and read more www.zen45.com

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