4 Principles for a Libertarian National Security State

How to protect Americans - and constitutional rights.

This article originally appeared at The Daily Beast on September 14, 2013. Read the original by clicking here.

Like hits for Katy Perry, the scandals for the National Security Agency just keep coming. In the wake of revelations that the NSA has been tracking virtually every phone call ever made and sifting through Internet data like a crazed prospector panning for gold at Sutter’s Mill, there’s yet more disturbing news with every passing day.

The latest is that between 2006 and 2009, Politico reports, the NSA lied about its activities to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court charged with authorizing its snooping. Worse still, this outcome is a toxic mix of spy-agency overreach and bureaucratic incompetence. “An internal inquiry into the misstatements also found that no one at the NSA understood how the entire call-tracking program worked,” says Politico, which quotes an unnamed source who explains, “There was nobody at NSA who really had a full idea of how the program was operating at the time.”

This is as outrageous as it is dispiriting (and predictable). But a dozen years after the 9/11 attacks ushered in the global war on terror, there’s no reason that we should have to live in fear of our government’s efforts to keep us safe and warm. Here are four basic principles that should inform what might be called a libertarian national security state. That is, one that helps to protects us without routinely transgressing constitutional guarantees to privacy, due process, freedom from illegal searches, and the right to be left alone.

1. Transparency uber alles.

One of the main reasons that Barack Obama’s approval ratings are in the crapper is because of his epic failure to live up to his promise to run what he guaranteed would be the most transparent administration EVAH. That’s especially true when it comes to national security issues. Even the most hardened anti-terror hawks have been shocked by revelations of widespread secret drone strikes, extra-judicial kill lists, a war on leakers and journalists, and ubiquitous snooping on Americans.

However disturbing it was to learn of massive surveillance of law-abiding citizens in violation of restrictions on the NSA, it was made even worse by blatant lies to the American public. When Director of National Intelligence James Clapper flat-out lied under oath to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), there should have been immediate and visible consequences, both in terms of personnel and policy.

In an age of Wikileaks, Anonymous, Edward Snowden, and other ultimately unstoppable forces, transparency isn’t just a buzzword, like green energy orfarm-fresh. It’s an eventuality and the first government that levels with its people about what it’s actually up to will be far stronger and resilient than one that is constantly hiding its activities. We’re grownups, for Christ’s sake, and if some sort of restriction on our freedoms or oversight on our activities is actually defensible and necessary for a legitimate security purpose, we’ll respond in a responsible way.

Every bullshit, after-the-fact rationalization drives a deeper wedge between citizens and government. White House press releases like the one issued on July 23 don’t help. “In light of the recent unauthorized disclosures,” it read, “the President has said that he welcomes a debate about how best to simultaneously safeguard both our national security and the privacy of our citizens.” In such moments, Barack Obama moves beyond cynicism into the realm of pure insult.

2. Legal authority is not optional.

Whether we’re discussing the use of drones, metadata dragnets, or anything else that seems creepy at first mention, the real anxiety stems from a lack of a clearly articulated and defensible legal framework. As disconcerting as it was to learn of a secret presidential kill list, it was far worse to realize that there was essentially no controlling legal authority which bound Barack Obama’s decisionmaking process. Similarly, recognizing that the NSA is not simply unwilling to follow the law but incapable of even understanding it is unacceptable.

No government—or branch of government—wants to have its decisions vetted by any sort of watchdog, but that’s the only way to minimize errors and build confidence that national security operations are not ultimately creating a government within a government. We have reached the point where the courts originally set up by 1978’s FISA (itself a product of an earlier era of massive violations of civil liberties), need a complete overhaul. If even sitting senators have trouble getting information about how and why the government is collecting information on citizens, something is wrong beyond repair.

The same is true for the foundational document in the War on Terror, which was passed by Congress on September 14, 2001 and grants vague and sweeping powers to the president of the United States. It reads, “The president is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.” A dozen years after the 9/11 attacks, any such declaration needs to be scrapped, rewritten, and voted on—in the cold light of day, not a hot flash of panic.

3. Target the bad guys.

Supporters of a massive, effectively unregulated surveillance state are constantly touting the benefits of dragnet-style reporting requirements and snooping. For instance, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) have said repeatedly that NSA logging of phone call metadata and internet traffic were instrumental in the 2009 arrests of Najibullah Zazi, who plotted to blow up New York’s subway system, and David Headley, who traveled to Mumbai to scope the Taj Mahal hotel for an attack. Yet it turns out that neither case provides any evidence for the efficacy of widespread surveillance programs.

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  • Pro Libertate||

    Perhaps what we need--this goes beyond security, of course--is an open source government. Discuss amongst yourselves.

  • np||

    Would that mean we can pick and choose and modify government to each of our own likings? As in, just fork it if dissatisfied? Kinda like a very dynamic secession, without it being geographical? Something like phyles?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Maybe. It's open source, so anything goes.

  • RussianPrimeMinister||

    What we need is 1) a full force revolution of the voting system. And 2) two new federal departments. Easy and simple.

    1) Change voting to a democratic style.
    Voting should start at home, and I believe it should work its way up from there. I'll start off with an example of a presidential election. I believe that voting should take place year round on election years, first with each town in America voting for someone WITHIN their town for the position. Then those candidates move to county elections, where everyone within the county votes on the people within the pool of township candidates for the position. Then each county selection moves to state, and everyone within the state votes on who within the remaining candidates will be the presidential candidate from their state. I think this system will keep people invested in the voting system while simultaneously opening up the position of president to many, MANY more worthy and worthwhile people. And local, county, and state elections, as well as senate and house elections can take place simultaneously.

  • RussianPrimeMinister||

    2) The Voting Commission and the Murder House.
    The Voting Commission will be a senate style federal house, with one or two elected representatives per state, that watches over and regulates the voting industry. I'll admit that corruption is a possibility, but that's why we have:
    The Murder House.
    I don't have a better name for this, so we'll just stick with Murder House. This is a group of our most highly trained and decorated military killers, or CIA assassins, what have you, whose sole purpose is to kill elected officials. Every voting cycle, the American People get to vote on the elected officials they are most disgusted with. If any elected offical gets 51% or more of the vote, they are assassinated by a member of the Murder House. Simple, elegant, and it would change the nature of politics in America almost overnight.

    What does the Reason commentariat think?

  • mtrueman||

    Libertarians, I think, need to look beyond a secure nation state. Once they accept the assumptions that their interests are protected and furthered by the national security state, they've already accepted the framework that has brought us to this pass.

  • CE||

    Bingo.

  • DJF||

    """"the scandals for the National Security Agency just keep coming"""

    Yes, but they did it while sitting around their cool Star Trek office. It was like Mr Spock searching with the sensor array for cloaked Klingon Birds of Prey. I bet they even wore the ears.

  • Cdr Lytton||

    The sexual harassment suits will be squashed on national security grounds. Rumors that hot chicks were required to wear TOS uniforms.

  • DJF||

    Were they required to paint their skin green!!!!!!

  • Cdr Lytton||

    Only the ones who look like Majel Barrett.

  • Cdr Lytton||

    Before the pendants jump in, I do mean Majel Barett. This is still the government after all.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I hereby evilly note that it's pedant, not pendant. A pendant is like, well, an IDIC, which I'm sure Mrs. Roddenberry will sell to you.

  • Cdr Lytton||

    Damn smartphone autocorrect. It would have to Cleveland Browns on me over that word.

  • DJF||

    Sorry, I am holding out for Susan Oliver

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's not easy being green.

  • DenverJay||

    unfortunately, Susan Oliver died way back in the 20th century. 1990 even

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I think if things are said to be effective tools, then they should be grandfathered in from constitutional protections. No debate.

  • DJF||

    The NSA could declare that the Constitution is secret and they will notify us what is in it if we have both a security clearance and a need to know.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    "Open source government" you say?

    ANARCHY is the inevitable and only end result of a tumble down that slippery slope.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Article 1.1.2.1.5.

  • CE||

    So it's a good idea then.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Above all, we need acknowledgement that nothing government does is outside of the constitutional limits or happens without some sort of check. Transparency is part of that, because even if, say, the judiciary has the legal authority to limit executive actions, not knowing what's going on pretty much guts the check altogether.

    If we've learned nothing in our little experiment with limited government, one thing we should get out of it is that the people in government will conspire to wreck all of the checks and foundational limits we install. The Constitution, while successful in many respects, failed to prevent the slow coup d'etat, engineered (not with any teleological aim, at least mostly not) by all three branches. Can that be avoided in a new system? How?

  • sarcasmic||

    Like I've said before, the bicameral legislature in Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress would be a start.

    Basically you have a branch of government whose sole power is to repeal legislation and regulation. And you raise the threshold for passing laws to say two-thirds while lowering the threshold for repeal to one-third.

    Though it wouldn't take more than a couple generations before people figured out how to game that system as well.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I'm close to being convinced that the BuSab, Censor, whatever would have to exist outside of government. Still constitutionally recognized but not part of the federal system at all. I'm not sure any institution can avoid corruption, but at least it could be quarantined from the disease a bit more.

  • sarcasmic||

    If it is outside of government then it has no force to back it up. Government could just tell it to screw.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Well, maybe, but what I meant was that it would be recognized and empowered in the Constitution, but it wouldn't have all the ties to the rest of the government that the three branches do. I'm not sure how that would (or if it could) work.

  • sarcasmic||

    As economists like to say, incentives matter.

    That's why I think an elected house with the sole power of repeal might work. People would run for office based not upon what they would do, but what they would undo. Presumably if they didn't get to repealing, they'd be voted out of office. So there would be an incentive to undo things.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Of course, the parties would try to fill the repeal branch with their cronies, who would either fail to act or act to attack the other party.

    The problem is that we have people, who are inherently untrustworthy with power over others.

  • LynchPin1477||

    But what if the people electing them don't want anything to be repealed?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Then we're screwed. No anarchic or minarchic system can work without people buying into it, at least a substantial minority of people. In fact, that even goes to some extent for any system.

  • sarcasmic||

    But what if the people electing them don't want anything to be repealed?

    The whole point of laws backed with force is to coerce people into doing things differently than they would have without the law. Otherwise the law would not be needed. So there will always be unpopular laws. Always.

  • Will Nonya||

    Who says the house of repeal has to be elected? eliminate politics and parties by using a jury duty model.

    You still get the representation of the people but you're more likely to get things repealed because it's not a career position.

    Elect those who make laws, appoint people who don't really want to be there with the power to repeal and see how that works.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    I would be nice if the governmental "Don't just stand there! Do Something" motivation could be harnessed for good once in a while.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Government, ideally, should be like Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: "[unenthusiastically] Help. Police, Murder."

  • np||

    Basically the check on the state needs compete with it. Lots of people pointing guns at each other provides more mitigating force against the formation of a single entity gaining the legitimacy of shooting everyone else, than any form of singular government.

  • Pro Libertate||

    So, mininukes for everyone?

  • np||

    MAD writ large probably works

  • sarcasmic||

    Ultimately all the state is is the last word in violence. When people compete for the last word in violence they don't just point guns at each other. They shoot them. Like what's happening in Syria.

  • np||

    There is a difference between defensive and offensive force though.

    I suppose I should clarify that by saying competing for protection. Wanting to take over a state is different from resisting a state. It is also more likely that you have enough resources to resist, without having enough resources to completely take over others (unless they agree and/or give in; at which point the whole process needs to start again)

    Yes, there will be violence either way, but short of a technological breakthrough for something like an easily available forcefield, it seems unavoidable for chance at renewed liberty

  • Square||

    It may mitigate against a single entity shooting everyone, but it makes it more likely that everyone gets shot.

  • ||

    My wife is credited with the following idea:

    Constitutional amendment that ALL legislation has a sunset clause of X years (7, 10, 15...pick a reasonable number) and at that time it ceases to exist. If they want to keep it must go through the entire legislative process again. No mass dictates, each law must be repassed on it's own.

    This does several things.

    1. Bad legislation goes away.
    2. Good legislation can be reviewed and the bad parts of it can be modified.
    3. It would keep those fucking idiots in congress SO BUSY they wouldn't have time to pass new legislation.

  • Libertymike||

    Sounds good, superficially, but its fatal flaw is that it recognizes and maintains the nation state-which is fundamentally incompatible with liberty, never mind peace and prosperity.

  • sarcasmic||

    There will always be people with the last word in violence. If not a nation state, then who? Gangs? Tribal leaders?

  • Libertymike||

    What is the nation state but a gang the leadership of which is constantly contested by various tribal leaders?

  • Square||

    A medium in which that gang contests its leadership roles in a non-violent manner.

    There is, I trust, a perceivable difference between the US and Somalia? That's one of the big ones.

  • mtrueman||

    "There will always be people with the last word in violence. If not a nation state, then who?"

    You and me? I think what we need is to inculcate people with distrust of those who seek power, through violence or otherwise, and the willingness to cut them off at the knees. Instill in them a kind of feeling of civic duty to pull those down as they climb the pedestal of power and manipulation.

    We can find these attitudes in non-state societies, and they work. State societies encourage respect for authority and the kind of attitude that if the nation state doesn't take care of us, we'll be prey to others like gangs etc.

  • Square||

    What "non-state societies" are you thinking of?

  • mtrueman||

    I was thinking of the Hmong of south east asia. They've survived for thousands of years without a state to protect them. They are very independent minded and place a high value on their freedom. Americans should know them from the Vietnam war era where they fought against communism. In fact, unlike the Americans, who gave up their fight and went home, the doughty Hmong continue to fight to this day, most notably in Laos.

    Can we adopt the anti-authoritarian attitudes of the Hmong and maintain our lives of material wealth and consumerism? I have my doubts. I also doubt that libertarian principles have much of a place in a government that rules over more than 300 million people.

  • ||

    Just stop.

    How much liberty will you have when another nation-state decides to take all your shit. Because THAT NEVER HAPPENS, right?

  • Libertymike||

    The united states has demonstrated that very well, hasn't it?

  • ||

    Yes, it has. You've made my point.

    And, as usual, the anarchist fails to address the question. Just ignore the fact that there are bad people in the world and everything will be fine, right?

    Tell you what LM. You give me an acceptable answer to the question and I'm in. I'll write a very large check to the American Anarchist Society.

    How does an anarchist state defend itself against nations with bombers, ships and tanks?

  • CE||

    Citizen militia, peaceful foreign policy, wealthy voluntary sponsors of air and naval defenses? It's not like everyone would be a free rider on defense just because they aren't forced to pay up. Some people believe in duty.

  • Square||

    "Wealthy voluntary sponsors of air and naval defenses?"

    Sounds like a euphemism for "warlords."

  • ||

    It's not like everyone would be a free rider on defense just because they aren't forced to pay up.

    Really? How many free riders are there out there now?

    Are you going to defend those who don't pay?

    And who are these soldiers answerable to?

  • GroundTruth||

    I and others have suggested this on this site previously, so I'm glad to see it getting at least mentioned again, regardless of the source.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    I think the best solution is to create legal liability for those in the government responsible for passing or enforcing any law deemed unconstitutional. Give the courts a 1%-5% share of all damages collected. You'd wind up with some damned rich judges, but a lot freer country.

  • Square||

    I always hesitate to give someone in a position of power a financial incentive to persecute. This is why I have a prejudice against DAs.

  • CE||

    New laws should require 95 percent approval. (There are always a few criminals.)

    Repeal of old laws should be automatic if not renewed, after 5 or 10 years.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Just make every law have a 10 year expiration date. You don't have to worry about the motivations of another body then and can focus all of your concern on how to prevent the legislature from just rubber stamping re-approval of the expired/expiring laws.

    Much of the point of the automatic expiration is to keep the legislature tied up with supporting the current laws so they don't have as much time to be "productive" creating new ones.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Just make every law have a 10 year expiration date. You don't have to worry about the motivations of another body then and can focus all of your concern on how to prevent the legislature from just rubber stamping re-approval of the expired/expiring laws.

    Much of the point of the automatic expiration is to keep the legislature tied up with supporting the current laws so they don't have as much time to be "productive" creating new ones.

  • db||

    These are worthy questions. Avoiding the question begging inherent in designing a founding document of a government to minimize the government itself, libertarians need to come prepared with proposals for a constitutional convention. More and more I think there will be another within our lifetimes and we need to be prepared

  • Pro Libertate||

    The Bill of Needs.

  • db||

    The Bill of FYTW.

  • ||

    I have a list. I think the Constitution in its current form is a good starting point. Term limits and making it easier to get rid of elected officials is right up at the top of that list.

  • Libertymike||

    Why is it a good starting point in its current form?

    It has either been used to justify the police state in which we live and / or it has been ignored.

  • ||

    The Constitution, as written, not necessarily as interpreted, is EXTREMELY libertarian in nature. Just needs a few more restrictions on government AND some teeth to punish those who violate it.

    If you have a better idea, I'm all ears.

  • Libertymike||

    The foundation, the very core, of libertarianism is the NAP which is just incompatible with the existence of the nation state.

    Liberty does not depend upon the nation state in order to flourish. To argue otherwise is just cognitive dissonance.

    Are you forgetting that the constitution was formed by men who wanted a bigger, more intrusive, national government. Most of these men were either (a) holders of worthless war bonds or (b) lawyers who represented those who held the worthless war bonds. They wanted to socialize the payment of their worthless war bonds.

    The constitution can hardly be described as "EXTREMELY" libertarian as it purports to give the state the right to take your property and to make war without your consent.

  • ||

    Fine. Taxes are theft. Got it.

    Your alternative is unworkable. SOMEONE will come to take your shit and you will not be able to stop them. Your system doesn't allow for those who have no desire to follow the NAP.

  • Libertymike||

    Yes, it does.

    However, you do not address the cognitive dissonance so manifest in your posts.

    The very entity which you appear to tolerate (I won't argue that you champion it because that would be inaccurate and I want to be precise) ALREADY has come and taken your shit, continues to come and take your shit and promises to continue to come and take your shit.

  • ||

    However, you do not address the cognitive dissonance so manifest in your posts.

    In my libertopia, rights are paramount. It's a balancing act between complete liberty to gambol freely about the forest and ensuring my rights cannot be taken away. That is why my philosophy maximizes rights while providing a way to protect them. And yes, that measure of protection comes at a cost (as does everything). Yes, that cost is taxes.

    My tenets:

    1. A person may do as he chooses, PROVIDED in doing so he does not infringe upon the rights of others.

    2. The ONLY legitimate function of government is to protect the rights of the individual.

    In this, I maximize individual rights and only give government enough power to protect them. NOTHING MORE.

    Got it. The government has "ALREADY has come and taken your shit". Yep. And if I want to be secure in my rights, they must. I advocate we only allow them to take the absolute minimum required to accomplish tenet 2 above.

    Yes, they take much, much more than that now, but that is because they do not adhere to the two tenets above.

  • Libertymike||

    Sounds good in theory, but in practice, not so much.

    Basically, what I do not get is your faith and trust in a mechanism which has failed so miserably.

    Reminds me of chief Black Kettle of the southern Cheyenne planting the stars and stripes in front of his tepee thinking that will prevent Custer and his men from slaughtering him and his village, which consisted primarily of women and children.

  • ||

    Basically, what I do not get is your faith and trust in a mechanism which has failed so miserably.

    What the fuck are you even talking about "failed so miserably"?

    This is the freest nation the world has EVER known. Problems? Sure, but it can be improved upon/fixed.

    And you still owe me a reasonable alternative that doesn't involve gamboling.

  • Libertymike||

    If you refuse to evaluate the performance / results of the united states from a cold, detached point of view and also from an absolute reference as opposed to a relative pov, it is hard to have a decent discussion.

    We live in a police state. Period.

  • ||

    Who's not evaluating from a cold pov? Yes, we are fast approaching a police state. No shit. How does anarchy fix it?

    Quit your fucking whining and come up with a solution to fix it.

    You propose nothing.

    Anarchy, anarchy...I don't know what this means, but I love it.

  • Square||

    If nothing else, anarchy is the fast-track to a police state. You can't just scream "anarchy now!" and expect the world to just snap to a state of peace and prosperity. Your local police chief is very likely to start thinking "hey, I have the key to a big warehouse full of guns . . ."

  • Square||

    I come back to the comparison with Somalia, or with Afghanistan, two countries that are about as close to anarchy as you could hope to come.

    Are you saying that the US as it is currently being run "has failed so miserably" compared with these experiments in anarchy?

  • Square||

    I think you're taking a lot of things that a nation state provides for granted. You're assuming that taxes and invasive police and such would go away, but that someone would still come help you when your neighbor decides to burn your house down because your cat shit on his lawn.

    Liberty is not the same as "no one gets to tell me what to do."

  • Virginian||

    Liberty is not the same as "no one gets to tell me what to do."

    That's exactly what liberty is. Provided I harm no one by my actions, I am free to do as I please.

  • Square||

    Yes, but what happens when others are less restrained than you about the "harm no one by my actions" standard?

    Anarchy does not breed liberty - it breeds the exact opposite.

  • Libertymike||

    We know that trust in the nation state ALREADY breeds mass murder and mayhem.

    Heck, the very existence of the nation state breeds mass murder and mayhem.

    GARONTEED.

  • Square||

    I think "mass murder" and "mayhem" is a bit hyperbolic. It seems like you have this idea that without a government, "mass murder" and "mayhem" would somehow just come to a stop. There would no longer be greedy, power hungry people unrestrained by morality.

    Government can be frustrating, yes, but remember that there was time when a band of armed people from the other side of the hill might just decide to come over, rape your daughters, burn your house down, and take your shit.

    All of your shit. Not just a legally determined percentage.

  • db||

    Square, what is better? A thief who admits he's a thief and takes 100% of your shit, knowing that you have the right and duty to defend against his theft, or a partial thief who cloaks his actions by leaving you some "fair portion" of what used to be yours under the cover of a legal regime he and other thieves created to legitimize their actions while giving you back a small amount of shit you never asked for in the first place, while you stand legally defenseless against their onslaught?

  • ||

    And how, exactly, will you defend against this thief?

    I'll take the second and limit him to only taking what is required (as determined by me) to defend my rights.

  • Square||

    "Square, what is better? A thief who admits he's a thief and takes 100% of your shit, knowing that you have the right and duty to defend against his theft, or a partial thief who cloaks his actions by leaving you some "fair portion""

    A thief is a thief. I don't believe in "good thievery" vs. "bad thievery." Given a choice between losing 100% of my stuff and losing less than 100% of my stuff, I choose the latter. The rest is academic.

    I think "legally defenseless" is an exagerration of our current state of victimhood, and "right and duty to defend against" this honest and forthright thief is cold comfort when that defense fails.

    Our government does some annoying things, but we are far from living under some unbearable tyranny, and I bet that the first time a gang of armed thugs decides to move into your house the "right and duty" to defend yourself without assistance is going to seem decidedly un-fierce.

  • CE||

    Our government does some annoying things, but we are far from living under some unbearable tyranny...

    Not that far, and it got a lot closer this year, or at least a lot more obvious.

  • db||

    I never said anything about unassisted defense. I could certainly contract with a defense specialist or set up a neighborhood defense team but you imagine that is the same as a government. So I guess I better get used to the idea of needing one small thing but getting a bunch of useless stuff thrown in for way more money.

    And you get to say I'm unreasonable.

  • Virginian||

    And off go the goalposts.

    Anarchy has the most liberty. It might not have the most safety, or the highest life expectancy, or the lowest incidence of crime, or the lowest costs of transportation, but it does have the most liberty.

  • Square||

    With anarchy the term "liberty" is meaningless.

    Believe me, I went through a lot of years as a dedicated anarchist. Then I realized that what we have is already anarchy.

    With anarchy, what stops a cabal of people forming who decide to use their greater numbers to get together and take your stuff?

    Ta-da! Government!

    We as a species have gone through many periods of deciding we don't like the current authorities and we don't want them taking our stuff. After the inevitable insuing chaos and total economic meltdown, government returns.

    This is the way of things.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Not sure I agree with you on this. If a private individual is violating your rights, does that make it any more liberty than when its a government? That doesn't seem right. Let's remember the first governments were likely a big guy with a club started telling everyone else what to do. I don't think that's all too different from the situation Square suggests.

  • CE||

    Yes, but what happens when others are less restrained than you about the "harm no one by my actions" standard?

    You go to a respected free market court of dispute resolution. If your neighbor won't go, you get a court order for what he owes you and take it to a free market bounty hunter to collect.

    If the free market bounty hunters kick in the wrong door and shoot someone's dog, they get a judgment against them and have to pay up.

    If a free market court establishes a pattern of handing out crazy judgments (through corruption or incompetence), they lose business.

    Any judgment can be appealed to a mutually agreed upon competing court, but only once.

    Government is marketing services (dispute resolution, law enforcement, etc.) as "protecting your rights" all the while they take a third of your money every week, giving you very little say in how it is spent, and holding themselves and their agents largely blameless for their numerous transgressions.

  • Square||

    Agreed.

    I think what you are describing is a far cry from anarchy.

    If the laws of this country (particularly the Constitution) were actually respected instead of shamelessly contorted, I think our system would very closely resemble what you describe.

  • Libertymike||

    No, I am not taking those things for granted.

    What some fail to see is that which they SPECULATE with anarchy already abounds with THE NATION STATE.

  • Will Nonya||

    Mike, liberty does not flourish when a nation state chooses to suppress it.

    Liberty also fails to flourish when there is no one able to defend it. It's extremely unlikely that the voluntary altruism that you promote would stand a snow ball's chance in hell of protecting your liberty should some organized force choose to deprive you of it.

    Lastly the government as established in the constitution isn't supposed to either seize property or make war without the agreement of elected representatives who are supposed to reflect your will.

    Don't get me wrong and assume I am a supporter of the state in which we live. I do believe the constitution is an 80% solution and only really lacks mechanisms for preventing government from doing more than its designed to, that being the minimum intrusions necessary to protect life, liberty and our pursuit of happiness,

  • Zeb||

    But would you rather live in a police state with no constitution? I think that is the real choice.

  • Libertymike||

    False dichotomy there, Zeb.

    Reality says that we live in a police state with a constitution.

  • db||

    We all have a list of what we want. The Constitution as written may be a good starting point but it has failed because it allowed too many opportunities for arrogation of power.

    I'm saying we need specific language that can be gamed out. The language and its resulting institutions need to be tested against cleverness and pure laziness.

    What we really need is a Constitutional LARP.

  • ||

    We all have a list of what we want. The Constitution as written may be a good starting point but it has failed because it allowed too many opportunities for arrogation of power.

    I've thought that very thing. "We have a Republic, madam, if we can keep it." It really does require an engaged citizenry.

    I've often contemplated how to ensure the government obeys the Constitution short of revolution. Checks and balances only work if they are actually implemented. Perhaps punishments stipulated for those who violate it? But that still does no good if they decide not to enforce it.

    Perhaps it is the nature of a republic to require a reset every few hundred years?

  • Virginian||

    Perhaps it is the nature of a republic to require a reset every few hundred years?

    Jefferson thought so, although I believe he thought it was more on the lines of every 20 or so.

    Of course, he was a white slaveowning male, so all of his opinions are worthless. They taught me that in public school.

  • Square||

    By the same token, you need to comb your dog for fleas every once in a while.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    And again, I've got to suggest the extension of legal liability to those who enact or enforce a law deemed unconstitutional.

  • DenverJay||

    Increase the incentive to obey the law. Any government agent, whether cop, congress critter, or juror, who is found guilty of ignoring the constitution shall be immediately hanged by the neck in public until dead. And not the nice hanging where the neck is snapped instantly by the fall; no the hanging where the criminal is slowly choked over several minutes while the face turns blue, the feet kick, and the whole body twitches.
    If that doesn't work, switch to crucifixion.

  • Jake W||

    "if some sort of restriction on our freedoms or oversight on our activities is actually defensible and necessary for a legitimate security purpose, we’ll respond in a responsible way."

    I'm sure you're not implying that losing freedom for "security" is ever a necessary evil.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Most of us here (that is to say, a vanishingly small segment of the adult population) recognize the fatal flaw in the system; government is people. The people attracted to "public service" are certainly no less venal or self-aggrandizing than any random robber baron, and they must be kept on a tight rein or they will inevitably morph into a separate and distinct permanent overclass. I think we are probably too far gone to stop it, but that doesn't mean we should not try.

    They must be watched closely.

  • Pro Libertate||

    The Guardians of Liberty! With Rods of Correction. A secret society that roots out evil, corruption, and abuse of power.

  • Libertymike||

    The Guardians of Liberty would never consent to the existence of a nation state.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Perhaps not. Of course, they'd need superpowers and a superhuman devotion to truth, justice, and freedom.

  • DenverJay||

    I will selflessly volunteer. My super powers include the ability to drink large amounts of alcohol, seduce ugly women, and offer my opinion on things that I know absolutely nothing about

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Perhaps if we put a bounty on government officials, it might inspire them to keep a low profile, and not go out of their way to piss us off as they currently do.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Bring back ostracism. But only for government officials.

  • cryptarchy||

    Check out Assassination Politics by Jim Bell. The idea is interesting

  • HenryC||

    The problem with point three is the NSA are spys and paranoia is part of the mindset. Everyone might be a bad guy so you target everyone.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    The problem is that we have people, who are inherently untrustworthy with power over others.

    On a purely local level, my little backwater community would be vastly better off under a system in which "Eenie, meenie, moe" resulted in the guy from the tire shop serving a two year term as a county commissioner than what we have currently, in which a highly motivated imbecile with a plan gets him or her -self elected.

  • Zeb||

    I've often thought that maybe we would do better without elections, just making serving in the legislature like jury duty.

  • Square||

    Except that jury duty selects in favor of people who are too dumb to be able to get out of jury duty.

  • DenverJay||

  • The Late P Brooks||

    libertarians need to come prepared with proposals for a constitutional convention. More and more I think there will be another within our lifetimes and we need to be prepared

    That would at least formalize the death of this Grand Experiment.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I hereby evilly note that it's pedant, not pendant.

    Not if the pedant is hanging from a lamppost.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Threat noted.

  • Libertarius||

    Separation of Economics and State. "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of production and trade..."

    No central bank, no income tax, no regulations, no welfare state, no "public property". Just individual rights and property rights.

  • Libertarius||

    ...but relevant to national security, is the fact that a philosophical revolution must precede a rational conception of the ins and outs of national security and national interest.

    I am very amenable to the Jeffersonian conception of the national interest, which is diametrically opposed to the rabid anti-Americanism of the leftoids and *many* in the libertarian camp. I stand up for America's right to exist for its own sake; no military adventurism, and absolute destruction for anyone who initiates force or coercion against the US.

    And for god's sake (lol), lose the Israeli albatross, they have nothing to offer us. That partnership has caused the US more international trouble than anything else in the last 50 years.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Every policy and every agency needs to be reviewed for effectiveness over time. On its 10-year anniversary, the TSA was the subject of a withering report by Reps. John Mica (R-Fla.) and Paul Broun (R-Ga.), who noted that $56 billion invested in making flying safer after 9/11 had not increased safety by any appreciable measure.

    And what good did that withering report do? A decadal review certainly sounds nice but eventually people just get used to the new normal and nothing substantial gets fixed.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    $56 billion invested in making flying safer after 9/11 had not increased safety by any

    But... JOBZ.

    UNION JOBZ! If that's not the hallmark of a successful government program, I'd be curious to know what is.

  • Adam.||

    requisite double post for the jacket

  • GroundTruth||

    How bout all of us start writing our congressthings about our bitches, rather than just bitching here? Surprisingly, I think that my letter the junior senator may have been one of the many that enabled him to grow at least enough backbone to raise his hand to say "present" rather than "yes" when the Senate committee debated bombing Syria.

    These guys are not stupid, and they do want to stay in power. But to fix things, it's going to take enough of us who would really rather just be left alone getting off our butts and letting them know that the only way they will stay in power is to make some better choices.

  • Square||

    I agree absolutely - this is the Achilles' Heel of libertarianism. Those who don't tend to like government tend to participate significantly less than those who do.

  • Square||

    I subscribe to MoveOn.Org newsletters for the entertainment value, and they have a petition form they personalize for you for all your local politicians that they send around for various causes on a near-daily basis.

    Libertarians sometimes get together to have discussion groups.

  • Libertymike||

    In my experiences, including that which I have observed from both near and afar of others, those who make and produce upon a consensual, voluntary basis (which, by definition, excludes crony capitalists, the public sector and rent seekers) could not possibly be admonished for "not getting of their butts" as they already make life a lot better.

    Writing your congressman, for the average joe, is just a big, giant waste of time.

    Democracy sucks. Always has. Always will.

  • ||

    I write my critters at least once a month. I get a response EVERY time.

    I couldn't agree more GT. In the time it takes to post a comment here, you can certainly email your congressmen who, at least in theory, have the ability to address your concerns.

    I think some libertarians are libertarians, not because they love and are willing to fight for liberty, but because they think it's cool to be different. IOW, they are actually contrarians.

    Nothing pisses me off more than the "why bother" attitude of many of us.

    Sorry, don't mean to be preachy. Just an observation.

  • The Last American Hero||

    Sounds like those damn libertarian hipsters in my neighborhood, drinking PBR and wearing tri-corner hats.

  • GroundTruth||

    Methinks I hit a nerve!

    Yes, democracy sucks, and republics in general aren't much better, but aside from having only about 1% of the current population with plenty of space around each of us, I don't have a better solution.

  • Square||

  • Square||

  • Square||

  • ||

    Yet another victim of the 3 PM squirrels.

  • Square||

    They felt my passion.

  • Libertymike||

    Part of the problem F d A is the reluctance of people like you to recognize that the united states has hardly been a beacon of liberty.

    Its as if you want to ignore the united states' history of empire, manifest destiny, mass murder, genocide, the love of communism, espionage, total surveillance, confiscatory taxation, concentration camps, socialism, wars on drugs, poverty and terrorism and speeding and refusal to wear seat belts and on and on and on.

    The US, what, has about 4% of the world's population? Yet, we have about 25% of the world's prison population.

    The US has conducted a war on drugs which has cost trillions of dollars. How many thousands of people have been killed as a result of the prohibition fever? How many lives have been ruined because of the WOD?

    How about the hundreds of children, 16 and under, who have been murdered by drone strikes just since Obama has been president?

    How about the hundreds of thousands of native americans who were either murdered or displaced by the US? Its as if you forget that the US has, and continues to have, concentration camps, called "reservations" for native americans.

  • ||

    Part of the problem F d A is the reluctance of people like you to recognize that the united states has hardly been a beacon of liberty.

    Please provide a list of those who've done better.

    Your utopia cannot exist.

  • Square||

    I think you'll find a lot of agreement here, and I think you'll find that the people here are not as unaware of these things as you assume.

    You are not offering alternatives, however. Simply saying "the government sucks" is not a plan.

    I respect your passion regarding all of these horrible things, but ask yourself whether the native americans currently in the "concentration camps" are free to leave? Are they performing forced labor? Are they being gassed to death as part of a mass extermination program?

    Yes there are things to be very, very concerned about with the US, both in past behavior and in where the country is going, but you speak as if the US is committing just the greatest crimes against humanity ever heard of, and I think you're going a little overboard with it.

  • Square||

    A very good friend of mine grew up in Punjab, in northern India, very near the border with Pakistan.

    According to him, Americans have no context to understand the level of lawlessness in Waziristan and Afghanistan and the level of horrific awfulness that goes with it.

    He also argues that compared to India, Americans have no real experience with corruption and abuse of power by police and government officials.

    We have high ideals, and that's great, but arguing that the US is so, so terrible in such exagerrated terms is just fuel for opponents of liberty to dismiss criticisms of the government as hysterical rantings.

    Wiping the government away has not ever at any point in human history resulted in there being no government. It just means you're rolling the dice on what your new government is going to look like, and it's likely to be ugly and to stay ugly for a long time. Your current situation needs to be really, really, epically bad in order for it to be worth while. Politicians know this and many try to walk that line as closely as they can.

    I'm a public works contractor, and I can't tell you how many times a petty bureaucrat has short-paid me just because the money was too little to fight over.

    What our government does to us currently is unjust, nauseating, infuriating, etc., but you HAVE TO weigh the alternatives. That's just reality.

  • CE||

    I've written my Congress people a few times. They always respond with a form letter saying they appreciate my concern, but they're voting the other way because jobz or children or terrists or banksters or some such.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    My super powers include the ability to drink large amounts of alcohol, seduce ugly women, and offer my opinion on things that I know absolutely nothing about

    Is that you, Teddy Kennedy?

    I heard you wuz dead.

  • coma44||

    They are all good points in the article

    But this one "4. Track the effectiveness."

    Requires actual accountability and that ain't going to happen no way or no how whether it is Democrat or Republican in the wheel house.

    This all boils back to society in general there is no accountability left with in people.

  • CE||

    Here's my 4 principles for a national security state:

    1. Don't go around the world making enemies by bombing and invading them.

    2. Arrest, try and imprison any government official who violates the 4th Amendment rights of any American.

    3. Publish the metadata of all approved wiretaps (those where warrants were obtained). If the NSA has nothing to hide, how could they object?

    4. Dissolve the union and let the 50 states govern themselves. People who want freedom could then move to the freest states. Smaller nations would create far fewer enemies too.

  • MamaLiberty||

    Seems that everyone has forgotten that "anarchy" simply means no ruler. Not an apt term to use for any human society, since we all naturally are to rule ourselves.

    In ruling ourselves (self ownership/self responsibility), nothing prevents us from voluntary association, agreeing on rules, mutual defense and all the rest. The key here is VOLUNTARY.

    No human being has the right, under any circumstances, to initiate force against another human being, nor to delegate such initiation of force. Every living creature has the natural, innate and inalienable right to self defense, and defense of his/her family, community and property, by whatever means is necessary.

    (continued next frame)

  • MamaLiberty||

    So... it matters not to me what sort of "government" you choose to bind yourselves to, or how you propose to bind them to you and your idea of liberty or safety. There could be thousands, or millions of different systems, groupings, governments and tribes... Everyone should have exactly whatever they want.

    The problem is that they all want to control everyone and everything instead!! Somalia and all of the world in conflict is not demonstrating "anarchy" at all, but civil war. Each faction wants to control all the others - a whole different thing.

    All I ask is to be left alone.

    I will associate with those I wish, make contracts and agreements that work for me, and defend myself and my community. I don't want or ask for anyone else to do that for me by theft or by forcing anyone else to participate.

    The problem with your "constitution," and all of the government schemes I've read here... is that you wish to impose them on everyone, and that can only mean at gunpoint. That is neither libertarian or freedom.

    By what legitimate authority does anyone pretend to own my life and property? By what authority do they pretend to wish to "protect" me when I want no such thing and do not grant them my natural right to own myself?

    Molon labe
    Don't tread on me
    LEAVE ME ALONE

  • juliajuli1||

    my classmate's half-sister makes $72 every hour on the internet. She has been without a job for eight months but last month her payment was $16159 just working on the internet for a few hours.Here's the site to read more......

    -------------------
    http://www.Rush60.com

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