Civil Liberties

Some Questions Answer Themselves

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The Nation's John Nichols wonders why the Democratic frontrunners aren't doing as much as Ron Paul and Bob Barr to defend constitutional liberties.

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  1. I don’t know if this only reflects my own parochialism, but I was actual impressed by some of the comments to the Nation piece; not what I expected!

  2. even the somewhat more Constitutionally-courageous John Edwards

    Is there another John Edwards in the race I’m not aware of?

  3. Probably because the candidates realize that the voters don’t care.

    The voters have never cared about liberty, when you get right down to it. Our liberties were established by a tiny minority and imposed on the state. Expansions of liberty since that time have been the result of popular desire for EQUALITY, not liberty – “women should have these rights if men have them – minorities should have these rights if whites have them” and never by any affection for the concept of liberty itself.

    Ultimately the average person thinks that authoritarianism works better than liberty. That’s why they clamor for it during any crisis. Liberty is an expensive luxury in the public mind, to be sacrified at necessity.

  4. Fluff, that was, well it certainly wasn’t fluff, it was exceptionally well said.

  5. Coming to the defense of some of your civil liberties while advocating your robbery at gunpoint seems like hypocrisy. Unfortunately, I doubt this has anything to do with it since most people don’t see that as hypocrisy.

  6. Two thoughts:

    – First, it seems that the political party not in power at the moment is naturally going to be the one most interested in protecting those not in power

    – Second, if the Democrats are truly the populist party they really shouldn’t concern themselves too much with the Constitution, which in many ways is a document that protects the elite’s interests but is disguised as one that protects everybody.

  7. Expansions of liberty since that time have been the result of popular desire for EQUALITY, not liberty – “women should have these rights if men have them – minorities should have these rights if whites have them” and never by any affection for the concept of liberty itself.

    Well, you could argue that equality is necessary for liberty.

    Certainly those with money have more true freedom to do as they wish than those who do not.

  8. I’d say the article was pretty much par for The Nation.

    I find it interesting that the fear of GWB has given these people severe memory loss. The wholesale trampling of our rights has continued unabated for many, many decades.

    To paraphrase Pink Floyd, the stuff Nichols is talking about is just another brick in the wall, and that wall didn’t just materialize out of thin air as Bush walked up to the podium to make his acceptance speech.

  9. the Constitution, which in many ways is a document that protects the elite’s interests but is disguised as one that protects everybody.

    name two

  10. The Nation’s John Nichols wonders why the Democratic frontrunners aren’t doing as much as Ron Paul and Bob Barr to defend constitutional liberties.

    It is because the Democrat party is full of freaking National Socialists who believe all property belongs under the control of the state OR they are a bunch of International Socialists who believe all property belongs to the state.

  11. And they believe the same thing about people too.

  12. The Constitution as written was only meant to apply to wealthy white male landowners.

  13. Facts –

    Well, it allows the wealthy to speak, and provides for due process, and both of those are obviously bourgeois tricks designed to keep the starving poor from righteously expropriating them.

  14. It is because the Democrat party is full of freaking National Socialists who believe all property belongs under the control of the state OR they are a bunch of International Socialists who believe all property belongs to the state.

    Uh, no. Democrats seem to be as attached to big business as the Republicans are.

    The main difference between the GOP and the Dems is that the Dems believe that it’s good for business to help the poor, while the GOP believes it’s good for business to exploit them.

  15. Hooked on Innuendo –

    Actually, the “white male landowner” thing was a facet of state constitutions, not the federal constitution.

    The federal constitution deferred to state constitutions to set voting and the method of selecting Senators. In practice the states selected ways that favored white male landowners, at least until Andrew Jackson’s time anyway. But you have to blame the right constitution here.

  16. One minor quibble, fluffy:

    Liberty is an expensive luxury in the public mind, to be sacrified at necessity whim.

    if the Democrats are truly the populist party they really shouldn’t concern themselves too much with the Constitution

    Well, I guess the Dems truly are the populist party, then.

  17. Since the only mechanisms available to exploit people are to employ them, to extend credit to them, and to engage in trade with them, people in the United States are poor to the extent that they AREN’T being exploited.

  18. Certainly those with money have more true freedom to do as they wish than those who do not.

    Having money doesn’t suck, I prefer my current arrangement to when I lived in the barrio next door to the crazy chick that used to try and strangle all the girls in the laundry room.

    It would have been nice of the government could have equalized her gene pool with that of a normal person instead of funding her insanity and child abuse.

  19. Dean –

    I see what you mean.

    I suppose I should have specified perceived necessity.

    Whenever you hear someone [and this is endemic on the right] say that they favor liberty generally, but not during “wartime” – or when they say that “our new, different enemy” requires this or that liberty to be sacrificed, they’re really saying that they don’t favor liberty. If they think that societies where liberty prevails will lose conflicts with other societies, or that there is some tricky enemy out there who will “turn our liberties against us”, they’re really saying that the methods of those other societies or enemies are superior to liberty. The tools they turn to when threatened or when they think they’re threatened] are the tools they think are the best available. How they then explain the outcome of World War II and the Cold War is anyone’s guess.

  20. “The Constitution as written was only meant to apply to wealthy white male landowners.”

    And was ratified only by wealthy white male landowners (around 10% of the population at the time was allowed to vote for it)- although its binding on the rest of us now.

    It is in essence, a contramajoritarian and anti-democratic document, designed to protect minorities (wealthy landowners) from the will (mob rule) of the majority.

    Of course, sharing fluffy’s cynicism about how the majority views liberty, I don’t necessarily think thats a bad thing…

  21. Sure wish the Constitution would apply to this rich white landowner.

  22. Even the Declaration of Independence would look good right now.

  23. “contramajoritarian and anti-democratic.”

    Aww, shit. I was gonna leave my brain at home today. Now I have to deal with the Constitution’s contramajoritarian hijinks? I tend to think your analysis is pure floccinaucinihilipilification.

  24. The failure of the Founders to live up to their own principles does not mean that those principles are wrong.

  25. I don’t think the statement “the Constitution protects everyone” is contradicted by its contramajoritarian tendencies.

    On the contrary. It is precisely because the Constitution is contramajoritarian [is that really a word? I hope so, ’cause I likes it] that it protects everyone.

  26. John Nichols wonders why the Democratic frontrunners aren’t doing as much as Ron Paul and Bob Barr to defend constitutional liberties.

    First, the Democrats want the same level of power for their next president.

    Second, once Ds (and Rs) start worrying about what the Constitution says they’d have to act like libertarians. If you’re going to protect (per this agenda) the forth, sixth, and eighth amendments, most of the fifth, and 40% of the first, why not go whole hog and speak out for free speach, the right to keep and bear arms, and protection of private property from SWAT teams and developers?

    The Constitution as written was only meant to apply to wealthy white male landowners.

    Regardless of who wrote it or what it’s supposed to stand for, the U.S. Constitution governs a country people who want liberty are trying to get into, instead of away from. Perfect? Certainly not. But head and shoulders above any other.

  27. Uh, no. Democrats seem to be as attached to big business as the Republicans are.

    The main difference between the GOP and the Dems is that the Dems believe that it’s good for business to help the poor, while the GOP believes it’s good for business to exploit them.

    Sorry, your National Socialism endorsement is not convincing.

    I don’t recall Republicans trying to jack up minimum wage, nor Republican dominated localities trying to get Wal*Mart to pay more than anybody else in wages and benefits.

    Stepping out of the way of businesses that are trying to hire people for some actual work helps the poor more than any big income shifting handout program.

  28. “The Constitution as written was only meant to apply to wealthy white male landowners”

    Well how do you want to be treated by the State?

    As a child, hysterical woman, oppressed minority?

  29. I’ve usually heard “countermajoritarian” rather than “contramajoritarian.”

  30. What Fluffy wrote can’t be strictly true. How did the USA then repeal liquor prohibition and conscription? How did the Berlin Wall come down? How have several countries denationalized their telephone service? How did many states of the USA enact shall-issue concealed carry? Doesn’t seem to be much egalitarianism involved in any of those.

    Sometimes liberty even increases with a push toward inequality. Like American Indian gambling casinos. Or religious exemptions for various stuff.

  31. I don’t recall Republicans trying to jack up minimum wage, nor Republican dominated localities trying to get Wal*Mart to pay more than anybody else in wages and benefits.

    Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. The Republicans think that keeping the poor down helps business (if you’re poor, you’re going to be willing to work harder for less money), so why would they want an increase in wages?

    The Democrats think helping the poor helps business (giving the poor more money means they’ll spend more), so that’s why they’re generally for these things. There’s nothing “socialist” about the Democrats – they want business to control things, not the state.

    Stepping out of the way of businesses that are trying to hire people for some actual work helps the poor more than any big income shifting handout program.

    Maybe, maybe not. But people generally don’t start businesses for the purpose of giving the poor jobs.

  32. “What Fluffy wrote can’t be strictly true. How did the USA then repeal liquor prohibition and conscription? How did the Berlin Wall come down? How have several countries denationalized their telephone service? How did many states of the USA enact shall-issue concealed carry?”

    Damn it, Robert, I had a nice clean thesis of US political history there, and you had to go and wreck with some damn facts.

  33. I’m just waiting for the day when enough Americans have read Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate for the national political I.Q. to rise by about 20 points.

  34. Hooked on Innuendo said, “First, it seems that the political party not in power at the moment is naturally going to be the one most interested in protecting those not in power”

    This does not apply to Ron Paul. Take a look at his stance on issues over the years.
    http://www.house.gov/paul/
    Or just search for any of the abundant youtube videos featuring him. He has been trying his best to protect the American Citizens during his entire tenure. Besides, the GOP pretty much hates him. He has already won my vote.

  35. The Nation’s John Nichols wonders why the Democratic frontrunners aren’t doing as much as Ron Paul and Bob Barr to defend constitutional liberties.

    Uhm, because they don’t have to? Constitutional liberties don’t sell… period. They’re often too obscure and too abstract for the general population.

    Q: Do you think that saying something really mean and ugly should be banned?

    A: [85% of the population] Hell yes!

    Is Nichols one of those naive liberals that still believes that Democrats own the constitutional liberties issue?

    Disc: no I haven’t read the article.

  36. But people generally don’t start businesses for the purpose of giving the poor jobs.

    Isn’t it astonishing that the poor get jobs, in spite of the fact that no one starts a business for the express purpose of giving the poor jobs?

    “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our necessities but of their advantages.”
    -Adam Smith

    If you’re going to troll, at least make an effort. This is just pathetic.

  37. Uh, no. Democrats seem to be as attached to big business as the Republicans are.

    Hooked, See: National Socialism (or Facism).

  38. Unfortunately, both sides have an annoying tendency of “we’re going to have to protect you!”

    And too many self-professed libertarians seem to think a platform of “no taxes and no regulations” is going to produce a first world economy.

    That’s the problem–NOBODY wants to pay for the infrastructure. And there’s more infrastructure out there than a lot of people admit.

  39. And too many self-professed libertarians seem to think a platform of “no taxes and no regulations” is going to produce a first world economy.

    No, those would be the anarchists. We minarchists just want the State to stay in its place. We’re not fools – we know the state has to be fed with taxes, and we know that there are legitimate regulatory exercises of the police power.

    Its just that we think we are way, way past the point of diminishing returns on both fronts.

  40. That’s the problem–NOBODY wants to pay for the infrastructure.

    Nobody wants to pay their own doctor’s bills apparently either. Else why the calls for “universal health care”.

    Perhaps the thing to do is identify the pricing mechanisms and the collection mechanisms and let (or require) people to pay for what they consume.

  41. Throughout recorded time, and probably since the end of the Neolithic Age, there have been three kinds of people in the world, the High, the Middle, and the Low. They have been subdivided in many ways, they have borne countless different names, and their relative numbers, as well as their attitude towards one another, have varied from age to age: but the essential structure of society has never altered. Even after enormous upheavals and seemingly irrevocable changes, the same pattern has always reasserted itself, just as a gyroscope will always return to equilibrium, however far it is pushed one way or the other.

    The aims of these three groups are entirely irreconcilable. The aim of the High is to remain where they are. The aim of the Middle is to change places with the High. The aim of the Low, when they have an aim — for it is an abiding characteristic of the Low that they are too much crushed by drudgery to be more than intermittently conscious of anything outside their daily lives — is to abolish all distinctions and create a society in which all men shall be equal. Thus throughout history a struggle which is the same in its main outlines recurs over and over again. For long periods the High seem to be securely in power, but sooner or later there always comes a moment when they lose either their belief in themselves or their capacity to govern efficiently, or both. They are then overthrown by the Middle, who enlist the Low on their side by pretending to them that they are fighting for liberty and justice. As soon as they have reached their objective, the Middle thrust the Low back into their old position of servitude, and themselves become the High. Presently a new Middle group splits off from one of the other groups, or from both of them, and the struggle begins over again. Of the three groups, only the Low are never even temporarily successful in achieving their aims. It would be an exaggeration to say that throughout history there has been no progress of a material kind. Even today, in a period of decline, the average human being is physically better off than he was a few centuries ago. But no advance in wealth, no softening of manners, no reform or revolution has ever brought human equality a millimetre nearer. From the point of view of the Low, no historic change has ever meant much more than a change in the name of their masters.

  42. Putting all that aside, I don’t want to dwell on constitutional analysis, because our view has never been that civil liberties are necessarily coextensive with constitutional rights. Conversely, I guess the fact that something is mentioned in the Constitution doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a fundamental civil liberty.

  43. People don’t want freedom.

    They want free stuff.

  44. Throughout recorded time, and probably since the end of the Neolithic Age, there have been three kinds of people in the world, the Majority Party, the Minority Party, and the Libertarians. They have been subdivided in many ways, they have borne countless different names, and their relative numbers, as well as their attitude towards one another, have varied from age to age: but the essential structure of society has never altered. Even after enormous upheavals and seemingly irrevocable changes, the same pattern has always reasserted itself, just as a gyroscope will always return to equilibrium, however far it is pushed one way or the other.

    The aims of these three groups are entirely irreconcilable. The aim of the Majority Party is to remain where they are. The aim of the Minority Party is to change places with the Majority Party. The aim of the Libertarians, when they have an aim — for it is an abiding characteristic of the Libertarians that they are too much crushed by drudgery to be more than intermittently conscious of anything outside their daily lives — is to abolish all distinctions and create a society in which all men shall be equal. Thus throughout history a struggle which is the same in its main outlines recurs over and over again. For long periods the Majority Party seem to be securely in power, but sooner or later there always comes a moment when they lose either their belief in themselves or their capacity to govern efficiently, or both. They are then overthrown by the Minority Party, who enlist the Libertarians on their side by pretending to them that they are fighting for liberty and justice. As soon as they have reached their objective, the new Majority Party thrust the Libertarians back into their old position of servitude, and themselves become the Majority. Presently a new Minority Party group splits off from one of the other groups, or from both of them, and the struggle begins over again. Of the three groups, only the Libertarians are never even temporarily successful in achieving their aims. It would be an exaggeration to say that throughout history there has been no progress of a material kind. Even today, in a period of decline, the average human being is physically better off than he was a few centuries ago. But no advance in wealth, no softening of manners, no reform or revolution has ever brought human equality a millimetre nearer. From the point of view of the Libertarians, no historic change has ever meant much more than a change in the name of their masters.

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