Election 2016

Whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton Is Elected President, Liberty Loses

It's not irrational to have lost faith in government.

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What if…?
Roger Sayles/Flickr

What if the Declaration of Independence states that the purpose of government is to protect our natural rights? What if natural rights are the freedoms we enjoy without neighbors or strangers or government interfering? What if those freedoms are listed in part in the Bill of Rights? What if the government is supposed to keep its hands off those freedoms because they are ours, we have not surrendered them and we have hired the government to protect them?

What if the reason some of our rights are listed in the Bill of Rights was the fear the colonists had after the American Revolution that the new government here might become as destructive of freedom as the British king and Parliament — whose government they had just kicked out — were before the Revolution? What if it is impossible to list completely the freedoms that all people enjoy by reason of our humanity? What if the Framers — who wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights — understood that?

What if, in order to address the impossibility of listing all rights, the Framers ratified the Ninth Amendment? What if the Ninth Amendment declares that the enumeration of certain rights in the Constitution shall not be construed to deny or disparage other rights retained by the people? What if this amendment was the Framers' way of recognizing the inherent attachment of our personal liberties to our individual humanity?

What if the government is supposed to protect those liberties — the ones that are enumerated in the Bill of Rights and the others that are too numerous to enumerate and are covered by the Ninth Amendment?

What if the government — no matter which party controls the White House or Congress — always claims that it is protecting personal freedoms? What if this is just an empty boast? What if there is a government within the government that never changes, never shrinks, answers only to itself, hates and fears personal freedoms, and is largely unrecognized by the Constitution?

What if that government, because of its secrecy, is largely unaccountable to the voters? What if it resides in the Federal Reserve, the military, federal law enforcement and intelligence establishments, and an enormous federal bureaucracy that regulates and spends in secret to a greater extent every year, no matter which party is in control?

What if the secret government commands the loyalty of the elected government by sharing secrets with it? What if the law requires those shared secrets to be kept secret? What if the elected government knows what the secret government is up to but cannot legally reveal it?

What if members of Congress know why Hillary Clinton was not indicted but they learned it in secret and so cannot legally reveal it? What if members of Congress know the extent of the Donald Trump financial shell game but they learned that in secret and so cannot reveal it?

What if some personal courage has broken this mold? What if Edward Snowden revealed massive secret government spying on all Americans after the government had denied it? What if Sen. Dianne Feinstein revealed horrific torture by the federal government after the government had denied it? What if the elected government knew about the spying and the torture but was legally prevented from revealing it? What if Hillary Clinton was largely right when she said politicians have a public persona and a private persona? What if President Barack Obama has demonstrated his two sides by killing people in secret, with his undeclared wars, and denying it in public?

What if the interest rate you pay on your home mortgage or car loan is not established by the free market — or even reached by bankers looking for your business — but is fixed in private by the secret government? What if the secret government has decided that it prefers Clinton to succeed President Obama and so its agents in law enforcement will overlook all evidence of Clinton's lawbreaking in order to bring that about? What if the secret government has given Trump an enormous pass on his financial behavior, a pass unavailable to the average voter, and it needs to keep that secret?

What if government has no interest in personal freedom, except perhaps as a catchy phrase around which to rally support? What if government nurtures having foreign adversaries — real and imagined — so that it has an excuse, in repelling or resisting those enemies, to exercise unlawful powers?

What if the presidential election this year has become a beauty contest — devoid of intellectual substance, without serious debate over the limited duties of government in a constitutional democracy, rolling in the gutter and largely motivated by hate and fear? What if both Clinton and Trump recognize the paradox that government is essentially the negation of personal liberty? What if whoever wins will largely use it for that purpose?

What if liberty really is attached to humanity? What if all rational people yearn for personal freedom? What if the government — in order to stay in power — has detached liberty from humanity and made it a gift of the state instead of a gift of God? What if government knows that by restricting and then expanding liberty, it can command loyalty?

What if there is a sense of hopelessness in the land? What if this hopelessness is bred by a government that kills, lies, steals, conceals, and denies? What if that hopelessness is furthered by a rational fear that things will only get worse, no matter who wins the presidential election? What do we do about it?

COPYRIGHT 2016 ANDREW P. NAPOLITANO|DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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  1. Thanks Judge! I missed your “what if essays!”

    Not enough to read past the second paragraph; just enough for a snarky comment. I’m sure you made your point well, and I agree that both candidate could care less about the individual liberty of their fellow Americans. I just don’t agree enough to read a thousand word essay that is entirely rhetorical in nature.

    What if I did?!!

  2. ?

  3. What if I respected Judge Napolitano’s intelligence and agreed with his opinions but found his writing style annoying?

    What if the judge had once had an English teacher in middle school or high school who’d told him, “You have a good ability to express your thoughts in writing, Andrew, but a lazy and harmful technique to use rhetorical questions for everything?”

    What if a Reason editor took the time to correct this poor stylistic choice and asked the judge to knock it off in his next submission?

    1. Do you even realize you’re guilty of the exact same thing in your own comment? #ironic

      1. What if every critique of the questioning style of prose was conducted in the questioning style of prose?

        What if our nation devolved into a group of millions of questioners and no answerers?

        What if the first person to emerge with an answer was regarded as a God?

        Trump never speaks in questions, only statements.
        Could he be the Kwisatz Haderach?

        Just asking.

        1. What if I’m taking a shower and I slip on a bar of soap?

          1. Warty will “spot” you.

          2. What if you did? What if that led to you inventing the flux capacitor? What if that’s why you always get in Links first?

            1. +1.21 jigawatts!!

        2. What if the reason we have no correct answers is BECAUSE no one signficant has been asking the correct questions?

  4. I have had enough of these kinds of stories.

    1. Or have you?

      /Nappy

  5. The problem with leaning on the rhetorical question as a writing technique is that it comes across as weak, as if the author is afraid to be seen to commit to a point of view and so is trying to trick the reader into leading the way. That implies that the author isn’t really convinced of his/her own position and doesn’t want to have to defend it. Because it’s so weak, all the opposing viewpoint needs to counteract it is to simply answer the question: “No.”

    For example:

    What if government has no interest in personal freedom, except perhaps as a catchy phrase around which to rally support?

    vs.

    Government has no interest in personal freedom, except perhaps as a catchy phrase around which to rally support.

    See what I mean? In the first case, government might actually have an interest in personal freedom, but the author wants you to get suspicious and make that claim yourself. In the second, the author firmly believes it. In the first case, I can say, “Yeah, but it does, so your point’s moot.” In the second, I have a greater burden to disprove the statement.

    1. The counterpoint is that someone making absolute statements is easier to simply ignore. hedging questions are more likely to make headway into someone who has more conviction on the opposite stance.

      1. I don’t mind using the question format for some of the articles or part of every article, but it gets tedious when that is his only style. Most of the comments are about his style and almost no one is talking his substance.

        1. well, Flo, its NOT his only style. When he has a “line” on a target, he hits hard, fast continuously, and accurately. Here he is wanting to make we Yanks THINK… an activity far too tightly controlled of late.

      2. “hedging questions are more likely to make headway into someone who has more conviction on the opposite stance.”

        I don’t see any reason to believe this based on my day to day interactions.

        1. M? technique is to call statists cunts. It doesn’t persuade anyone but at least they know to leave me alone.

      3. “The counterpoint is that someone making absolute statements is easier to simply ignore.”

        You state your thesis. You provide your supporting argument. You restate your thesis.
        (“QED” is optional.)

        I learned it in the 10th grade.

        1. What if posing questions gets people to think about how they would answer the questions? What if their answer isn’t as important as making them actually think about it? What if putting forth your opinion as statements just leads people to ignoring you as a kook?

          1. Could be. Although here at Reason, it seems to cause lots of people to quit reading mid-article. I know which style I prefer. I don’t need a gimmick to prime my Deep Thoughts pump.

            1. Yeah, it does get tiresome about halfway through. It’s really just the important things that should be posed as questions with some priming statements thrown in.

              1. eggggzzzzatly.

        2. It’s rhetoric, not an expository essay.

          Not that I’m a big fan of the style. But there is more to writing that 5 paragraph essays.

  6. I render the first two paragraphs readable:

    The Declaration of Independence states that the purpose of government is to protect our natural rights. Natural rights are the freedoms we enjoy without neighbors or strangers or government interfering. Those freedoms are listed in part in the Bill of Rights. The government is supposed to keep its hands off those freedoms because they are ours. We have not surrendered them and we have hired the government to protect them.

    The reason some of our rights are listed in the Bill of Rights was the fear the colonists had after the American Revolution that the new government here might become as destructive of freedom as the British king and Parliament ? whose government they had just kicked out ? were before the Revolution. It is impossible to list completely the freedoms that all people enjoy by reason of our humanity. The Framers ? who wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights ? understood that.

    1. I got it from reading the Judge…. I wish far more would ask pointed questions.
      Ever read any of the pamphlets, broadsides, etc, that were popping up round the Colonies starting about 1770 or a bit earlier? What if HE has, and saw that the technique worked well, and realised we’re in similar times and perhaps a similar tool is needed again?

  7. Trump is going to win in a landslide!!!!

    Madonna threatens to give a blowjob to anyone who votes for Hillary

    And remember ladies, this is Madonna, you are not safe either.

    http://www.breitbart.com/big-h…..ve-blowjb/

  8. Napolitanto’s thinking is solid, but his writing is questionable.

  9. “What if that hopelessness is furthered by a rational fear that things will only get worse, no matter who wins the presidential election? What do we do about it?

    Well, the ultimate source of the problem needs to be identified before it can be fixed, but calling out the ultimate source of the problem is so controversial, no politician, not even libertarian ones, will point it out and call it what it is.

    What if the ultimate source of the problem is the American people?

    What if our government can never be more committed to protecting our rights and freedoms than we are ourselves?

    Ultimately, our politicians can’t save us from our own moral failures, and failing to understand and appreciate the importance and value of our own rights and freedoms and respecting the rights and freedoms of others is a moral failure.

    Thank goodness, successfully addressing a moral failure like that isn’t unprecedented. Jesus of Nazareth was ultimately able to take over the Roman empire by way of persuasion. And the American people didn’t change their minds about Jim Crow because politicians changed the law. Rather, politicians changed the law because the American people changed their minds.

    I guess we’ll have to change the American people’s minds about the importance and value of their own and other people’s rights and freedoms. We should probably start with our friends and family.

    1. Sir, did you know Reason is looking for intern writers?

      Honestly, this basic, simple analysis is missing from 80% of the articles on this site. I feel like Reason is missing exactly this editorial bent- they call out every depressing example of government malfeasance but rarely point out that the grass roots is where this needs to change. .

      1. Reason barely gives a fig about the grass roots. They’re 100% about top-down management, top-down culture, and top-down influence.

    2. People love freedom, their own freedom. People believe that in order for their freedom to be maximized, other people’s freedom must be reduced. People believe that if their freedom can’t be maximized then everyone’s freedom needs to be reduced. Because that’s what’s fair.

    3. What if the ultimate source of the problem is the American people?

      Ever read much of Chuck Baldwin, Gary North, Gary DeMar, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Phyllis Schaffly, Ron Paul?

  10. Its still better than Suderman’s thing

  11. What if there is a sense of hopelessness in the land? What if this hopelessness is bred by a government that kills, lies, steals, conceals, and denies? What if that hopelessness is furthered by a rational fear that things will only get worse, no matter who wins the presidential election? What do we do about it?

    What if there’s some segment of the electorate that is actually hopeful that things can be changed? What if this segment of the electorate is so desperate for change that they’ll vote for a non-politician no matter how awful he is? What if this segment sees this non-politician relentlessly attacked and villified by the media who declare him an unfit candidate, perhaps specifically to keep a non-politician from becoming President? What if this segment then loses hope that change can come about in a peaceful manner? What if this segment losing all hope and seeing no chance of political outsiders such as themselves ever being able to effect change in a peaceful manner also happen to be the segment most likely to be heavily armed? What if this segment has some visceral understanding of the Declaration of Independence and understands that “when in the course of human events” may come around in a recurring manner? What if this segment determines that if change cannot be had peacefully the only alternatives are no change or change by violent means? What if this segment decides that “no change” is not an option?

  12. Someone tell Napolitano that the Socratic method only really works when someone is around to answer the questions.

    1. After a lifetime of dazzling his students with his intelligence and rhetoric, just before his death, Socrates informed his followers that he will go to his death knowing only that he knows nothing.

      As Colin Quinn noted:
      “Kind of a dick move”.

      1. PSYCH!! took your money, bitches

      2. And his last words were “I drank what?!”

  13. He’s just asking questions.

    1. And those questions need to be answered. Because if we don’t answer them, the statists will.

  14. What if, the Judge stopped with this stupid rhetorical question format?

  15. The man has a law degree and writes this 8th grade garbage.

    1. because the average level of American intelligence and literacy is just about twelve years old. What if that were the reason?

      He writes articles intended for the thinking and intelligent and astute. There he uses a different style altogether. But what about the average Joe Sixpak who has never had an original thought in his life, or at least since about the Third Grade? Maybe some pointed questions MIGHT get such an one to THINK on his own for a change. After all, we ARE still hoping for change, arent’ we?

  16. Hopefully most American voters are more concerned about the future of American freedom and prosperity than locker room banter.

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