Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Your papers please...

By Capt. Fogg

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

-- Constitution of the United States of America


Like many of you, I had a bit of a drive on Christmas day – 120 miles (200 Km) round trip and nearly all of it on the Interstate. Of course, this being Florida, it can be hard to tell the drunks from the incompetent and the insane, but I’m sure that the fellow in the Honda who did a complete stop in the “Sun Pass” automatic toll lane was just a garden variety idiot, or else he wouldn’t have dedicated the next 20 minutes to trying to prove his Honda was much faster and more agile than my Corvette. I’m sure he convinced himself without much effort.

I’m not sure about he several mega-SUVs that slowly lumbered to the end of a half-mile merge lane and then attempted to merge at 20 mph into a lane traveling at 85. It’s easier to assess the little sedans loaded with passengers traveling at 45 in the center or left lanes – if they are 85 or older with chins resting on the wheel, it’s just incompetence. If they’re much younger, you can bet they’re as smashed as the young men in the full-sized pick-ups rolling at 95+ down the left lane in the pouring rain.

One way or another, it was a circus out there and it thoroughly ruined the mellowness of the evening. It could have been a field day for the police had there been any in sight. It seems that my county and the adjacent counties had decided to set up road blocks on the secondary roads instead. Judging from the comments in the local paper this morning, you would think this was a very popular idea and the one fellow who happened to question the random searches was promptly drowned out by a flood of hyper-emotional tirades from MADD members and others who hate due process and the rule of law. If one cuts through the dubious stories of friends and family slaughtered by drunks, one consistent theme remains: if it saves one life, it’s worth it. That’s a statement worthy of being posted, if not above the gates of hell, at least at tyranny’s door. To reduce it to the absurd, a total curfew would save many, many lives, and a police state is a safe state.

More than the inconvenience of sitting at a roadblock while policemen justify their presence by writing tickets for broken tail lights and peering and sniffing into your car with flashlights and trained dogs and making intimidating comments, it’s the fact that one more increment of what was a guaranteed freedom has been lost in the name of security. Ah, but driving is a privilege, say the mothers of MADD, and so might it not be just a small step to say that renting an apartment is a privilege or being a citizen is a privilege which necessitates searches without probable cause. In fact, our government seems to operating on that presumption.

Somehow it makes more sense to Americans to insist that our troops being blown up in Iraq are “defending our freedoms” then to notice that our freedoms are being taken away in the name of safety or that the obverse side of the security coin is servitude. The granting of unwritten Writs of Assistance that allow police to detain, search, and inspect citizens without probable cause may seem a small step toward safety, but it’s a giant step toward a police state.

(Cross-posted at Human Voices.)

Bookmark and Share


  • I see the point of your post yet it surprises me to find it on a self proclaimed liberal blog. Will stop back sometime.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:59 PM  

  • Like Fistandantalus I'm surprised to see this line of thought on a liberal blog. There IS some common ground, after all. Good on ya, Capt. Fogg.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:04 PM  

  • Why are you surprised? Freedom from unreasonable search and seizure is by definition, a liberal position. The Bill of Rights is a Liberal manifesto in that it sets forth the limits of government power with the intent of keeping it to a prescribed minimum. It's beyond my power of comprehension to see Jefferson, Washington, Madison, inter alia as conservatives.

    Perhaps you've confused Liberal with Democrat, which shoudn't be done. Perhaps you've come to accept the "newspeak" definition of liberal as authoritarian, but that is a great a contradiction as anything Orwell gave us.

    The image of the black booted Nazi asking for papers is hardly something to conjure up the world Liberal and if it is, we might as well switch to another language since English is no longer useful - nicht wahr?

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 3:06 PM  

  • Or maybe this is the new "liberaltarianism" they've been talking about since the election.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 2:49 PM  

  • As Not the Senator suggests...

    There is indeed some common ground between liberals and conservatives on issues like civil rights and privacy. Conservatives have been successful in linking liberalism with Big Government, a deceitful spin regularly regurgitated by the news media, but the proponents of Big Government on the left aren't liberals at all... No, let me put that differently. Conservatives have essentially made liberals out to look like socialists. Which they're (we're) not. American liberals do not advocate Big Government to the point where industries are nationalized, the economy is centrally planned, and tax rates are set so high as to enforce radical economic egalitarianism. Liberals advocate Big Government only insofar as to rectify basic social injustice and to alleviate the plight of the truly disadvantaged. And they do not advocate Big Government to the point where civil rights and privacy are threatened.

    On the right, Small Government conservatives have been overpowered on the right by Big Government social conservatives who now form the Republican base and who have proven to be rather influential of late. And they've also been overtaken by corporate Big Government conservatives of the kind favoured by the current administration. Liberals may find common ground with conservatives who object to government intrusion into the private lives of citizens, but they (we) certainly do not find much common ground with conservatives who wish to regulate what consenting adults do in their bedrooms (or any other rooms) or with conservatives who wish to use government as a conduit of money and access to corporate interests. These social and corporate conservatives are Bush conservatives. Liberals and genuine Small Government conservatives can find common ground in opposition to Bush.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 3:04 PM  

  • Michael S. you wrote:
    "Liberals advocate Big Government only insofar as to rectify basic social injustice and to alleviate the plight of the truly disadvantaged. And they do not advocate Big Government to the point where civil rights and privacy are threatened."

    I always wonder when liberalism started to mean "moderate labor" or just "labor" in the U.S. I am a Dutch liberal, and the word means something quite different here. At least, in some regards. Liberalism, in essence, means - here at least since it kept its traditional meaning here - as less government as possible. Liberalism, here, means free market. Liberalism, here, means small government in every area. "Social injustice" is something liberals traditionally subscribe to... too much government intrusion, not to too little.

    Some liberals are willing to accept a somewhat bigger government, but they are more like 'moderate liberals' or something similar.

    A thing that one should never forget, is that there is government intrusion in 'rights' and in money. In essence, it is a privilige from the government to be able to take a share of what a person earns, to use for certain things. But, taxes as such, are always an intrusion (and thus, should be very, very limited). At least, that's how European liberals tend to look at them.

    I wonder what your thoughts on this are?

    Anyway, back to the subject at hand: it seems to me that, indeed, it's not just liberals and libertarians who can agree on certain matters... isn't it also the conservative position to protect individuals' rights?

    The point is... it's only the far right who persues certain things and who, sadly, seem to be able to push certain legislation through.

    The minority limits the freedom of the majority...

    Now that's ironic.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:27 PM  

  • To those who say "driving is a privilege" I say "The the bill of rights are still my rights". Although the government tries to get around it by stating that something is a privilege or that it is a civil matter, I do not believe that you should ever be required or even asked to give up your constitutional rights just to gain a "privilege".

    In Texas, when you sign your driver's license, it states that by signing you are aggreeing that you will give up your rights in order to have access to the nation's highways (or at least that is what is implied in the statement).

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:58 AM  

  • Good points, Michael vdG. (For those who don't know, Michael is one of my fellow co-bloggers at The Moderate Voice.)

    I certainly agree that some conservatives protect individual rights, but the right (and not just the far right) has been taken over by a new breed of conservatism that is far less protective of such rights. Much of this has to do with 9/11 and what I see as the Republican Party's exploitation of fear (and its "us" and "them" worldview), but it's not just that. Social and corporate conservatism are both extremely influential on the right now, and both have been given prominence under Bush.

    I would agree with you about the meanings of "liberal" and "liberalism". Certainly liberalism in its classical sense is associated with free-market capitalism, and that's still how it's understood throughout much of Europe. Think of the Manchester liberals of 19th-century England. The Whigs were the liberals, not the Tories.

    It's possible, of course, that old-fashioned liberals would now find themselves on the right, especially in Europe, where the left has traditionally been more socialist than liberal. And in the U.S. liberalism has come to mean capitalism tempered by the social welfare. Which is why, I suppose, the free-market capitalism of the right is often referred to as neo-liberalism.

    It's all quite semantic, of course. I suppose my point is that American liberals at least do not deserve their reputation, spun by the right, as proponents of Big Government. Liberals are not anti-government, and acknowledge that taxation is a necessary evil, but they're not European-style socialists.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 4:49 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home