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Situational libertarianism

Discussion in 'Legal' started by Mr. James, Aug 12, 2005.

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  1. Mr. James

    Mr. James Member

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    Not quite sure what to make of this one...


    Charles Krauthammer
    August 12, 2005


    WASHINGTON -- In 1977, when a bunch of neo-Nazis decided to march through Skokie, a suburb of Chicago heavily populated with Holocaust survivors, there was controversy as to whether they should be allowed. I thought they should. Why? Because neo-Nazis are utterly powerless.

    Had they not been -- had they been a party on the rise, as in late-1920s Germany -- I would have been for not only banning the march, but for practically every measure of harassment and persecution from deportation to imprisonment. A tolerant society has an obligation to be tolerant. Except to those so intolerant that they themselves would abolish tolerance.

    Call it situational libertarianism: Liberties should be as unlimited as possible -- unless and until there arises a real threat to the open society. Neo-Nazis are pathetic losers. Why curtail civil liberties to stop them? But when a real threat -- such as jihadism -- arises, a liberal democratic society must deploy every resource, including the repressive powers of the state, to deter and defeat those who would abolish liberal democracy.

    Civil libertarians go crazy when you make this argument. Beware the slippery slope, they warn. You start with a snoop in a library, and you end up with Big Brother in your living room.

    The problem with this argument is that it is refuted by American history. There is no slippery slope, only a shifting line between liberty and security that responds to existential threats.

    During the Civil War, Lincoln went so far as to suspend habeas corpus. When the war ended, America returned to its previous openness. During World War II, Roosevelt interned an entire ethnic group. His policies were soon rescinded (later apologized for) and shortly afterward America embarked on a period of unprecedented expansion of civil rights. Similarly, the Vietnam-era abuses of presidential power were later exposed and undone by Congress.

    Our history is clear. We have not slid inexorably toward police power. We have fluctuated between more and less openness depending on need and threat. And after the 9/11 mass murders, America awoke to the need for a limited and temporary shrinkage of civil liberties to prevent more such atrocities.

    Britain is just now waking up, post-7/7. Well, at least its prime minister is. His dramatic announcement that Britain will curtail its pathological openness to those who would destroy it -- by outlawing the fostering of hatred and incitement of violence and expelling those engaged in such offenses -- was not universally welcomed.

    His own wife had made a speech a week after the second London bombings loftily warning against restricting civil liberties. ``It is all too easy to respond in a way that undermines commitment to our most deeply held values and convictions and cheapens our right to call ourselves a civilized nation,'' declared Cherie Blair. You need only read Tony Blair's 12-point program to appreciate how absurd was his wife's defense of Britain's pre-7/7 civil liberties status quo.

    For example, point 3: ``Anyone who has participated in terrorism, or has anything to do with it anywhere will be automatically refused asylum in our country.'' What sane country grants asylum to terrorists in the first place?

    Point 5, my favorite, declared ``unacceptable'' the remarkable fact that a man accused of the 1995 Paris metro bombing has successfully resisted extradition across the Channel for 10 years.

    Blair's proposals are progress, albeit from a very low baseline -- so low a baseline that the mere announcement of his intent to crack down had immediate effect. Within three days, the notorious Sheikh Omar Bakri, a Syrian-born cleric who has been openly preaching jihad for 19 years, skipped the country and absconded to Beirut.

    Not only had Bakri been allowed to run free the whole time, but he had collected more than 300,000 pounds in welfare, plus a 31,000-pound gift from the infidel taxpayers: a Ford Galaxy (because of a childhood leg injury).

    It took 52 dead for at least the prime minister to adopt situational libertarianism. Or as Blair put it, ``The rules of the game are changing,'' declaring his readiness, finally, to alter the status quo in the name of elementary self-defense.

    Before departing Britain, Bakri complained that it would be unfair to have him deported from the country he reviled: ``I have wives, children, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law. It would be hard on my family if I was deported.''

    Wives, no less. Point 10 of Blair's plan would establish a commission to try to get immigrants to adopt more of the local mores.

    ©2005 Washington Post Writers Group
     
  2. Zak Smith

    Zak Smith Moderator Emeritus

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    His argument begs its own question, and is not principle-based.

    A libertarian does not initiate violence. Krauthammer advocates doing so. He's a tyrant is different clothing.
     
  3. DirksterG30

    DirksterG30 Member

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    "Our history is clear. We have not slid inexorably toward police power. We have fluctuated between more and less openness depending on need and threat. And after the 9/11 mass murders, America awoke to the need for a limited and temporary shrinkage of civil liberties to prevent more such atrocities." - This is what troubles me about Krauthammer's editorial. Just because we regained lost freedoms in the past doesn't mean we will this time. Government's nature is to grow and consolidate more power, and is loathe to give up that power.

    I usually agree with Krauthammer, but I think he missed the boat on this one (his views on the 2nd Amendment aren't too hot either.)
     
  4. XLMiguel

    XLMiguel Member

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    Interesting. It seems the Brits are starting to discover the downside of 'multiculturalism'. It remains to be seen if they will actually do something about it.
     
  5. Henry Bowman

    Henry Bowman Senior Member

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    History, however, shows that the line has gradually shifted in only one direction. A longer look at history shows that the shifts back usually happen more quickly and are associated with (usually violent) revolt or collapse.
     
  6. Rebar

    Rebar member

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    His point, that we should be tolerant only to the point where further tolerance will destroy us, is a point worth discussing.
     
  7. R.H. Lee

    R.H. Lee Member

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    Right. Libertarians and liberals both need to learn how to put common sense ahead of ideology.
     
  8. grampster
    • Contributing Member

    grampster Member

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    I agree with Rebar's comment. Those who wrap themselves in American freedom and tolerance and have the power to destroy and have shown the will to do so should be thrown under a jail. Freedom of speech only goes so far; that is an American principal. When it has graduated to the point being able to bring down our way of life, I draw the line.
     
  9. rock jock

    rock jock Member

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    All in all, an excellent article. I agree with the premise, that extreme situations demand an extreme response. I would also say that some of the so-called liberties that the Brits are proposing to restrict are debatable as to whether they fall within the context of "rights." Free speech, IMO, was never designed to allow the kind of jihad message that the Islamofacists are preaching. I certainly don't believe that it falls within the definition of free speech as envisioned by our own Founding Fathers.

    I disagree, and the author points out some very real examples of why this has not been the case in the U.S. Perhaps the most striking example regarding firearms in recent history has been the explosion of states with "shall-issue" laws. Twenty years ago it was unthinkable to legally carry a gun in Texas w/o knowing the local fatcat politicos. Today it is commonplace.
     
  10. Chris Rhines

    Chris Rhines Member

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    Zak Smith said all that need be said on this subject - although he was nicer than I would have been.

    If you're going to abandon your principles when the going gets tough, then why bother having principles at all?

    - Chris
     
  11. R.H. Lee

    R.H. Lee Member

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    Why do you libertarians even bother carrying firearms? Don't your 'principles' preclude their preemptive use in self defense? :rolleyes:
     
  12. KriegHund

    KriegHund Member

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    Uh huh. Sure.

    That thinking is a major step towards losing all your libertys. Similar to gun registration, really.

    "Temporarly shrink" them enough, and soon it wont be so temporary- new 'threats' wil always come about and the authorities will demand more "Temporary measures to insure your safety as a peas- er, citizen"
     
  13. Chris Rhines

    Chris Rhines Member

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    Sigh.

    As usual, Riley, you have no idea what you are talking about.

    - Chris
     
  14. Flyboy

    Flyboy Member

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    Yes. The Founding Fathers would never have argued that people needed needed to be executed to change a political system, and they certainly wouldn't have appealed to a Supreme Being--a Creator, if you will--for their moral authority.

    Nope, that doesn't sound like them at all.
     
  15. KriegHund

    KriegHund Member

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    Meh, many of us will always have double standards when it comes to "Rights"

    But, but, they message is wrong! Wrong i tell you! It MUST BE BANNED AT ALL COSTS! MY message is the right one!!!

    WHen it comes to rights (not privaleges) its all for all or none for none. Privalages are when its all for one and none for many, or all for many and none for one.
     
  16. Justin

    Justin Moderator Emeritus

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    I had no idea that Krauthammer was writing satire these days.
     
  17. Jeff

    Jeff Member

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    If we had leaders and judges whom we could trust with making the right decisions, that is, using fair and moral discretion and judgment, then we all might not be so worried to compromise an absolute principle here or there, in the name of "common sense."

    But we don't have leaders and judges we can trust-- how much more evidence do people need-- but instead have a bunch of corrupt, immoral, and greedy tyrants we call Democrats and Republicans.
     
  18. Art Eatman

    Art Eatman Administrator Staff Member

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    I see lots of argument favoring continuation of rights and not allowing any abrogation thereof. Fine. What I don't see is any sort of alternative solution insofar as stopping the preaching of jihad, stopping the swaying of minds which creates "disciples of death".

    When clever people use Rights as a shield during their efforts to destroy us, what, then, should we do?

    Art
     
  19. longeyes

    longeyes member

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    When did the Founding Fathers ever warn us against common sense??? They were practical men as well as idealists.

    You don't embosom those who wish your own destruction and the destruction of the enlightened principles on which your society rests.

    Not to grasp this obvious fact is the ne plus ultra of neurosis.
     
  20. Moondoggie

    Moondoggie Member

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    The Jihadists have demonstrated both a willingess and the ability to commit mass murder in our country, besides causing damage to our economy. They promise to repeat incidents of mass murder with the goal of imposing their extremist religious facism on the entire world, besides exercising control over the actions of western governments in the meantime.

    For the sake of discussion, let's substitute pacifism for libertarinism.....is anybody here who is an avowed pacifist really gonna just stand still and let an aggressor slap you to death??? After all, each blow is ONLY a slap in the chops...not worthy of violating your principles by striking back in defense. Where are you going to decide that if you just stand there and continue to take it you're gonna get slapped to death? 10th slap? 50th slap? Are you willing forfeit your life because you will not act to defend yourself? Consider that if you don't stop this attack, when he's done with you he's moving on to your wife, kids, neighbors. IMHO, that's the big picture.

    (BTW, I'm NOT inferring that libertarians are pacifists/cowards.)

    The Jihadists know that they are using our own principles against us.

    During WWII the Gov't imposed strict rationing of food, gasoline, tires, and most any consumer good that was considered "War Materials". As soon as the war ended, rationing disappeared. "Consumerism" grew by leaps and bounds in the postwar boom.

    I support specific actions to counter this threat, but I also believe that we must be vigilant to ensure that when the threat eases, the counter measures also abate.

    If we keep the gloves on, these bums are gonna clean our clock!
     
  21. MechAg94

    MechAg94 Member

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    Jeff makes a good point. If we had someone we could trust to make the right decisions, we could make him King and that would solve all our problems. But, can you trust the next guy that comes along?

    Jihadists being investigated, watched, and arrested for advocating the death of others and planning the overthrow of our govt does not violate my free speach principles. If they were just peacefully advocating a religion, I can live with that. However, that is not what they are doing.
     
  22. Chris Rhines

    Chris Rhines Member

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    Sometimes I don't know whether to laugh or cry - so I'll do both.

    First, the generalities. Principles are beliefs that you simply don't violate, no matter what. If one of your principles is absolute non-violence, then yes, you let the aggressor slap you to death. If one of your principles is the rejection of private property, then you get to use that communal toothbrush. If you don't, then you are nothing but a worthless hypocrite.

    I've lately come to the conclusion that the vast majority of people have no principles beyond their own continued comfort.

    Second, the specifics. If you truly believe that state-sponsored Islamic terrorism presents a signifigant threat to secular western society, then you are living in a (rather dark and gloomy) fantasy world. There is not a single modern terrorist organization that has ever achieved its goals, and a handful of psychopathic jihadists are not going to change that record. It is silly to throw away your liberty in a futile attempt to prevent what is never going to happen anyway. It is downright evil to throw away MINE.

    Before we start talking about solutions, let's make sure that we understand the problem.

    - Chris
     
  23. artherd

    artherd member

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    Benjamin Franklin would have something to say about this guy.

    Look, if we have a truely free society, there WILL BE those who try to take advantage of it! PEOPLE WILL DIE! Get used to that, it's part of life.

    The idea being, a few people get killed but the rest of us are still free and alive.

    As opposed to say: we start hunting down all brown-skinned muslims, and you know what? Those pesky white people who gay-marry, and come to think of it, now while we're at it, anyone not of Ayrian descent and even those who harbor any 'undesireables'. And their famalies. It's really for the greater good and for 'security'.


    This guy advocates 'drawing a line' where tyranny meets tyrany in responce. I say there is a good fnicking reason we do not give our government permission to draw such a line as they please!!!
     
  24. Byron Quick

    Byron Quick Moderator In Memoriam

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    Depends. Personally, I believe that a law enforcement approach that involves abrogation of traditional rights and liberties is a danger to us all.

    On the other hand, I believe that the threat, over time, is greater than what Chris has stated.

    I believe that it is primarily a military and intelligence problem: identify the enemy's assets and when those assets are confirmed...initiate military action to destroy, not arrest, those people. Take surrender, if offered, but try to avoid the necessity. This will, of course, depend on a dramatic increase in our intelligence capabilities. Mainly human intelligence and more analysts. I know American citizens who are fluent in Middle Eastern languages who have volunteered and been ignored. I have a friend who's mother is Turkish and his father was Air Force. Born in Turkey. Raised and educated in the US and Turkey. Raised going to mosques and Christian churches. Raised speaking Turkish and English. Speaks Arabic fluently with a Turkish accent. The Army refused him enlistment due to orthopedic plates in his arm back in the nineties. Post 9/11 the Army took him. Granted him an age waiver for Special Forces. He successfully completed the training in 2003. He's still twiddling his thumbs in the USA. Major asset. Beyond acting as a language and cultural instructor...completely unused.
     
  25. Moondoggie

    Moondoggie Member

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    OK Chris & Artherd..here's what I percieve as flaws in your arguments:

    First of all, I never mentioned "State sponsored"...I'm more concerned about a grassroots radical movement that's fomented in Mosques and Medrassa's all over the Middle East. And, obviously, in Europe and America.

    Chris believes that state sponsored terrorism cannot achieve it's goals. The tactics of the Zionists in Israel circa 1948 were definately terrorist in nature. They succeded in driving out a first world military occupation force (The British). The PLO & Hamas have also employed such tactics to good effect..kindly note the present withdrawal of Israeli settlements from the occupied territories. As far as that goes, many of the tactics employed during our revolution against the British were considered "guerilla" tactics and would have been called terrorism if the lexicon of the time included the term. We would not have prevailed if we would have stood on line and fought the British volley for volley. Fighting for "Principles" that we now revere included any and all methods necessary to ensure victory. Including an alliance with France who was the hated enemy (French & Indian Wars anybody?) when we were still a part of Great Britain. Care to research the confiscation without renumeration of Tory properties...so much for the property rights of folks who didn't share the views of the founder's.

    Artherd's argument has a fatal flaw...when he talks about the idea being that a few get killed "but the rest of us are still free and alive" his syntax assumes that HE is one of the survivors, so it matters not that others suffer. A smidgen self-centered. A sheeple mentality of the first slippery slope order; as long as nothing happens to ME, I'm not willing to compromise MY freedoms to protect the group as a whole. No offense intended. I'm addressing your argument, not you personally.

    The world is not static. Principles and values must sometimes be modified to meet real challenges. For better or worse, we have elected representatives that we placed in authority to deal with our collective security. If we disagree with their actions there are avenues provided in our system of government to provide for their replacement. Our system of checks and balances will work for the benefit and preservation of the majority.

    Things that cannot adapt perish.
     
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