What lies at the core of this mindset is desperate pursuit of a total illusion: Absolute Safety. People like William Galston believe that every time there is a violent or tragic act, it means that the Government should have done something -- or should have had more powers -- in order to stop it. But that is the reasoning process of a child. Even if we were to create an absolute Police State -- the most extreme Police State we could conjure -- acts like the Arizona shooting would still happen. There are more than 300 million people in the U.S. and, inevitably, some of them are going to do very bad and very violent things. Thus has it always been and always will be. The mere existence of bad events is not evidence that the Government needs to be more empowered and liberties further restricted. Just as there are serious costs to things like the Arizona shootings, there are serious costs to enacting the kinds of repressive systems Galston envisions, yet people like him never weigh those costs.Glenn is far more measured and articulate in his writing than I could ever hope to be. I think he hits the nail squarely on the head with this article.
Having people do bad things is the price we pay for freedom. There is a cost to all liberty. Having to hear upsetting or toxic views is the price we pay for free speech; having propaganada spewed by large media outlets is the price we pay for a free press; and having some horrible, dangerous criminals go free is the price we pay for banning the Police from searching our homes without a warrant (the Fourth Amendment) and mandating due process before people can be imprisoned (the Fifth Amendment). The whole American political system is predicated on the idea that we are unwilling to accept large-scale abridgments of freedom in the name of safety, and that Absolute Safety is a dangerous illusion. There is a new report today that a police officer in Tuscon stopped Jared Loughner's car for speeding shortly before his rampage, but was unable to search his car because he lacked probable cause to do so. Obviously, that's regrettable -- if you're a family member of one of his victims, it's horrifying -- but the alternative (allowing Police the power to search whomever they want without cause) is worse: that's the judgment we made in the Bill of Rights.
13 January 2011
The cost of liberty
From Glenn Greenwald yesterday: