December 28, 2012

Gun Law Craziness: Or, why I am a libertarian and not a "civil libertarian"

Additional subtitle: Why Mark Steyn is the greatest living almost-but-not-quite-yet American:

To Howard Kurtz & Co., it’s “obvious” that Gregory didn’t intend to commit a crime. But, in a land choked with laws, “obviousness” is one of the first casualties — and “obviously” innocent citizens have their “obviously” well-intentioned actions criminalized every minute of the day. Not far away from David Gregory, across the Virginia border, eleven-year-old Skylar Capo made the mistake of rescuing a woodpecker from the jaws of a cat and nursing him back to health for a couple of days. For her pains, a federal Fish & Wildlife gauleiter accompanied by state troopers descended on her house, charged her with illegal transportation of a protected species, issued her a $535 fine, and made her cry. Why is it so “obvious” that David Gregory deserves to be treated more leniently than a sixth grader? Because he’s got a TV show and she hasn’t?
Steyn brings up a number of prescient points, but the one which stood out the most to me is one I brought up in the comments of a post put up by Howie earlier today (and later taken down by him, meaning only a few of you saw my comments). Namely, that the problem in the US isn't the way in which we enforce laws, it is that there are simply too many laws.

In this case the EFF fretting over a provision in the Patriot Act which gives FISA courts authority to issue wiretap warrants. That somehow if a different court issued the same warrant, then all would be fine. That is: that to fix this particular problem (or, not really a problem since they only offer "the potential for abuse" as justification for opposing a particular part of the bill -- so, the "potential problem") what we need are different procedures.

Groups like the EFF or the ACLU claim to be for liberty, but what they are really for isn't liberty at all: it's either procedural due process or "civil liberties" which are liberties connected to some democratic process or another. Hence, they aren't "libertarians" or "groups in support of liberty", they are "civil libertarians".

Which is why they might support David Gregory's "right" to show an illegal ammo clip on TV, but not your right to show one to your friends in the privacy of your own house. It's not because "free speech" or "media freedom" is important on their own, it's because these things are important to democracy.

David Gregory can (and should in their minds) get away with violating the law, because they view the media's role in democracy as more vital than, say, yours and mine.

It seems to me that liberty, to these people, is an instrumental value.

Liberty is something that is useful because it furthers another more lofty goal: democracy.

They've got it all wrong. Democracy is useful because it furthers liberty. Not the other way around.

Or, at least, it used to be.

These so-called "civil libertarians" want more and more laws to protect people from .... the state. Which is oxymoronic because the danger of state oppression is exactly proportionate to the number of laws which the state enforces.

You can never hope for more liberty and simultaneously build up the state's capacity to oppress.

I just got through watching Les Miserables with my mom (fine, you can have it. But I want my man card back come New Year!). One of the important points the protagonist, the redeemed ex-convict, points out is that he holds no grudge against the antagonist, the unredeemed police officer who relentlessly pursues him, because the police officer is merely doing his duty.

A libertarian believes that police ought to be given all the tools they need to do their duty. But they simply have too many duties!

A "civil libertarian" believes that police ought to have fewer tools to do their duty. Also that they should have more duties to do!

Which is why whenever I hear the word "civil libertarian" used by this or that leftist organization I cringe. These people care as much about liberty as I do about "social justice". Which is to say, not at all.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 10:06 PM | Comments |