“Just Liberty” was written in 2010 and placed under lock and key.
There is no better time than now for some common sense. The fact is that we are a nation in some disarray. On the one hand, we are concerned that we may be subject to terrorist threats should we let our guard down. On the other hand, we are concerned that our liberties are eroding for the sake of safety, and that there is no end in sight but the police state. This balance between liberty and safety is the matter when it comes to politics. The Republicans are known as the military party, but the democratic spending is all defense spending of a social sort. In the end, it is the balance between this spending as a whole, together with our residual liberties, which makes our nation what it is.
The recent ‘Libertarian’ uprising is a reaction, first and foremost, to the fact that our liberties seem to have become just that: residual. That what matters in government is the control they have over our lives and not the protection of liberties at all. In this light, it is not surprising that the people are rallying behind the “Tea Party” movement. The promises that liberty can be restored, the promises that America can return to a golden age post-revolution.
But one cannot turn back the clock without also destroying the blueprints on all modern weaponry, including something as ordinary as the PC. Realizing this, a restoration to the days of the constitution is not feasible, since for one, it is not really what anyone wants. And should we like the comforts of technology, then we must also appreciate that the Constitution does not provide enough guidance on the matter of balancing liberties with security. What we can say is this: the fig leaf is on the ground. We have bitten from the apple for better or worse and we cannot go back. So we must consider the amendment of some of those liberties, to some degree. The romance of utter liberty has long been dead – for it was anarchy – but going back to the days of yore is not an option. If we are to be Libertarians, we must make compromises.
Our foremost compromise must be in the area of privacy. This sounds terrifying to some, but effectively, it is not as scary as one may think. First, one cannot cause much trouble these days unless one is using a digital device. As a result, we must make certain concessions. Namely, that our communications will be monitored. Second, one cannot have much influence unless one establishes a network; and this network is a subsequent threat to security. The result is that one must admit to surveillance in public. That is, public moments and discussions are public information.
People generally have a fear of being watched. It is innate. Should they realize that in their home they are being watched, or in public that they are being followed, this fear comes out regardless of their guilt as to a given matter. To some extent this fear is rational; on the one hand you may be watched or followed for malicious reasons – the questions regard who is doing the watching or following. We should all be quite a lot more comfortable should we know that the person doing the watching or following is also being watched or followed by a higher authority. But then the issue becomes abuses of that authority.
The potential for abuse is obvious. If the surveillance reveals strategic information then that strategy can be easily defeated or hedged, in most cases, in advance; leaving it less effective or not effective at all. And if this means that Libertarians are defeated by Republicans or Democrats as a result, then obviously this is an abuse of power. The same goes for business. The same for personal battles. As a result, to defend against such abuse, one has to amend the conditions of surveillance, such that it does not fall into the lap of interested parties – i.e. parties with an interest outside of keeping the peace. The best method for this is automated surveillance, i.e. surveillance which starts, and in almost all cases, ends with a computer.
The fundamental issue has always been the balance of liberty with protection, or better, safety. The protection need not always be in the form of military protection, it can at times be in the form of social welfare protection, which allows one the safety of income when they do not have work or the funds to deal with difficult disease, but how the balance is struck is always the issue. For the Republican, the balance is thus: enforce conservative values so that social welfare costs are minimal and strengthen our military to prevent outside disruptions. For the Democrats the balance is thus: strengthen our social welfare so that folks can live their civil liberties to the fullest and make friends with our world, so that they like us enough not to attack.
If you take either of these positions on their own, you will notice that they are frankly implausible. On the one hand, you can’t force people to live risk free lives and this is by-n-large what you would need for no welfare. On the other side, you cannot simply be friends with your neighbors, for you cannot simply allow yourself to be trampled on – as occasionally and unfortunately happens in this world. Of course, no one would ever take only positions on the right or the left, since they would get killed in a political forum by someone more towards the middle. Who is this person in the middle? They go by “Democrat” or “Republican” or “Independent”, but they are sometimes at heart the Libertarian.
The Libertarian does not play only on the left or only on the right. The Libertarian sees that the compromises of liberty can be addressed head on and not through the polar political dynamic. They do this by realizing that effectively the political space is not appropriately filled. What is missing is one who attaches foremost importance to liberty, but realizes that protection of all sorts are necessary and compromises need to be made in the sphere of taxation as well as civil liberty, and that they can be made and addressed directly, and at the same time.
What goes by “Libertarian” these days is puzzling. It is true that a rollback to the days of the constitution is appealing, but the issue is that you cannot have your cake and eat it too. If you want security, you must tax. This is true whether you are Republican or Democrat. Whether those taxes go to a social variety or whether they go to a military variety, you still need money to fund the projects. The Republican façade has always been that taxes should be minimized. But these tax breaks amount to kickbacks to the rich for favors of various sorts which amount to a means to a perceived social safety ends. The democrats deal with social matters in a more direct way, but they fail to appreciate the social costs involved in not enforcing conservative lifestyles, and that there are other protections that need to be addressed.