Creative Destruction

March 26, 2006

Republicans, Democrats and freedom

Filed under: Politics — bazzer @ 1:10 pm

As a small-l libertarian, I've never harbored the illusion that we could trust either major party to safeguard our individual freedoms. That being said, I've usually preferred Republicans to Democrats when push came to shove. I tolerated Republican positions on social issues in favor of their economic agenda. I thought it more likely that a Democrat would raise my taxes than that a Republican would criminalize abortion. Up until now, that formulation has served me well.

Recently, however, the Republican Party has been doing its damnedest to destroy its reputation as the party of fiscal responsibility. That, coupled with the pernicious influence of the religious right, has led me to do some soul searching of late. Perhaps it's no longer true that the Democrats are the more clear and present danger when it comes to individual liberties.

There's a lot of dire talk about the current administration and its supposed erosion of our rights via the PATRIOT Act, NSA wiretapping, or what have you. But how many of us in our day-to-day lives have actually experienced a direct abrogation of our personal freedoms?

I tried to take an inventory of my own experience during the first 5 years of Bush/Republican control, and I could find precious little difference between my life now and life under his predecessor. The principle difference, I suppose, is that I now keep a larger chunk of my earned income than I did under Clinton. The other difference is that when I go gun shopping (which I sometimes do) I am now free to choose from among a wider selection of cool firearms than I was when Bush was sworn in.

So call it a two-point Republican advantage so far, I guess. It ain't much, but it's something. On the other side of the coin, how am I more constrained by government power than I was five years ago? Honestly, I pretty much came up blank on this one. Am I missing something? Granted, I'll probably never again see Janet Jackson's hideous breast on network television, but then again, we never saw it when Clinton was in office either. Besides, I can always see boobies on cable.

So what's the conclusion? I'll admit the Republicans aren't giving me much to work with here. At the same time, it's far, far from obvious that I should view Democrats as our only hope for saving the Bill of Rights. No matter how disgusted I get with the Republicans (and lately that's been a lot) I can always count on the Democrats to remind me why I don't support them either. My most recent reality check has been our newly-minted governor's proposed two billion dollar tax increase in what is already one of the most highly taxed states in the union, because digging deeper into our wallets is much easier than tackling waste, fraud, corruption and special interests. What's even more telling has been listening to the chorus of New Jersey Democrats defending this atrocity and telling us we should shut up, stop whining, and pony up.

Thanks, guys. I needed a reminder for why I can't support your party.



  1. We need a movement to bring strict term limits to our legislatures.

    Senators and Representatives of the House shouldn’t be allowed more than one or two terms.

    Professional politicians are exactly what a democracy should seek to avoid.

    Comment by Adam Gurri — March 26, 2006 @ 8:02 pm | Reply

  2. You’ve answered the questions you pose accurately enough, but I fear you’re asking the wrong questions. Rights and personal liberties were thought by the founding fathers to be natural rights and self-evident. They were only added to the Constitution as the first 10 amendments, the Bill of Rights, on recognition that they weren’t so obvious after all. The Bill of Rights forced government to recognize rights that frankly weren’t its own to bestow in the first place.

    So you have no problem forfeiting rights you don’t exercise? Very big of you. I still want to keep mine. The current administration also sees nothing wrong with whittling away privacy and civil rights in favor of the illusion of security. It’s a bad exchange for all of us, whether you feel abridged or not.

    Comment by Brutus — March 27, 2006 @ 4:25 am | Reply

  3. Brutus, first of all, welcome aboard. 🙂

    Secondly, I refer you to the part of my post where I asked readers to point out anything I might have overlooked in the way of diminished civil liberties. I’ll now reiterate that request.

    So far, you have not provided any. Instead, you have merely asserted the erosion of our civil rights (as have many others) but have omitted any and all specifics (as have many others.)

    So again, if you can itemize specific personal freedoms that have been lost then please do so. I will amend my score and am prepared to be outraged. I remain open on this issue.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I see that I have to fix some HTML tags back in the original post. 🙂

    Comment by bazzer — March 27, 2006 @ 12:45 pm | Reply

  4. OK, if you want to force me to address your inappropriate questions, I’ll offer a crumb. You formerly had a blanket right to due process. Now you don’t. The govt can, without providing evidence, detain you indefinitely without charging you of anything. You don’t even have to be smeared with the sobriequet “terrorist.” You can be snatched, shipped to Guantanamo, and forgotten about. It’s happened to lot of people — many without provocation or reason. The fact that it hasn’t yet happened to you doesn’t mean you retain the right to due process. It’s gone, baby.

    Comment by Brutus — March 27, 2006 @ 3:45 pm | Reply

  5. There’s nothing “inappropriate” about my question, Brutus. Still, you’ve brought up a good point. It’s completely outrageous to detain a U.S. citizen indefinitely without charging him with a crime and without benefit of counsel.

    Nonetheless, I think “It’s gone, baby” is a bit premature, since the case of Jose Padilla (the test case here) has yet to be heard by the Supreme Court. Moreover, Padilla has (belatedly) been indicted and remanded to the criminal justice system, perhaps because the administration feared a defeat in the federal courts.

    Comment by bazzer — March 27, 2006 @ 4:42 pm | Reply

  6. Comment by bazzer — March 28, 2006 @ 11:56 pm | Reply

  7. Bazzer says what? SAYS WHAT???

    Pardon me.

    I agree that this administration has demonstrated a lack of skill when it comes to addressing the difficult tension between security and personal liberties–none the less, I think that it is the tension, and not either one, that should be the center of any discussion.

    I am unwilling to clamp on the side of unrestricted personal liberties in all cases and just in principle, just as I am unwilling to accept the crossing of certain lines in order to maintain security.

    It’s about where to put that line–and I don’t think that it is at all straightforward, nor do I believe it’s particularly been trampled to the extent that you seem to be saying it has been, Brutus.

    Comment by Adam Gurri — March 29, 2006 @ 2:30 am | Reply

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