Chad Perrin: SOB

2 October 2006

Is the dream over?

Filed under: Liberty — apotheon @ 02:30

If you’re a regular reader of SOB, you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been updating often. There are several reasons for this. Some are worth mentioning — some are not. One reason is, simply, that the things most worth chronicling in the last week or so are utterly depressing to contemplate.

Political philosophy and ethics are subjects of great interest to me. In part, they are interesting to me because of their importance: there is little in life as important as figuring out how to recognize the right thing to do and how to go about doing it. They are also interesting to me because of the simple fact that I enjoy analytical thinking, logical reasoning, examining fundamental principles, and all the rest of the minutiae of complex systems (such as sociopolitical systems).

On the other hand, I find that politics in practice is a subject that depresses me to consider and discuss. The realities of how political philosophy and ethics are applied (or not) in the material world are enough to make a cynic, if not an outright defeatist, out of anyone who’s paying attention. I don’t much like the direction of my thoughts when considering such subjects. I don’t like the apparent inevitability of bad outcomes, and I’m wearied by the constantly uphill battle of trying to alter those trends.

Ultimately, the only way to arrest the downhill trend of politics in this world is to open the eyes of enough people to get something done, and to give them enough of a kick in the ass to get them doing it. Technically, it’s still possible to fix things legally and nonviolently. We’re not yet to the point where a second American Revolution is literally required to cure the illness that eats at the heart of the dream of liberty that created the United States of America. Technically.

Realistically speaking, one must realize that “technically” doesn’t mean jack. It will always be technically possible, as long as there are still people with the ability (if not the motivation) to think for themselves. In practical terms, it’s difficult to nail down the point when the probabilities have shifted from a reasonable chance at rehabilitation to an unreasonable necessity for armed resistance. How do we know?

Some time ago, I started thinking about this seriously. Years ago, not last week or last month. I started thinking about this during the Clinton administration, thanks to a few laws that were passed during that time. I eventually came to the conclusion that there are a few events that are early indicators that the “end days” of liberty in this country are upon us. If any one of these things happen, it’s no longer safe to be an openly liberty-loving individual in this country, and we must start working in earnest as we never have before to reverse the trend toward curtailment of rights and liberties. If what work you can best provide can only be accomplished from outside the US once such an event has come to pass, you should move. The situation will have reached a point where many of us must make a decision between attempting to rehabilitate the system from outside of it or, more dangerously, run the risk of serving as an example to others of how bad things have gotten.

If all of them occur, your options (if you honestly support liberty at all) are to leave or engage in armed resistance. Period.

Here are the events that have come to mind in contemplating the problem, in an order that might be significant if you’re familiar with the founding documents of the United States of America but, otherwise, is not particularly important:

  1. Peaceful dissent is, in whole or in part, substantively outlawed. This relates to expressing views, gathering with like-minded individuals in public or private to discuss views and future actions in pursuit of those views, unimpeded distribution of those views and any factual information that might inform such views, adoption and practice of philosophical or pragmatic belief systems, and availability of a means of subjecting governmental actions to public review and binding arbitration.
  2. The public is disarmed. When all else fails, when help is not forthcoming with alacrity — when governmental authorities are not enough to ensure one’s individual and immediate security or, worse yet, are threats to that security themselves — one’s right to the means of self defense is most clearly and urgently revealed and demonstrated. Depriving the populace of its means for self defense is a concrete step toward the removal of the final means of resisting tyranny. The words molon labe come to mind.
  3. The sovereignty of private property is directly violated via legal institution for the purpose of the expansion and solidifying of governmental power. This relates to the appropriation of private property for military and/or law enforcement purposes, first and foremost.
  4. The law directly supports violation of privacy and individual liberty. The ability for governmental officials to cull data from one’s private dealings via physical or electronic means, and to detain individuals or forcefully assume control of resources, without resort to judicial authority and presentation of evidence to support probable cause for such actions, defines this point.
  5. Compulsion of self-incrimination, harassment in violation of due process, or suspension of habeas corpus, is enabled by law. These violations include interrogation via violence or threat of violence, legal “double jeopardy”, and the contravention of the power of the courts to order a prisoner produced and his/her imprisonment justified.
  6. The assumption of innocence is reversed and/or the ability to dispute accusation is curtailed. Government should not have the power to violate one’s right to face accusers, dispute evidence brought in accusation, or deny access to public civilian judicial review in defense of one’s innocence, complete with reasonable resources and expertise to that end (meaning, among other things, a right to counsel and a trial by jury).

One might rightly want some help in sorting out what has and has not been accomplished, among the above proscribed acts. Here’s a quick rundown of some related information, of varying degrees of relevance:

  1. “free speech zones”
  2. the “assault weapon ban” (which has since ended, and is currently not at issue, thank goodness)
  3. Kelo v. New London
  4. USA PATRIOT Act
  5. Both houses of Congress have acted to substantially and effectively defang Habeas Corpus and rubber-stamp a somewhat “limited” range of torture for interrogation, at the behest of the Bush Administration.
  6. Again, see both the USA PATRIOT Act and the Bush Administration’s latest pet legislation in the last two links. These both apply to point six of the above list of dangers to liberty.

I don’t see that we’re necessarily to the point of armed resistance, yet. There’s still some wiggle room, especially since some of these events have yet to be challenged in court (though it’s getting increasingly difficult to justify waiting around for that to happen, since some of the legislation passed in the last ten years is tailor-made to provide a potential means of avoiding judicial review altogether). We’re definitely tending in that direction, however.

Because of the fact that the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights is the one that is most undervalued and most assiduously lobbied against by the general public, I’m frankly stunned that at present it is the one that seems most safe from governmental elimination. On the other hand, it may be the most difficult to eliminate — it may not be particularly within the realm of possibility without first effectively eliminating the First Amendment, which in turn would require doing something about that big bad Internet thingy. If you are paying any attention to recent legislation, however, you might notice baby steps toward accomplishing just that. While many may not remember it, the DMCA laid some solid groundwork for eliminating digital free expression during the Clinton Administration, too.

In a Smirking Chimp essay titled In Case I Disappear, William Rivers Pitt bemoans the effective (partial?) suspension of habeas corpus and expresses his concern over his potential vanishment. I’m sure he realizes, just as I do, how unlikely it is that he’ll be “disappeared” for anything he’s currently doing — frankly, I’m probably more susceptible to such treatment because of the fact that the words “armed” and “revolution” appear in the same sentence here — but the potential does exist. Regardless of how unlikely it may be, the very real possibility is in and of itself cause for significant concern. Take a good long look at the government you voted into office, and think about whether this is what you want.

Keep in mind that Republicans aren’t the only people who voted for this stuff, either. This isn’t an “us vs. Bush” situation. As long as you’re afraid to vote for anything but a lesser evil, and as long as you’re unwilling to let your so-called representatives in government know just how Wrong they are to treat your rights and liberties so lightly and dismissively, you are to blame as much as they are. When you choose a “lesser evil”, all you get is evil. Try voting for the greater good for a change.

If you, as a whole (not speaking to individuals here — the individuals know who they are, whether they’re willing to admit it or not), continue as you have for the last ten years into the next ten years, you’ll be as culpable as any “evil” you’ve elected, or supported as an alternative “evil”, when people start disappearing, when newspapers get nationalized, when the Internet loses its fangs, and so on. Anyone with a “Don’t blame me, I voted for Kerry!” bumper sticker on the back of his or her car is as much to blame as anyone still sporting a W sticker. Remember that this November, when you have the opportunity to throw the rotters out. Remember it when you’ve lodged a “protest vote” for a Democrat who, during his next term in office, signs off on some Republican-sponsored “anti-terrorism” bill that does more to punish the innocent than track down and capture the guilty.

If all six of the above qualifications for an effectively unsalvageable government are met in your lifetime, I hope you remember how you voted this November — and I hope you remember it with pride, that you actually did something to oppose the bipartisan oligarchy that is the modern US government.

I’ll leave you with an excerpt from The Germans, by Milton Mayer. Read it and consider its relevance. We’re always told to learn the lessons of the past, to prevent tragedies in the future: now’s your chance, before the dream that fueled the American Revolution has ended.

17 Comments

  1. I was born in Germany when my father was stationed in Hof. My parents rented a place from some older Germans, who had been adults during WWII. Once my mother asked the Frau what had happened under Hitler. All she could say in reply, sobbing, was “We thought he was so good, we thought he was so good…”

    By easy degrees the frog is cooked alive.

    Comment by Sterling Camden — 2 October 2006 @ 05:11

  2. I have to agree with much/most of this.

    I do beleive, however, that the Second Amendment issue is potentially a red herring. The US military has enough heavy duty hardware to render moot armed citizens. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq, and many other places around the world, AK47s are not available in the US at the local market for $10, with out without an assualt weapons ban. And without a “critical mass” of armed, angry, violent citizens, mere assault rifles just do not cut it. When the police are able to call out anti-tank rockets, armored vehicles, and what-not, and there are a few hundred people running around with deer rifles, it just does not seem too likely that armed resistance goes too far.

    The worst part is, the entire mentality has permeated the whole culture and society. Look at homeowners associations. The local “home value Nazis” will fine you if your mailbox, grass length, car in your driveway, etc. do not meet their standards. All in the name of maintaining the value of their bloody McMansion. Personally, if I owned a house, I would want its value to be as low as possible to minimize my taxes! But maybe it is that kind of thinking that gets me into trouble. What is next, fining parents if their children get poor standardized tests scores, which makes the school district look bad, lowering their home values? Yet people treat bloody home value as an inalienable right. “You’re hurting the value of my home.”

    I don’t watch TV. I simply do not have the time, and if I had the time, I would still prefer other activities. People look at me like I have three arms when I tell them that while I own a TV (dinky $80 TV), it is only hooked up to an XBox (which I only have because I won a contest) and I use it to view DVDs and nothing else, about once every month or two. “What do you do with your time?” they cry out. Well, plenty. I go to bed pretty late and never lack of things to do. I go to my job. I do a lot of civic stuff. I write. I learn. Once a week I will play a video game for an hour or two on my computer. I get outside. I play with the cat. I have coffee with friends. I spend time cooking a healthy meal.

    People don’t mind that their rights are dissappearing, because they do not exercise them. I can’t engage in political talk because it is “rude” or “controversial.” Heaven forbid, when I discuss politics that I mention The Republic or Aristotle, those stuffy Greek guys. People think it is “odd” that I took the time and energy to get a dual BA in History & Philosophy, those “worthless” subjects, when I “should have been” taking what amounts to a four year, $60,000 vacational training course, like a degree in “Hotel and Restaurant Management.” To me, education is about theory, understanding, base knowledge… not a four year version of a three ring binder training book. But people do not want understanding, they want to know how to do a job, so they can earn money. It’s odd, but most of the really smart people I know with abstract or “pointless” degrees do fairly well for themselves financially, because a smart person with some hands on experience and a good education in “how to think” can do just about anything. This is why most programmers and system administrators and network engineers frankly suck at their jobs. They have no clue how to troubleshoot, problem solve, think critically, or do anything that is not a simple checklist. They are simple FIFO queues for instructions, and if there areno instructions or if the instructions are faulty, then get stuck.

    It is really sad.

    Am I cynical? Probably overly so. Is there hope? I have hope in that I beleive that there are few truly evil people, but many good people who do bad things. And there is always hope for a good person, once they learn for themselves (no one can teach them, they need to learn for themselves) that they are doing bad things.

    J.Ja

    Comment by Justin James — 2 October 2006 @ 07:14

  3. […] SOB: Scion Of Backronymics » Is the dream over? A warning to watch out for our liberties before it’s too late (tags: libertarianism liberty bush billofrights) […]

    Pingback by links for 2006-10-03 -- Chip’s Quips — 2 October 2006 @ 07:18

  4. I do beleive, however, that the Second Amendment issue is potentially a red herring. The US military has enough heavy duty hardware to render moot armed citizens.

    The Warsaw Ghetto uprising suggests that one needn’t have an equipment advantage to mount a credible resistance. The idea is that starting with small arms and the would-be oppressors having little expectation of resistance, you can increase the weapons at your disposal incrementally, moving up the chain until you’re capable of a more notable resistance. Capture their weapons, using what you capture to capture better weapons.

    Besides, all it takes to make it too expensive a proposition to impose and maintain that sort of oppression is for a nontrivial fraction of the populace to resist every time someone comes for them. Solzhenitsyn said that if every time the GPU came for someone, that person fought back, they’d have run out of GPU before they ran out of people they were trying to “arrest”.

    I agree with the rest of what you have to say and, if it weren’t for the SciFi channel (and the Tour de France once a year), I probably wouldn’t use the TV for anything but DVDs either. I’ll finish with my definition of a cynic:

    cynic (n.): an optimist who learns from life experience

    Comment by apotheon — 2 October 2006 @ 07:50

  5. This whole entry is rather interesting to me. As an arab, I’m intimately familiar with the tired old debate between the Muslim conservatives and the secularists. It seems to be much of the same battle for liberty at it’s core; those of us who are pushing for the increasing secularisation of Arab states tend to idolize the west’s legal tolerance for things like homosexuality and other behaviors that are seen as unsociable under Islam, especially the legal protections for those who choose to directly critisize the government.

    Yet on this side of the fence, an entry about the looming neccesity of armed revolution to restore lost liberty. I’m not sure if this means if the east is even more hopelessly lost than I thought, or that your standards are unattainable, but I do know that if the east got to having half the same freedoms America enjoys within my lifetime I’d consider the progressive movement a sucess beyond my wildest dreams.

    I do live in America by the way. I didn’t choose to emigrate to here, having my family make that choice for me when I was young, but given what I know know I’d have done it myself at the soonest possibility. And lest someone take my earlier comment seriously, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the standard you’ve set here. The better things are, the higher the standard becomes, and that’s exactly how I think it should be.

    Comment by Mina — 2 October 2006 @ 11:35

  6. I agree with your conclusions, Mina, and appreciate your expression of them. Perhaps moreso, though, I appreciate the addition of some perspective on the situation that comes from outside most of my experience (what little time I’ve spent in the middle east, I didn’t really interact with the culture at all). It’s interesting to think of the problems of liberty here in terms of how they contrast with the problems in the middle east, in Arab nations dominated by an Islamic culture (as opposed to being dominated by the liberal Western traditions, where “liberal” is used in the classic, non-Democrat sense).

    One difference that strikes me is that, in the aggregate, the middle east is moving toward greater liberty while the west (meaning mostly North America and Western Europe) is moving toward less liberty at present — though, of course, in specific cases that can vary quite a bit. The secularists and (classical) liberals in the middle east are adamantly dedicated to increasing liberty, while the general populace here in the US is content to let the nanny state make all its decisions for it, having grown too trusting after two hundred years or so of relative freedom from oppression. We’re about to the point where we have to pay for our complacency, as the increasing centralization of power is overcoming the increasing tolerance of individual differences.

    Comment by apotheon — 2 October 2006 @ 11:58

  7. I’m not sure the movements are too different. It seems to me they’re both approaching a middle point from different extremes; on the whole, progressive orginizations in the middle east tend not to have an economic policy, however amoung the ones that do, they tend to be overwhelmingly socialist. This is in no small part due to the perception that capitalism is responsible for America’s meddling in middle eastern affairs, the old belief that capitalism gives rise to imperialism rearing it’s head again.

    Also, atheists are still a tiny minority within the progressive movements, and even progressive muslims don’t take too kindly to the “consumer culture” (not my term, and damned if I know how to define it) that exists within the US. Essentially they have the same complaints we have in the US; things like unrealistic beauty ideals in the media, sex imbedded in everything, fast food and so on tend to also get lumped in as an unavoidable consequence of capitalism. Some religious concepts also carry naturally into socialism; helping the poor turns into popular support for welfare, for example.

    Given all of that I’d say the middle east is much more likely to turn out like Europe, which seems to be where America is headed as well. I don’t know too much about economics, but I do lean towards the free market when contemplating individual policies

    Comment by Mina — 3 October 2006 @ 01:32

  8. Umm, I accidently hit post before I was done. I meant to hit preview, and was going to erase the last paragraph since it occured to me that I really don’t know where America is headed. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that European style socialism is where the left in America wants to go.

    Regardless, I don’t see much free market support in the middle east, but then again I’m not the most knowledgable either. I tend to be something of a pariah when I espose the merits of the free market, but I guess that’s no different than US politics really. The nanny state exists everywhere, I’m afraid. I’ve pondered this as I was reading through your entry, and I wonder, if America got to that stage in my lifetime, where else is there to move to?

    Comment by Mina — 3 October 2006 @ 01:40

  9. With a little more global warming, there will be some nice waterfront property available in Antarctica soon.

    Comment by Sterling Camden — 4 October 2006 @ 12:06

  10. I’ve been thinking about where there is to move for literally years. I haven’t come up with anything yet. New Zealand has its positive points, but also its negatives: it looks like a net loss just because of the expense and effort of moving. Switzerland is getting to be an ever-more dubious proposition with the passage of every year, thanks largely (I think) to the influence of the EU. Germany is already what the US is quickly becoming. England, Canada, and Australia — well, anyone paying attention already knows the problems with those three.

    There’s basically nowhere left on Earth that’s “free enough”, with the exception of some undeveloped wilderness. If a bunch of freedom-loving individuals packed up their guns and moved to such a place, it’s likely they’d die — if not due to harsh weather and other natural dangers (like at Antarctica or, say, the Moon), then when various national governments decided it was a terrorist training camp and sent military force.

    As much as it sucks, it looks like my favorite option is to stick it out here until the government actually comes for me with men in dark glasses and ill-fitting suits.

    Comment by apotheon — 4 October 2006 @ 12:31

  11. Chad: very thoughtful post, then profound comments. I am glad you are maintaining this site. I love to read it.

    Will you one day consider the Free State Project? I plan to be there within 10 plus or minus 5 years, assuming I don’t hate the place after I visit…

    Comment by Justin M. Keyes — 14 October 2006 @ 08:27

  12. I’m always considering the Free State Project, but so far I haven’t felt a need/desire to actually commit (even to myself) to the idea of being directly involved. Maybe some day.

    Thanks for the kind words and the comment. I’m glad people take the time to offer thoughtful, and thought provoking, commentary — which also of course implies that they’re reading and thinking about what I have to say.

    Comment by apotheon — 15 October 2006 @ 12:58

  13. Justin + Apotheon: I encourage you to visit NH asap. We’re doing great things, and it’s a fun time all the time. The battle for liberty is happening, and NH is the place to be, whether you like political action or apolitical actions.

    Come visit us during the LibertyForum (Feb 2007), or during PorcFest (June 2007) and you’ll meet plenty of folks as well as find out everything going on here… you’ll be chomping at the bit to move here then.

    Comment by Seth — 22 October 2006 @ 03:43

  14. Taking random trips to various parts of the country isn’t really feasible for me right now, but NH is on my short list of places I’d like to visit once I have the resources (including time) to do so again.

    As time progresses, it looks like my financial situation is becoming less and less tied to any given geographic location — which is to say it is more and more independent of any given location for a “home”. The only ties keeping me from hoofing it out to NH beyond that are probably going to be mostly social in nature. Depending on how things work out in the near future, I may find myself in the position of deciding whether I want to move somewhere else just for the sake of moving somewhere else. It’d take a pretty extraordinary place to tempt me, though, since I’ve never lived anywhere I like more than where I am now. Only some of the politics of the area bothers me, really.

    I’ll keep those 2007 dates in mind as I look to the future, as possible times to make a trip to NH. Thanks for the comment, Seth.

    Comment by apotheon — 22 October 2006 @ 04:19

  15. […] Apotheon. (2006, October 2). Posting in SOB: Scion of backronymic. Retrieved October 11, 2006 from http://sob.apotheon.org/?p=147Says the Warsaw Ghetto uprising is an example of how the weak can defeat the strong: the strong find it too expensive in manpower to defeat them, the weak take advantage of the strong’s underestimation, and can take over the strong’s weaponry.  Found through http://www.bloglines.com.  […]

    Pingback by Daniel Bowers » Blog Archive » 11-29 2 WP #2 with possible revisions — 28 November 2006 @ 04:41

  16. […] Apotheon. (2006, October 2). Posting in SOB: Scion of backronymic. Retrieved October 11, 2006 from http://sob.apotheon.org/?p=147 […]

    Pingback by Daniel Bowers » Blog Archive » 10-11 2 AB x3 — 8 December 2006 @ 10:06

  17. […] Apotheon. (2006, October 2). Posting in SOB: Scion of backronymic. Retrieved October 11, 2006 from http://sob.apotheon.org/?p=147Says the Warsaw Ghetto uprising is an example of how the weak can defeat the strong: the strong find it too expensive in manpower to defeat them, the weak take advantage of the strong’s underestimation, and can take over the strong’s weaponry.  Found through http://www.bloglines.com.  […]

    Pingback by Daniel Bowers » Blog Archive » 12-13 WP #2 with improvements I’d make — 13 December 2006 @ 06:50

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

All original content Copyright Chad Perrin: Distributed under the terms of the Open Works License