The Evil of Prior Restraint
Tibor R. Machan
NSA’s excuse for snooping on innocent citizens — namely, that it can prevent serious harm to us, might even save lives — is spurious. If you incarcerated us all, that, too, might do all that.
Free men and women are, of course, capable of violence, even murder, but unless it is proven that they are embarking on these, unless the burden of proof is fully met, they must be left free. The job of protecting the citizenry must be carried out without violating their rights. That is the spirit behind constitutional government, especially the American Bill of Rights.
If and when one signs up to work in the security professions, one must adhere to strict standards and do one’s job without violating them. One must cope with the limits and not run rampant unrestrained. (It is a bit like medical research and experimentation–it is all very important but doesn’t justify ignoring the basic rights of patients or subjects!)
That our government officials fail to grasp all this is truly a disaster. When they refuse to act within the limits posed by our individual rights, they are a far greater danger than terrorism! Indeed, they become like terrorists, making use of arbitrary means to reach their goals! Nothing excuses it!
The oath of office of all security professionals includes a commitment to act without doing violence of the rights of the citizenry, including to their right to privacy and due process.
Thank you Scientists and Technologists
Tibor R. Machan
There is so much that scientists have discovered that makes our lives rich and rewarding that it may seem pointless to call attention to it all. But I am very fond of the saying, “Notice the good and praise it,” over and over again.
Of course, what science and technology bring forth can be of immense significance, in medicine, transportation, agriculture and so forth. But there are the trivial pursuits that are enhanced by it as well. For me the delete button on my Mac, the mute button on my TV, the screening I can do on my phone now as well as many other minor benefits make a lot of difference.
For example, as an avid tennis fan, I watch most of the major tournaments, such as the French Open, the US Open, Wimbledon, etc. But I detest it when audiences make pointless noise. Certain players have fans who insist on creating intolerable noise. In some cases they even bring noise producing instruments with which to make that racket.
Less annoying but still nice to avoid is when players, mostly the women, scream as they hit the ball or during their serves. Or when some commentators insist on yakking on endlessly, with their idiosyncratic observations and memories of previous tennis events in which I have no interest at all. I am very grateful to whoever invented the muting device and subtitles.
I used to own a P-1800 Volvo sedan. I had it for over twenty years. I liked it a lot and now and then I would express my thanks to the engineers who designed it. These days I do something similar to my computer, my stereo system, TV and so forth.
So let this be a short tip of the hat to all those folks who work on ways to make life better for us all.
Barbaric Conduct in London
Tibor R. Machan
The apparent murderer in London declared on a video that “The only reasons we killed this man … is because Muslims are dying daily,” he said in video aired by CNN affiliate ITN.
Of course, this is a dodge, once again: “we” didn’t kill this man. The guy with the bloody hands and cleaver did that. And there was every reason to think this was barbaric: no trial, no evidence, no due process, no defense mounted, nothing. It is in the jungle where matters are handled like they were in London this time. That others carry on comparably is no excuse.
The mere fact that the apparent killer–and he admitted to being the one–spoke reasonably clear English doesn’t make this any less barbaric. After all, many vicious murderers are well enough educated. Nor is it any excuse that “Muslims are dying daily.” People are dying daily everywhere but none of that justifies going out and butchering other people.
And please don’t give me that ridiculous excuse of “blow-back.” That metaphor is absurd. We aren’t talking about the weather! We are witnessing an out of control young man lash out in a most uncivilized fashion.There is no excuse for that. If you cannot bring those you are charging with murder to justice, you need to stand down, not go crazy with a cleaver. You need to insist on handling the situation in accordance with principles of justice. Oh, I guess this was wild justice. But that’s no justice at all unless nothing else is possible. But in London if you know of a crime and work hard to bring a culprit to justice, it may take some time and patience but that what amounts to being civilized. (Just consider how long many who are accused of a crime linger in prison or jail!)
Moral Bias at The New York Times
Tibor R. Machan
The headline said it all: “Confusion and Staff Troubles Rife at I.R.S. Office in Ohio.” No mention of mendacity, of evil, of meanness, of vice, Nada.
For liberals their own pals are never morally amiss. They may make mistakes, be confused and have troubles. But guilty of malpractice never! Only Republicans and others who do not share their own attitudes can possibly be morally, ethically defective. When a Republican votes for reducing increases in welfare budgets or subsidies or other support for what liberals consider right and proper, the problem lies with their moral fiber, their lack of decency and good will. Not so with anything that liberals mismanage–that can only be due to some kind of technical malfeasance–”confusion and staff troubles.”
How do these folks manage, intellectually, to dodge the moral and ethical ire they are so eager to dish out at their opponents?
In liberal circles what is prominent when matters go awry is to give some kind of explanation–poverty, illness, ignorance, the bad influence of culture or the movies or whatever. Liberals must–yes, must–always be basically good, Their intentions are unfailingly impeccable. They always mean well. Accordingly, since it is the thought that counts, they are always innocent. Hope, audacious hope, is what makes one a good person, never mind how botched up one’s actions and even beliefs turn out to be, never mind what actually is accomplished with one’s preferred policies!
There is a prominent moral philosophical doctrine that this line of thinking follows. Immanuel Kant, the very famous and influential 18th century German philosopher, believed that human beings can only be morally good, praiseworthy, based on their intentions. It is their thought that makes them decent or indecent, not their actions or conduct. What they actually do is irrelevant to whether they are good or bad folks because, and here is the essence of the doctrine, there is ultimately no choice there; we must do what we do. Free will for Kant has nothing to do with choosing our actions, only with choosing our thoughts. The mind is free, in this minimal way, but it has no practical impact on human action. The world moves in accordance with deterministic laws, of physics, chemistry, astronomy, etc., etc. We cannot change anything apart from what we think. So we can only be credited for good thoughts, good intentions, of which liberals, of course, have plenty.
The story is rather complex but this is the gist of it. This, mainly, is why The New York Times cannot even fathom liberals being morally guilty of anything. They always intend the best, never mind that they pay very little attention to the likely outcome. In the end, outcomes just happen and we have nothing to do with them.
The IRS folks, for example, just did their jobs and the fact that those jobs contained the seeds of malpractice–given that selectivity is always involved in giving citizens exemptions and breaks and such–is irrelevant.
In contrast, Republicans and their ilk never think right. They are worried about costs and whether a policy works and such, all mundane matters that people of genuine good will never bother about. It is petty thinking, not the noble kind that liberals produce!
My “I told you so world.”
Tibor R. Machan
So all of us who have long concluded that big government–which is to say, government with wide, nearly unlimited scope of power over the population it is supposed to serve–is a menace, no better than a gang of embezzlers and extortionists, can shout out “I told you so.” From the time of the American Revolution it should have been crystal clear that trying to solve the problems of a society with what government has to offer, namely, brute force (more or less subtly applied) is a horribly bad idea. Yes, it was that even before but by then plenty of major interlocutors in political discourse knew it well. Sadly, the governmental habit was by then so ingrained in most populations around the globe that getting rid of the habit became nearly impossible.
My own special area of concern has been government regulation, that insidious practice of meddling with people’s lives on innumerable fronts, and I have been watching just how addicted some leaders and public philosophers are to the idea. So I read such publications as The Economist, Barron’s, Bloomberg Businessweek and the like almost religiously, perhaps because I am hoping against hope that the message that government regulations are nasty as all get out will in time sink in.
The most recent issue of The Economist has a special report on world banking and what jumped out at me when I finished reading it was the naivete of the final paragraph of the report: “Paradoxically, stricter regulation intended to tame banks that were thought too big to fail is leading to the creation of even bigger and more systemically important institutions.” (May 11, 2013, p. 18). The futility of trying to fix economic problems with government regulation has been pointed out long ago–I learned it back in the mid 1960s from University of Chicago economics genius, Sam Peltzman–just as has been the futility of big government intervention itself, but even the editors of the normally sensible magazine, The Economist can pen sentences like the one above, as if they were making some sort of novel observation! They should remember a famous quip attributed to Albert Einstein, namely, “Insanity [is] doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results..”
Guided by the idiocy of the likes of Paul Krugman, thousands who chime in on the topic still believe that using the government to fix things is a worthy notion. The institution may have some merit for purposes of guarding our basic rights, as Jefferson and the other signers thought, but beyond this there just is no excuse for trusting it with any tasks. (When I make mention of this to some liberal friends I often receive a list of state achievements such as the Hoover Dam, the TVA, etc. that allegedly would not get done if government were de-authorized; but all that commits the fallacy of the false alternative: we either have government intervention or nothing. How about developing non-government solutions and institutions to address the problems?)
We could extend this discussion, of course, to all the current fiascoes, with the IRS and the Department of State, etc., where the classical liberal teachings have gone unheeded. But I am sure readers can reach those conclusions on their own, at least here.