Thursday, March 4, 2010

CNN Poll: 56% of Americans Recognize the Obvious

I thought about blogging this CNN story the other day when I read it, but obviously a lot of other important stuff has been happening instead...  Additionally, I don't really put any stock in public opinion polls because what people say can be easily led one way or another by the questions themselves, and as any first year marketing student probably knows; what people say and what they actually do are often widely divergent.  That said, CNN reports:
Fifty-six percent of people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Friday say they think the federal government's become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens. Forty-four percent of those polled disagree.
What is sort of irritating about this is that government is ALWAYS a threat to liberty.  Government is liberty's opposite.  Isn't this, by definition, completely self-evident?

What is government?  Not to be too ridiculously pedantic, but let's go to the dictionary, shall we?
  1. the political direction and control exercised over the actions of the members, citizens, or inhabitants of communities, societies, and states; direction of the affairs of a state, community, etc.; political administration: Government is necessary to the existence of civilized society.
  2. the form or system of rule by which a state, community, etc., is governed: monarchical government; episcopal government.
And liberty is, of course, the absence of control being exercised over individuals' actions.

It's really that simple. Intrinsically, government is against liberty.  They are oppositional concepts... Of course, many might argue that in some contexts, this is ok.  Government restricts some "liberties", such as the freedom of people to murder or brutalize each other.  True enough... In one sense, one might argue that once a law is made establishing that murder is not ok, and that top-down punishments will result if an attempt is made or carried out, then it is fair to say that liberty has been curtailed.

Yet, if the goal is maximizing liberty, then the first step to accomplishing that is protecting individual rights - one of the most important of which is naturally the right to life.  Essentially in this role, government's job is simply to play referee and make sure that no one is violating the rights of others through violence, theft, fraud, or murder.    Government is only one of several possible ways of protecting natural rights (which of course are not derived from government but are intrinsic and self-evident in all sentient beings who are able to assert them), but unfortunately it is historically actually probably the worst one I can think of.

Throughout history, governments have never limited their role to protecting liberty.

Instead they've typically just been a means of providing fancy titles and false-legitimacy to thugs and tyrants who's interest lies purely in controlling the bulk of the people under their charge for personal wealth and status.  If the goal is concentrated power, government is always the way to go.

George Washington said it best, I think:
"Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master."
To my mind, the government has overstepped its bounds the very second that it is no longer purely a protector of liberty and has moved into dictating the terms of people's lives.  This includes telling people what activities they can pursue, what kind of houses to build, where to live, how much they can or cannot accept as employees or how much employers can offer, what kinds of food they can eat, drugs they can take... The list is endless.  Basically anything the government is doing which restricts the voluntary activities of individuals is an affront to liberty.

The US government is REALLY far down that road already... So honestly, it's a shock to me that the CNN poll didn't result in 100% of people believe government is a threat to liberty.  That's exactly what it is by definition, and you have only to look around you occasionally to see the amount of freedom that is curtailed here.  It's not the land of the free or home of the brave in really any greater sense than Russia is in 2010!

In fact, when I was in Russia, the border guards and police pretty much did exactly what ours do...

More importantly, since every incentive is geared towards expansionist government, they tend to quickly begin curtailing people's freedom of choices on grounds that have nothing to do with keeping the barrier of equal liberties in place.  The US was a unique experiment in the history of government and our Bill of Rights was a truly monumentous step forward.  But it seems we're actively engaged in taking 10 steps back...  What's funny to me, though, is the partisan hackery that surrounds this kind of thing on CNN.

For example, in the comments, Pedro says:
"Funny that so many GOP respondents think the government is a threat given that it was the Bush administration that tried to do away with Habeas Corpus and had the military and NSA listening in on the phone conversations of American citizens without having to secure a warrant.

Yeah, I for one feel much safer with the government now.
Really Pedro?  Cause last I checked, the current President Obama has done every single thing on that list as well!

There's a ton of comments about how no one was complaining about this kind of stuff when Bush was president... But ya know what?  I sure was.  Most of my friends were.  Isn't having consistent principles and actually paying attention to the real policy awesome!?  No one should feel safer today than they did 2 years ago.  None of the policies have changed and many have gotten significantly worse.  What's more, in my opinion anyway, there is added danger precisely because so many people view President Obama as different than Bush.  The media now actively ignores the Iraq & Afghanistan quagmires, they ignore his lawyer's defenses of wiretapping, the lack of action on unlawfully detained prisoners held without trial, they ignore virtually everything except his political advocacy of horrendously bad domestic policy ideas.

Additionally, the economic situation - which make no mistake, was abysmal under President Bush - is actually worse in 2010 than it was in 2008!  The misallocated assets held by banks around the country have never been allowed to clear, the Fed has pumped trillions of dollars into the economy to keep a rapidly deflating bubble from fully collapsing as it needs to, and thousands of pages of new regulations are going to strangle American businesses - just as the 78,000 pages of legislation under Bush did before.

Oh, did I mention Obama just reauthorized the Patriot Act?

That's the crazy thing about government, though!  It almost never repeals the horrific laws of the past administrations, no matter how awful, and merely continues piling up new ones on top of the old.  It's kind of an exponential growth of stupid, destructive and liberty crippling policy and has been a constant theme throughout history.

So... Uhh... Yeah.  Government is a threat to liberty.  Congratulations, CNN, for pointing out one of the biggest understatements of all time.

1 comment:

divinryan said...

Great post, and Washington quote. Perhaps the reason nearly half the country doesn't regard government as a palpable threat to freedom is that half the country couldn't articulate a second-grader's version of civil liberty. Alternatively, half the country doesn't file an income tax return - wonder if there's a correlation there. Great work, I check your blog daily, and include it on my blogroll at