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The War on Rights

August 3, 2011

In the post-9/11 world, there are two powerful forces working against civil liberties: the War on Drugs and the War on Terror.

The War on Drugs
Nothing brings the coercive power of the state to everyone’s doorstep quite like the War on Drugs. When 41% of the population is a felon (if the law were enforced), police must search everyone in order to catch all criminals. Drug enforcement is very lucrative, since police are able to seize money even in the absence of evidence that it was gained via criminal activity. So even if police don’t catch any criminals using searches, they can still confiscate the property of those they search. It’s not just cash that police can take; they can take any asset for any reason and the (former) owner of the asset must sue to get it back. It is no wonder police departments are tripping over themselves to search anyone and everyone they can justify. The legal environment is growing ever harsher for Americans who wish to have a secure claim on their property. An Illinois court recently overturned the Magna Carta, ruling that Americans have no right to resist illegal entry. As Nietzsche once said,”He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.” The only way for police departments to maintain their flow of revenues is to keep victimless crime arrests high and asset seizures high. Privatized prisons lobby for harsher sentencing so they can get more money from the state. The whole criminal justice system is turning people who haven’t hurt anyone into institutionalized criminals.

The War on Terror
Congresspeople cannot directly give funds to their campaigns. The standard tactic to direct public funds to one’s campaign is to find a corporation, give them the money and have the corporation give a portion of the money back to the politician’s campaign. But what to spend the money on? The goal of the money cannot be ridiculous, like building bridges to nowhere, or you set yourself up for a political opponent to attack you as a wasteful spender. The goal cannot be achievable, because then you can’t spend money on it after it has been solved. Enter the Industrial Military Complex and its favorite brainchild, the Global War on Terror. The War on Terror is the perfect political construct for bouncing funds off corporations and back into campaign funds.

Terror is an emotion. Emotions cannot be defeated on the field of battle. Neither can the amorphous group of people who generally don’t like the United States and might under some circumstances commit violence against its citizens. The goals are unachievable, spending faces massively decreasing returns to scale and best of all, no matter how much is spent, anyone arguing for lower spending can be denounced as un-American and pro-terrorist. Unfortunately, the War on Terror itself promotes rather un-American behavior on the part of our government.

America was founded on the ideal of a God-given right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. At times, Americans have erred by straying too far from that ideal, but never by adhering too closely to it. The Constitution enshrines the right to a fair and public trial by jury, with no cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. Over 250 years of American tradition have been thrown away in the relentless pursuit of a few dozen terrorists. The executive branch of the government now claims the unilateral right to imprison, torture and kill U.S. citizens secretly, without evidence and without a trial. Furthermore, the NSA stores a copy of all emails sent in America – and has the best decryption program in the world by far. If you encrypt your emails, you are just asking to be put on a terrorist watch list. The internet is a threat to totalitarian states everywhere, democratic and otherwise. It’s no surprise the government wants to keep it well monitored.

I feel pretty pessimistic about this whole issue. If the median voter cared about rights, they’d vote for politicians who would support them. They haven’t, so they don’t. So it goes.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 3, 2011 7:12 pm

    And before the War on Terror, there was the Cold War, which accomplished largely the same things. There was only the brief respite during the 90s, where we got things like a balanced budget and the Information Revolution. Maybe if we dropped the War on Terror and/or War on Drugs, we’d achieve the fabled Singularity…

    • August 3, 2011 7:53 pm

      Perhaps. At the very least, we’d probably get out of this recession. I just needed to get that out of my system. I’ve been sitting on a draft of this essay for quite some time.


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