On October 26th, 2001,George W. Bush signed into law The Patriot Act, which was written in the wake of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks and has been obscuring the rights of American and foreign citizens ever since. The Patriot Act is a “security law” which tremendously broadened the search and surveillance powers of the United States government,allowing law enforcement to access the emails, phone calls, browsing history, and spending habits of private citizens all in the name of counter-terrorism. According to the United States government, the future possibility of danger outweighs the ongoing and present subjugation of the rights to privacy and personal autonomy.
To restrict any citizen’s freedoms requires a very good reason, and for some, the “threat of terrorism” is enough. But with this agreed idea in mind, a few things need to be at the forefront of the conversation. Is there a clear and present danger relating to terrorism which is persistent enough to warrant the restriction of rights? Is the possibility of an attack enough to warrant the restriction of rights? Does The Patriot Act work in practice? And is The Patriot Act moral in theory?
The Presidents policies will be analyzed with regards to how well I believe they correlate with the LP’s platform.
Self-Ownership, Expression and Communication, Privacy
President Trump’s appointment of two anti-marijuana legalizations Attorney Generals (Jeff Sessions, William Barr) and his expansion of the Drug War, most especially concerning opioids and the wall, are attacks on self-ownership. When it comes to substance use, he favors an authoritarian approach to substance use.
Self-Ownership Grade: D
His attacks on NFL players for kneeling to highlight the need for criminal justice reform, as well as to support immigrants from Muslim-dominant countries, are violations of freedom of self-expression. At the same time, he created a special class of citizens for law enforcement officers and public employees in which crimes against them would be legally treated as hate crime. However, he has not taken much legal action to stifle expression which means the government is not growing in this area.
Expression and Communication Grade: C
President Trump hasn’t ended the NSA/DHS spying on American citizens, despite complaining about being bugged by President Obama. Our President has demonized Edward Snowden but praised Wikileaks. Basically, he only supports whistleblowers when it helps him. Justice Brett Kavanaugh was appointed to the Supreme Court despite his anti-Fourth Amendment writings. Many credit Kavanaugh’s legal writings for building justification for the surveillance state.
Privacy Grade: D
Personal Relationships, Abortion, and Parental Rights
President Trump has not made an issue out of defining marriage. If he continues the hands-off approach on government involvement in marriage, that would aid his score. Removing government from personal relationships is the preference. However, he has been antagonistic toward transgender persons regarding bathroom usage and has banned them from military service. I see this as the all too familiar republican story of only being for small government when personal beliefs coincide.
Personal Relationships: C
Early in his administration, President Trump reinstated the Mexico City policy, which keeps Federal funding from being used to pay for international abortions. Later, he authorized State governments to stop funding Planned Parenthood. Both moves reduced the amount of State involvement in the abortion issue. However, he does advocate for legislation to ban various forms of abortion, which re-engages the State on the issue. Many are concerned that he has stacked the Supreme Court with Justices who will overturn legal precedent on the issue.
Abortion Grade: C
President Trump appointed Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary, signaling a commitment to end Federal involvement in our education. In this capacity, DeVos has worked to eliminate Federal involvement while promoting private and home-schooling options. Additionally, our President signed an Executive Order aimed at curtailing the amount of Federal involvement allowed in education.
Education Grade: A
Crime and Justice, Death Penalty, Self-Defense
The First Step Act is a great opening salvo at a larger and more comprehensive criminal justice reform. Trump has talked about going further on this issue. Yet, his expansion of the Drug War that criminalizes victim-less crimes and his State-centered approach on sex-trafficking contradicts a libertarian stance on crime and justice.
Crime and Justice Grade: B
President Trump is in favor of the administration of the death penalty by the State.
Death Penalty Grade: F
Our President portrays himself a champion of gun ownership rights. He has opposed various attempts at gun control on the Federal level. However, he banned bump stocks and advocates for enhanced background checks. He also supports red flag laws. He has also expressed support for Senator Feinstein to pass Assault Weapon Bans. In terms of immigration, private property owners deserve the right to enforce their property boundaries, even on our international border with Mexico, however they see fit. Immigration reform should address that reality.
Self-Defense Grade: B
Rating Trump on personal liberty, I give him a C (2.0). He could really harm his score if he continues promoting State-centered solutions at the expense of individual rights. I am truly rooting for him to improve that score.
Stay tuned for the next article in which I will grade Trump’s policies on Economic Liberty.
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We may think that we are safe from being the victim of random searches from police officers, and to some extent, the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution ensures that we are. Yet, due to a recent ruling by Kansas’s Supreme Court, this may no longer be the case.
“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” This is a notorious quote by Benjamin Franklin, useful in many arguments advocating for liberty. Commonly, gun advocates use it to oppose gun control However, there are many other situations where this quote is appropriate. For example, it is also pertinent while advocating against government surveillance. Supposedly, surveillance is “purchasing” a little bit of temporary safety: a very small amount, in trade for our liberty.
An Insignificant Statistic
A common argument in favor of government surveillance is that it supposedly protects us from terrorists. But according to Business Insider, since 9/11, only six Americans have died per year from Islamic terrorists, both foreign and domestic. The article also provides a handy chart comparing the probability of this to other causes of death.
As you can see, there are many obscure causes of death that are far more probable. So no, this should not be a concern of the general public in the first place. In any other situation, such an insignificant number would be laughable.
UN: U.S. Government Surveillance Is Symbolic
While talking about the practicality of surveillance, even the UN has stated that it is essentially a show of gesture-politics, rather than result-oriented. Or in other words, the UN states that government surveillance is based more on symbolism and symbolic gestures rather than a good outcome. And as for the ‘results’ surveillance does come with:
“[The FBI general counsel] defined as useful those [leads] that made a substantive contribution to identifying a terrorist, or identifying a potential confidential informant. Just 1.2 percent of them fit that category.”
Thus, surveillance does not protect us from terrorists nearly as much as supporters would like you to believe. Yet, there are still some clear detriments that surveillance allows for.
For example, many oppressive regimes use mass surveillance on their citizens, much like in the U.S. In many cases, they claim to care for security and the good of the people. But some countries that practice this include North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Cuba. Clearly, the good of the people can be a lie.
In the modern day, in fact, mass surveillance systems are quite popular among authoritarian regimes. Regardless of whether you would classify the U.S. as authoritarian, its government has certainly increased intervention in the lives of citizens. Surely, this in itself is a concerning realization.
Going beyond simple ineffectiveness and harmful effects, it is also worth examining the morals of government surveillance. Although we hear surveillance is for our own good, many Americans would disagree. In fact, 57% say it is wrong for the government to monitor its own citizens.
A common argument for surveillance is ‘if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to worry about.’
Funny. This quote sounds awfully familiar. It’s almost like it was propaganda for another authoritarian regime. Yes, that’s right: Nazi Minister Joseph Goebbels used the line to pacify Germans in 1933.
Edward Snowden, a man notorious for exposing NSA records, also has an intriguing quote against government surveillance. He states the following: “Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”
He is spot on with this quote; the ‘nothing to hide’ argument is deeply flawed.
Protecting your information from the government has a number of parallels. Would you want your private texts, emails and phone calls to be available to co-workers you don’t know? No, of course not. The majority of people would agree that this is an invasion of privacy.
Government action is hardly different. One of the only things dissimilar, in fact, is that the government can act upon what you do and say, potentially harming you for nonviolent action. This is far more dangerous. Obviously, many of us get weirded out when somebody leans over our shoulder to view our texts. This is what is happening in our government, but at mass levels.
The Right to Privacy
You also do not need a reason to exercise a right in order for it to exist. For example, the 1st Amendment protects the right to assemble, even if you do not feel you need it. Perhaps you will never feel the need to assemble publicly. However, this does not give the state the right to take that ability away from you. The same goes for privacy. Whether or not you ‘need’ privacy is irrelevant: it is always wrong to take it away.
Our government is stripping our liberties, especially privacy. For what? Essentially nothing. If anything, government surveillance allows the state to take further control over our lives. Perhaps it’s time to get more serious about our right to privacy and take a stand.
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It’s the rainy season in Thailand, which means commuters like me are primed to get wet on our way to and from work. To me, the worst thing about this is constantly having rain-soaked shoes. There are few worse ways to start your day than feeling yesterday’s rainwater seep through a fresh pair of socks as you place your feet in shoes that have not had time to dry.
As bad as monsoon shoes are, I’d take them over Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s shoes any day of the week.
President Trump has recently nominated Brett Kavanaugh from the United States Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. Unlike Justice Neil Gorsuch, Kavanaugh’s brand of constitutional originalism does not show much respect for the 4th Amendment. For those who do not know, the 4th Amendment intends to protect Americans against unwarranted searches and seizures. Without this amendment, police and other law enforcement officials may not be legally barred from rummaging through or confiscating our property, private documents, or even our bodies without just cause.
If you want to know more about Kavanaugh’s unfortunate history with the 4th Amendment, you can listen to Judge Andrew Napolitano, maybe the most pro-liberty judge in American history, discuss it with Tom Woods here.
Rand Paul, a 4A diehard and the 50th of the GOP’s 50-49 senator majority (John McCain, who is currently unable to vote for health reasons, would make 51) finds himself in an extremely tough situation as his vote may ultimately determine whether or not Kavanaugh is confirmed. The following are what I consider to be the most probable potential outcomes depending on the choice Rand makes.
The Sellout Scenario
If Rand Paul votes in favor of Kavanaugh, he will almost certainly become a SCOTUS justice, which could put all of our 4th Amendment rights on the line for decades to come. In the process, Rand would lose plenty of pro-Constitution credibilities. The Liberty movement would pile on with accusations that Rand Paul lacks the gumption his father Ron Paul possessed, and is just a slightly better version of the swamp creatures lurking throughout Washington.
From a political standpoint, Rand would likely secure his position in the Senate if he decides to run for reelection in 2022. I imagine that the typical Republican voter is far more concerned with making sure a Liberal justice does not take the place of Anthony Kennedy than he is with the technicalities of what the 4th Amendment entails, which means Rand’s seat in the Senate, unlike his credibility, would likely be safe.
In the long run, keeping Rand’s vote in the Senate for years to come could serve as more valuable than having a perfect originalist justice on the bench as Gorsuch and the four liberal justices (a majority) seem to be on Rand’s side when it comes to 4A. In other words, Kavanaugh’s impact on the 4th Amendment may be minimal anyway.
The Swamp Scenario
If Rand votes against Kavanaugh, he may still be confirmed via red state Democrats. At least three or four senators up for reelection in November are Democrats in Trump country. These senators are often forced to part ways with their party in order to maintain their positions in Congress. Due to their sticky situation, Rand’s decision may not ultimately matter in the confirmation process.
Voting against Kavanaugh would preserve Rand’s pro-Constitution credibility, and would likely have little effect on his reelection prospects as his choice to stand is ground would cost Trump and establishment Republicans nothing.
The Hero Scenario
If Rand votes against Kavanaugh, he may not be confirmed. However, this could work out beautifully for Rand in the end.
By blocking Kavanaugh’s nomination, Rand would help preserve the 4th Amendment (at least temporarily) and bolster his Libertarian credentials. And although he would defy Trump and rain on Republicans’ parade in the short run, sunnier skies could be on the horizon.
If the GOP retains control of the Senate after this year’s midterms (and they are expected to do so), Trump will be given another chance to nominate a more pro-4A justice. If Trump’s next choice winds up being more Gorsuchian, Rand will have taken a massive political risk and won big for the country as well as himself.
The Scapegoat Scenario
If Rand votes against Kavanaugh, he is not confirmed, and the GOP loses the Senate, Trump may not get another chance to nominate a SCOTUS justice as president. If a Democrat beats Trump in 2020, and Democrats retain control of the Senate, you can bet that a “living document” justice will be placed on the SCOTUS bench, probably resulting in a liberal majority for years to come.
Under these conditions, Rand may succeed in preserving the 4th Amendment. Conversely, the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 9th, 10th, and many other rights guaranteed by the Constitution could fall by the wayside.
Rand would have committed political suicide in the process, and a future reelection bid could result in comical defeat.
Let’s hope for the best.
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