Only asking 7

We quote from a column by Judge Andrew Napolitano consisting entirely of questions. It has a strong libertarian theme which we like.

We think most of the questions are good – after the opening paragraph in which he assumes that “our rights come from God” and that we have “immortal souls”.

What if our rights didn’t come from God or from our humanity, but from the government? What if the government really thinks we’re not unique individuals with immortal souls, but just public property?

He offers an alternative to God as the source of “our rights”  in our “humanity”, implying that we have natural rights; in other words, because we exist we have a “right” to exist. In whose eyes? Who will enforce such a right? Our fellow human beings? If that were so there’d be no murder.

We prefer to say “we should be free to …” rather than “we have a right to…”. But we’ll accept that in the context of this article the two statements amount to the same idea: the paramount importance of freedom.

What if we were only entitled to our natural rights if it pleased the government? What if our rights could be stripped away whenever the government considers us to be its enemy?

What if this could all be accomplished with the consent of the people? What if the people’s own representatives subverted the Constitution?

As they do.

What if the people were so afraid that they accepted the subversion?

Accept it they do, whether out of fear or inadvertence or apathy.

What if the government demonizes an external enemy and uses fear of that enemy to suppress our freedoms? What if people are afraid to protest? …

What if threats become imminent dangers precisely because the government allowed them to happen? What if government scapegoating of an external enemy is as old as the government itself? What if the government has used scapegoating again and again to scare people into giving up their freedoms voluntarily? What if the government has relied on this to perform the same magical disappearing-freedom act time and again throughout history?

He doesn’t name a threat (though later he implies it is the Islamic jihad, which we think is real). But isn’t the “imminent danger” that government threatens us with now “climate change”? Isn’t carbon dioxide, the food of all green plants, the “scapegoat”?

What if the government could lock you up and throw you in jail indefinitely? …

What if you were just speaking out against the government and it came to silence you? What if the government could declare you its enemy and then kill you?

As many governments in the ghastly Third World do.  And as they’re doing again in post-Soviet Russia (see here and here for examples).

What if your elected representatives did nothing to stop the government from doing this? …  What if the government’s goal was to be rid of all who disagreed with it?

What if the real war was a war of misinformation? What if the government constructs its own reality in order to suit its own agenda? What if civil liberties don’t mean anything to the government? What if the government just chooses to allow you to exercise them freely because you don’t threaten it at the moment? What if the government released a report calling you a domestic terror threat, just because you disagreed with the government?

As the Obama administration has done.

What if the government coaxed crazy people into acting like terrorists, just to keep you afraid?

Does he think that’s happening in the United States? We don’t think it is.

What if the government persuaded you to believe that the greatest threat to your freedom is an impoverished and uneducated Third World population 10,000 miles away?

If he means Afghans, for instance, we agree with his implication that it is no threat. But Iran, which is not so impoverished or uneducated, is a serious threat.

What if the real threat to your freedom is a rich, powerful and all-seeing government? What if that government thinks it can write any law, regulate any behavior and tax any event no matter what the Constitution says?

As does the present too powerful government of the United States. Though it isn’t rich (governments own no wealth), it robs the citizens. And it’s by no means all-seeing; blinkered, rather, if not blind. (Perhaps he means all-spying.)

What if the government is always the greatest threat to freedom because only the government can constitute a monopoly on the use of force? What if, in fact, at its essence, government is simply a monopoly of force? What if, in fact, at its essence, government is simply the negation of freedom? What if the government monopoly incubated, aided and abetted enemies’ freedoms?

As the Obama administration incubates, aids and abets Islamic violence? (See our post Spreading darkness, November 19, 2011.)

What if, when the danger got more threatening, the government told you to sacrifice more of your liberties for safety? What if you fell for that?

As when nations let their governments provide benefits such as “free” health care, and so gain the power decide who will be treated and who not, who may live and who must die?

What if those who traded liberty for safety ended up in internment camps?

As happened to tens of millions of people who let their countries fall under communism.

What if the greatest threat to freedom was not any outfit of thugs in some cave in a far-off land …

Now he plainly means Afghanistan …

… but an organized force here at home? What if that organized force broke its own laws? What if that organized force did the very same things to those it hates and fears that it prosecutes people for doing to it? What if I’m right and the government’s wrong? What if it’s dangerous to be right when the government is wrong? What if government is essentially wrong and always dangerous?

What if these weren’t just hypothetical or rhetorical questions? What if this is actually happening to us? What if the ultimate target in the government’s war on terror [countering the jihad] is all who believe in personal freedom? What if that includes YOU? What do we do about it?

If government is always essentially wrong and always dangerous, is there anything we can do except recognize that government is a necessary evil, and limit its power as best we can? Isn’t that what the men who wrote the Constitution of the United States recognized and accomplished? Isn’t defending the Constitution the best thing Americans can do to stay free?

  • Liz

    Exactly.  No matter who’s running the government, if they aren’t held in check by the Constitution they will eventually abuse the power.  Which is why this theoretical scenario applies to every government, including ours (especially right now), and which is the what made our Founders the greatest men in history for what they accomplished.

    • Andrew M

      Mere words clearly do nothing to hold back the tides of corruption in the minds of politicians. An active citizenry who interprets those words and scrutinizes the behaviors of their representatives is the ONLY check against tyranny – otherwise, the citizenry might as well want the tyranny.

      • Liz

        Right – the citizens actually do the “checking” by voting the representatives in or out. The Constitution is the standard we have to hold them up to.

  • Harold

    But isn’t the “imminent danger” that government threatens us with now “climate change”? Isn’t carbon dioxide, the food of all green plants, the “scapegoat”?

    The answer here is clearly “No” – obviously the author does not mean this, and in a more general sense, it is not true anyway.

    “Which the Obama administration has done”.  Well, the report linked says no such thing.  It nowhere catagorises anyone as a “terrorist threat” just because they disagree with the Govt.

    The piece is clearly criticising those who would use the threat of islamic terrorists to scare the people.  I can’t think who he could be talking about.

    • Jillian Becker

      Harold – 

      While we appreciate  the zeal with which you tirelessly hold us to the highest standards of accuracy, we can’t help feeling that some of your corrections amount to little more than nit-picking. On the DHS’s attempt to label conservatives and vets (rather than jihadis) as terrorists, try this link. Examine it very minutely please. You may find an error of fact or logic in it if you scrutinize it very closely. We expect no less of you. 

      http://rawstory.com/news/2008/DHS_Rightwing_extremism…the_most_dangerous_terrorism_0414.html

      Or you could go to the original DHS report and give us your alternative summary of it.  

      • Harold

        I read the pdf of the report.  It is entirely focused on extremists- nowhere does it mention anyone being a threat because they disagree with the Govt.  You are wrong again.

        Do you reject the possibility that right wing terrorists could exist?  There is ample evidence that there is such a thing as terrorism based on racism and what are refered to as “right wing” beliefs.  Look at Norway.   It would be negligent of the Government to ignore this.  This does not mean that the Govt. thinks everyone with right wing beliefs is a terrorist, any more that it believes every muslim is a terrorist.

        You may see it as nit-picking, presumably because it is about one comment in long piece.  However, where there is a glaring error, it can do no harm to point it out.  

  • Allen Sparkman

    Lets not forget that the government is people. People who crave power over others. Some to a greater degree than others but it’s there in every person who wants to “regulate”.  Also, lets not forget that all regulation is enforced, ultimately, buy people who wear badges and carry guns and are willing to use them when ordered. We’ve all heard it: “I was just following orders”. Young men and women who start out thinking they are there to protect society from “evil doers”. The threat of deadly force is at the root of all governments.