I’ve been told to stop spamming Facebook and start my own blog, so here it is.
Been thinking a lot about politics since forever, but my opinions rarely stay the same. Currently I’m leaning pretty strongly libertarian and am supporting Rand Paul in the US presidential race. But I like having my views challenged, so I welcome all manner of comments, as long as they’re civil.
The basic idea behind libertarianism is the Non-Aggression Principle. This holds that the government should avoid any kind of coercion, except to protect the individual against coercion by others. It seems like a great principle when considered in the abstract, but many people balk when the full implications of the NAP are drawn out, e.g. progressives don’t like how no coercion means no taxation to support welfare programs, or conservatives don’t like how it means limiting our defense to countering actual invasions, rather than promoting “regime change” in order to prevent possible future threats.
One theme I’ve discovered to be distinctive between the libertarian and the non-libertarian mindset is the importance given to prevention and preventative measures. The libertarian believes government should only intervene in order to respond to some violation of rights, whereas non-libertarians believe the role of government is to prevent harm from occurring and that this sometimes necessitates suspending people’s freedoms.
I was recently involved in a discussion on the proper role of the police in a free society, where I maintained that it should not, ultimately, be the police’s job to protect the people, since that would involve giving the police the power to neutralize perceived threats, but before any actual crime has occurred. This is the thinking behind New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy: police are allowed to stop and frisk people with fewer grounds for suspicion than are required for an arrest. While the legal justification for stop-and-frisk, is “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity, this can mean things as vague as “loitering” or “acting strangely”. Can one really argue that “acting strangely” (but NOT “criminally”) constitutes grounds for a reasonable search and seizure of the person in question?
Now, there may be evidence that such policies help reduce crime, but often a “law and order” type will treat that as the end of the discussion. It appears that, according to that kind of mindset, maintaining order is the ultimate purpose of government, even if it means suspending the right to be free from unreasonable search or seizure. I absolutely agree that order is vital to a functioning society, and that is one reason I believe the state should be given the power to arrest and prosecute criminal suspects. But is losing our freedom really the price we want to pay for having a more ordered society? Can we not trust society to order itself without giving the government that kind of power?
I don’t have a good answer yet to this question. Some things I want to investigate include: why was stop-and-frisk determined to be constitutional in 1968 in Terry v Ohio? What did police do before that date to deal with what they considered to be threats? If society felt at that point that they needed to give police more power to stop and search suspects, what had changed in society to give rise to this idea? What are the ways in which we can lower crime while preserving our freedoms?