Posts tagged ‘James Madison’

Why Libertarians are Paranoid, Example #12,403

Those on the left and the right often try to laugh off libertarians, ascribing to "paranoia" our fear of the power of government. 

Well, I could argue that if this is paranoia, I share a similar phobia with men like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, whose fear of government power permeate all their writings, as well as the Constitution they helped to produce.  They believed that even good men could be corrupted by the government, and they were proven correct in an incredibly short time by John Adams.  Adams is by all accounts a good man, dedicated to freedom and democracy, and one of the chief intellectual architects both of the Revolution and the Constitution.  But it was Adams that signed into law the Alien and Sedition Act, perhaps the worst piece of illiberal and unconstitutional legislation in the history of this country.

Or, if I didn't want to make the founding father's / original intent argument, I could just point to this (hat tip Marginal Revolution):

A federal judge in Texas, calling the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. a "corrupt
agency with corrupt influences on it," awarded a Houston financier $72 million
to cover his legal fees in a decade-long suit involving a failed savings and
loan and the government's efforts to take control of a stand of endangered
California redwood trees in the 1990s.

The FDIC, a regulatory agency that insures deposits at banks and
savings and loans, filed suit against Charles E. Hurwitz in 1995, seeking to
collect more than $800 million because Hurwitz indirectly controlled a Texas
S&L that failed in 1988. The FDIC, after a series of legal setbacks, dropped
its suit against Hurwitz in 2002....

On Tuesday evening, Hughes issued a scathing, 131-page ruling. In it, he cited
evidence that the FDIC brought the case largely because of pressure from
environmental groups, members of Congress and the Clinton administration. The
reason: Hurwitz's Pacific Lumber Co. owned 3,500 acres of endangered redwoods in
Northern California. Hughes found that the FDIC, in close concert with
environmental groups, sued Hurwitz to pressure him into a "debt-for-nature"
swap, in effect giving the government his trees in exchange for his supposed
liability in the failure of the United Savings Association of Texas....

Hughes said FDIC officials and lawyers, in depositions, "ranged from
manipulative evasiveness to plain perjury." He cited records of two years of
communications, including extensive discussions of legal strategy and political
matters, between the FDIC and environmentalists over the proposal to use a
banking-practices lawsuit as pressure on Hurwitz to give up the

Hughes said FDIC officials "discarded the mantle of the American
Republic for the cloak of a secret society of extortionists. If the vice
president called, they responded. If a congressman called, they responded. If a
lobbyist called, they responded. They heeded every call but that of duty and

Wow.  I know many people are paranoid about the lack of accountability of major corporations, and felt vindicated by the Enron case, over which the press spilled acres of ink.  However, Enron is nothing compared to this.  While fraud is bad, Enron at least was never able to use the coercive regulatory and police power that the government has to seek its ends.

Giving Citizens "Premium" Rights

In a previous post, I expressed my frustration with the argument over blogs and campaign finance rules:

These past few weeks, we have been debating whether this media
exemption from speech restrictions should be extended to bloggers.  At
first, I was in favorThen I was torn.
Now, I am pissed.  The more I think of it, it is insane that we are
creating a 2-tiered system of first amendment rights at all, and I
really don't care any more who is in which tier....

have come to the conclusion that arguing over who gets the media
exemption is like arguing about whether a Native American in 1960's
Alabama should use the white or the colored-only bathroom:  It is an
obscene discussion and is missing the whole point, that the facilities
shouldn't be segregated in the first place.

Currently, in the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision ruling against a Constitutional journalistic privilege to withhold evidence from prosecutors.  Glenn Reynolds has a nice editorial in the USA Today echoing the point that we should not:

claims of privilege turn the press into a
privileged class. If ordinary people witness a crime, they have to talk
about it. If they participate in a crime "” say, by receiving classified
documents "” they have to say where they got them. Journalists want to
be treated differently, but the First Amendment doesn't create that
sort of privilege. Nor should we.

Many people who support these privileges say
that they would be limited to "real" journalists. But who decides when
a journalist is real? If the government decides, isn't that like
licensing the press, something the First Amendment was designed to
prevent? And if journalists decide, isn't that likely to lead to a
closed-shop, guild mentality at exactly the moment when citizen
journalism by non-professionals is taking off? All sorts of people are
reporting news via Web logs and the Internet. Shouldn't they be
entitled to the same privilege?

Press freedom is for everyone, not just professionals. James Madison wrote about "freedom in the use
of the press," making clear that the First Amendment is for everyone
who publishes, not just members of the professional-media guild.

Yes!  It is ridiculous to be creating two classes of citizen.  Why should Giraldo Rivera have different or even enhanced rights over, say, Martha Stewart, who went to jail for not being forthright with investigators?  This is a very disturbing trend in this country.  Already in the last week, the Supreme Court has ruled that developers, Walmarts, and Crate & Barrells have more and different property rights than homeowners, churches, and small retail establishments.