A person who upholds the principles of absolute and unrestricted liberty,
esp. of thought and action.
Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition.
awkward thud and creaking sound you heard was the hanging of
the libertarian. That former proud and vigilant guardian of individual
rights was strung up by his own subscribers, betrayed by those who once
raised volumes of praise to his eternal glory.
It is a well-worn
cliché: Never trust the ones you love. In the political arena, where
demagogues are the rule, ideology and principle are nothing more than
talking points. The so-called liberal Democrats will abandon social
services and the so-called conservative Republicans will promote
unwarranted domestic spying.
When conservatives of proper libertarian upbringing cannot rise from their
overstuffed chairs to cry out against the classic enemy of Big Brother,
then the entire conservative movement is rudderless in a sea of
Let me be clear: I am no more a libertarian than I am an anarchist. While
I find virtue in both ideologies, I also believe in the role of government
as a counterbalance to corporate greed. I believe that rampant
deregulation leads to massive fraud as it did in the west coast energy
crisis. I believe that anything remotely resembling rigorous enforcement
of safety standards would likely have saved twelve coal miners in West
Virginia. I believe that laissez faire in environmental policy is directly
accountable for hundreds of thousands of deaths annually. I believe that
the cesspool of political corruption surrounding the Jack Abramoff scandal
is in large part the result of wholesale failure in government
accountability. I believe that government has an essential responsibility
to protect the powerless -- the working people, the small business, the
infirm, the poor, the oppressed, the innovators and entrepreneurs -- from
the excesses of corporate monoliths.
Nevertheless, I respect those who stand firmly on the ground of principle
in opposing my beliefs. When those who presume to stand on principle,
however, abandon it because the leader of their party wishes to enforce an
unprecedented power grab, I lose all respect.
The libertarian is dead; long live the demagogue.
When the president can have a photo-op with Senator John McCain (where is
his libertarian pedigree?) and immediately sign a presidential finding
that he is not bound to honor the McCain torture ban, then all honest
Americans must absorb the shame.
The defenders of the president in the NSA domestic spying scandal
would have us believe that he is only spying on the friends of Al
Qaeda. He wants us to take his word on that. He does not want us to
remember that his word was not enough when he repeatedly told us that
wiretapping required a court order. To put it bluntly, he was lying with
the clear intent of lying. He went out of his way to lie. It was one of
his standard talking points.
Never mind, he now wants us to take his word that he is only spying on the
friends of Al Qaeda … and their associates. Ah, there’s the rub! Who
exactly is associated with Al Qaeda in the mind of the president? Judging
by his reaction to the NSA scandal, the whistleblower that revealed his
illegal program would top the list.
Columnist Molly Ivans had it right: With six degrees of separation, we are
all related to Al Qaeda. Thus, if you receive an email from someone in
Canada, hoping to sell you on the virtues of a software program, and that
same someone sent an email to a party in Spain, who checked out Al Jazeera
after the Madrid bombing, and the administration has solid evidence that
Al Qaeda posts on Al Jazeera, then you are an associate of Al Qaeda.
Do I have it wrong? Prove it.
Such a clever president: As long as he can maintain the secrecy of
the program, they will never have to prove anything. It begins and ends
with “trust me” and the Bill of Rights is relegated to the trash heap for
the duration of an endless war.
Ever wonder if the president probed his Supreme Court nominees on
the powers of the executive branch in wartime? I do. If that makes me
suspect in the eyes of this president, so be it. I will wear it as a badge
I am not a libertarian but when it comes to the judiciary, give me
libertarians above all others. The libertarian would rather pluck out his
eyes than deny a fundamental right to privacy (the right upon which Roe V.
Wade is grounded). On questions of constitutional authority, the
libertarian will side with individual rights every time. On issues of
executive authority versus individual liberty (the essence of the NSA
case), the libertarian path is clear.
The best hope for the Supreme Court may not be the remote possibility that
the president’s final appointment can be stonewalled until the midterm
elections (when a change in the balance of power could compel moderation).
Rather, it may be that the president and his advisers have misjudged the
judicial integrity of their nominees. There may yet be a libertarian
hiding in the dark recesses of the psyches of John Roberts and Samuel
Alito, waiting for an opportunity to express itself.
Once they don the robes of the nation’s highest court, they are answerable
to no one. They will no longer be advocates. They will no longer be bound
by the rulings of their superiors. Alone in the company of solitary
conscience, the libertarian may be raised from the dead.
In that, there is a modicum of hope.
There is not a single rational being on the planet that really believes
the president is legally grounded in the NSA spying case. The constitution
is silent on the matter. The authorization for use of force in the war on
terror (circa Afghanistan) is not even remotely relevant. If the president
can redefine “force” as domestic eavesdropping in perpetuity, then there
is absolutely no limit to his self-declared powers and we are no longer
governed by the rule of law.
It comes down to this: Either you believe in the constitutional balance of
power and the sanctity of individual rights or you believe in the
president. There is no middle ground: Us or them. If you choose the
constitution, you are a likely suspect in the war on terror and, by
definition, must be considered an associate of our enemies.
If you consider that twisted logic, try reading the transcripts of Alberto
Gonzalez and Condoleezza Rice on wiretapping and torture, respectively.
is the author of Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press)
the Jazzman Chronicles, Volumes I and II (City
The Chronicles have been published by CounterPunch, the
Albion Monitor, Buzzle, Dissident Voice and others.
Visit his website:
Other Articles by Jack
Pillow: The West Virginia Mining Disaster
* Pataki &
Bloomberg: How to Bust a Union
* The Imperial
President and the NSA Spying Scandal
* France and
the Burning Embers of Repression
* The Activist
Court & the Neoconservative Agenda
* The Agnew
Factor: Clearing the Impeachment Path
* Iraq and New
Orleans: The ABCs of Police Lawlessness
* The Age of
Catastrophe: Preparing for Disaster
* No Tears for
Rehnquist: The Legacy of a Chief Justice
Tolerance: Bush Gets Tough as New Orleans Suffers
* Hugo Chavez
and the American Slug: Pat Robertson’s Call for Assassination
* The Lie of a
Strong Economy (Beneath the Towers of Avarice)
* Fooled Again:
Major Party Turnabout
* The New War
Candidate: Major Paul Hackett for Congress
* Free Judy!
The Fine Art of Calling a Bluff
Blackmail: The Betrayal of Democracy in Haiti
* Blame the
Democrats & Move On: The Federalist Court
* Against the
Wind: The Inevitable End of the Iraqi Occupation
* London and
Madrid: Reflections on the War on Terror
Miller: The Anti-Hero
Scherzo: The Last Waltz
* The Last
Throes: The Light at the End of the Tunnel
* Impeach Bush
-- US Out Now!
* Recall the
* The Gates of
Hell: Occupied Iraq
* May Day: The
Rise & Fall of the Middle Class
* The Papal
Aristocracy: Confessions of a Nonbeliever
* No Citizen
* A Marine
Comes Home: The Untold Story of War
Compassionate Leader -- In a Time of Crisis
* In Defense
of Barry Bonds
Dan? Rather Not
* David Went
to Canada...& Johnny Got His Gun