Debunking Civil Liberties Hysteria

I’ve called for the repeal of the PATRIOT Act ever since its passage, on the ground that it was barely debated by Congress. However, I’ve yet to come across a substantive critique of it that holds water. I suspect that if it really were discussed by Congress, most of its provisions would turn out to be unobjectionable & would pass easily. Yet that hasn’t stopped many people from crying that civil liberties in America are at an historic low. These doomsayers would be more credible if they could give a coherent description of the Act’s contents.

I don’t claim to know all of what’s in the Act, but I recently came across this fairly good defense of it. Perhaps there are other provisions not discussed by MacDonald which are truly objectionable, but, if so, I haven’t heard what they might be.

2 thoughts on “Debunking Civil Liberties Hysteria”

  1. Is libertarianism compatible with expansion of government power over the individual? Under some circumstances, yes. Not all limitations upon government power serve liberty. For instance, a limitation upon government power prohibiting it from prosecuting murderers would hardly be compatible with liberty. Restoring the government powers necessary to prosecute murderers would be an expansion of government power, and it would be perfectly compatible with libertarianism.

    Furthermore, most of the critics of the PATRIOT Act aren’t saying that it’s only the government which ought not be allowed to do the things the PATRIOT Act says it can do, they don’t want anyone else doing most of those things, either. So, it’s not as if they’re advocating restrictions upon the State so as to make way for private agencies to fill the power vacuum.

    I’m less sanguine than MacDonald about the inevitable expansion of government power in wartime, and I don’t share her “anything goes as long as there’s judicial review & political accountability” attitude. However, all the provisions of the PATRIOT Act discussed by her seem perfectly reasonable to me, with adequate care taken in their crafting to protect civil liberties while at the same time enabling the government to prosecute terrorist mass-murderers & their accomplices.

  2. “The government may expand its powers to detect terrorism without diminishing civil liberties one iota, as long as those powers remain subject to traditional restraints: statutory prerequisites for investigative action, judicial review, and political accountability. ” – MacDonald

    So would you say that libertarianism is compatible with the expansion of government power over the individual?

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