Saturday, May 01, 2010

The left and personal freedom

There exists a common perception that the political left, while favoring rampant government intrusions into the economic sphere, is mostly content to leave people alone in other areas and respect their choices. This probably explains why so many people describe themselves as fiscally conservative but socially liberal, and why alleged free thinking artists and musicians, along with pop culture mediums such as Rolling Stone and MTV, cheer-lead for Democrats and the liberal agenda.

While the left's greater respect for individual liberties might be true in relative comparison to their Republican counterparts, it is far from true in an absolute sense. Like many of the world's major religions, Big Government is an all-encompassing philosophy meant to be applied to every aspect of one's life. Just as orthodox followers cannot pick and choose those elements of their faith they wish to obey, true believers in the power of government would be heretics if they saw limits to the aspects of one's life government should have dominion over. After all, it is logically inconsistent to believe that government can produce a better and more harmonious society in the economic sphere but has no role in dictating one's social choices.

And indeed, if one surveys recent actions taken by politicians on the left, and some from the past, we see that this alleged respect for individual liberties does not stand up to scrutiny. Here are some examples:
  • Senate Democrat leaders are pushing for every U.S. worker to carry a national ID card with biometric information within the next six years. Thankfully, some on the left are in opposition to the move, including the ACLU.
  • The ACLU's credentials, however, are under suspicion as they have broken with long-standing policy and now favor campaign finance restrictions, which are a fairly blatant abridgment of free speech. The less I am allowed to contribute to a candidate's cause, the less I can get out my message.
  • Speaking of free speech, it is almost invariably the political left, not the right, which favors the use of speech codes or legislation such as the Fairness Doctrine. Let us further recall that John Paul Stevens, widely regarded as the most liberal member of the Supreme Court, dissented in the Texas v. Johnson case which found flag burning to be protected free speech while Antonin Scalia, one of the most conservative court members, ruled with the majority.
  • When they're not assaulting the first amendment, it is members of the left who most often busy themselves pushing further restrictions on the second amendment, specifically the right to bear arms. Examples of this are too numerous to mention.
  • Beyond impinging on fundamental freedoms specifically outlined in the Constitution, members of the left are also typically behind any number of small-scale nanny-state interventions, ranging from the prohibition of including toys with Happy Meals to restrictions on salt intake and transfats. They're full of good ideas on how you can live a longer and happier life, and you'll do as they say whether you like it or not.
  • For all of the teeth-gnashing about the Patriot Act passed under George W. Bush, let's recall that over two-thirds of Democrats voted for the legislation in the House of Representatives while all but Sen. Russ Feingold voted in favor of it in the Senate. President Barack Obama, meanwhile, signed a re-authorization of three provisions of the Patriot Act, including "roving wiretaps" just this past February. It seems government wiretaps are just one of those things the left only worries about when they are out of office.
Remember, the only people in this country consistently committed to individual liberties are, naturally, libertarians.

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