When it comes to individuals’ Constitutionally guaranteed rights, the lines are sharp and clear. The understanding of a right would not be possible otherwise, for a right divides the universe of actions into permissible and impermissible. Thus, it’s always possible to know when an individual’s right to his life, his liberty, or his honestly acquired property has been violated. In the third case we can usually measure the size of the violation as well, in units of dollars and cents.
Time was, laws that did not have this “bright line” property were deemed unconstitutional. It was considered an obligation of those who make the laws to make them clear enough that the average citizen could know with high confidence whether his actions are in accord with them, and whether something he’s contemplating would violate them. Plainly, there’s been a slippage in the practice of lawmaking. You can usually detect it in the occurrence of the phrase “reasonable and proper.”
Things have gotten worse as the ambitions of the political elite have expanded.
On Sept. 14, the Department of Justice (DOJ) made an emergency Supreme Court appeal to avoid lower court injunctions preventing the White House and federal agencies including the FBI from telling internet speech monopolies which keywords, posts, and accounts to suffocate. The court granted the appeal the same day, pausing lower-court injunctions stopping the federal government from holding a gun to internet monopolies’ heads to tell them what ideas to choke from the online public square.
The Biden administration didn’t contest any of the more than 20,000 pages of court documents showing essentially every major federal agency pressuring social media monopolies to take down ideas powerful Democrats don’t like or face federal lawsuits, investigations, and the removal of their monopoly powers.
Instead, it argued that obeying the First Amendment “imposed unprecedented limits on the ability of the President’s closest aides to use the bully pulpit to address matters of public concern, on the FBI’s ability to address threats to the Nation’s security, and on the CDC’s ability to relay public health information at platforms’ request.”
So the Regime is claiming, quite baldly, that violations of the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech are required for the sake of “national security.” The claim isn’t that there’s any ambiguity to what’s being done; the Regime concedes that it’s violating the right to freedom of expression. Indeed, it’s demanding that a claim of “national security” trumps the right to speak freely. But that raises certain questions:
- What is “national security?”
- Is it measurable? If so, by what means and in what units?
- What statements and categories of statements affect “national security,” whether positively or negatively?
- Is any increment or decrement to “national security,” however slight, a justification for violating an individual’s right to speak freely?
- Since the violation of an individual’s rights by a private party is legally actionable, what, then, should occur when a government official or functionary violates an individual’s rights to the detriment of “national security?”
No, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the answers. Keeping the whole thing undefined and undefinable is key to the aspirations of the political class. As matters stand, any sufficiently highly placed federal official or functionary can justify anything, including any violation of any right possessed by anyone, simply by invoking “national security.” It’s a blank check for unlimited and absolute power.
That such a thing is honored in the law is an obscenity. That people who may reasonably be expected to know what a right is, how it differs from a privilege or a permission, nevertheless go forward to commit rights violations with perfect legal immunity is a condemnation. That We the Formerly Free have not risen up against it testifies to how propagandized, and how thoroughly cowed, we have been.
The federal government spends nearly $1 trillion per year on national defense. Somehow, the total never decreases, even after major military triumphs and the collapses of America’s enemies. It goes up year after year. And since 1947, the dollars-and-cents expenditures have been accompanied by violations of individuals’ rights.
When will the exactions rise too high to be borne any longer? When will the State “break the bank?”
Some years ago, I wrote:
Do you want your freedom back? Do you want to feel reasonably safe from “your” government? Voting every two or four years ain’t gonna do it, people. It will take actual resistance to the tyrants by persons brave enough to do so – and staunch support of those brave ones, political, legal, financial, and moral, by the rest of us.
I know, I know: Who bells the cat? It’s the old question, the one we use to paralyze ourselves. It’s more effective than ever. The State in our time can target individuals with frightening accuracy, and can bring overwhelming power to bear against them, as David French has told us. The Redcoats didn’t even have rifled barrels on their muskets.
Is there a Patrick Henry in the house?
Never mind. Forget I said anything. I’m just an old man who claims to remember what it was like to be free. We didn’t even have color TVs back then, so how good could it have been, really?
All rise for Flag salute. Here are your internal passport, your work permit, and your ration card. Now sit down and pay attention to the political officer. He’s here to serve!
I repeat those questions today.
Please see also this fundamental essay on “national defense” and “national security.” Its final question remains as relevant today as ever.