From the same people who brought you the constitutional right to privacy: “You have no privacy.”

In 1973, the United States Supreme Court created a federal right to abortion by finding that abortion falls into an unstated Constitutional dimension called “the right to privacy.”  (Note:  British and American common law has always recognized a right to privacy, but the Constitution makes no mention of it.)  Thus, in Roe v. Wade, the Court explained the constitutional protections for abortion as follows:

The Constitution does not explicitly mention any right of privacy. In a line of decisions, however, going back perhaps as far as Union Pacific R. Co. v. Botsford, 141 U.S. 250, 251 (1891), the Court has recognized that a right of personal privacy, or a guarantee of certain areas or zones of privacy, does exist under the Constitution.

[snip]

This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment’s reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.

With the Court’s pronouncement about the huge reach of the Constitution’s unexpressed “right to privacy,” Democrats, Liberals, Communists, and Progressives pronounced themselves satisfied.  The 10th Amendment, which once upon a time reserved to the states those rights not expressly delegated to the federal government, was meaningless.  If the Left thinks it should be in the Constitution, then — voila! — it is in the Constitution. Since 1973, therefore, Americans have believed that a person’s right to privacy is all-encompassing, and prohibits the government, as well as arms of the government, such as state founded or funded universities, from poking their governmental nose into anything that pertains to our own bodies.

With the exception of abortion, which is the most challenging issue because there are competing right’s (the woman’s and the fetus’s), most libertarians would agree with a common law (and therefore worthy of full respect) right to privacy, even if they would argue, as I do, that it’s tremendously damaging to the American body politic to pretend such a right is constitutional.  If we want a constitutional right to privacy, the Constitution spells out the procedure:  amendment, not judicial fiat.

Once they established this new constitutional principle, however, Progressives realized that they should have been a bit more careful in institutionalizing privacy as a core constitutional doctrine.  As they’ve discovered, the best way for a state to control individuals is through controlling their sexuality.  By asserting increasing state dominance over people’s sex lives (which is different a society enforcing traditional moral codes), the state can break familial bonds, destroy an individual’s sense of his inviolable self, interfere with core religious doctrine, and hand out sexual treats at opiates for the masses, all of which consolidate state power over individuals.

The problem for the Progressives arises if individuals are old-fashioned enough to believe that their sexuality is nobody’s business but their own. And no, traditional marriage is not necessarily proof that people are screaming their heterosexuality out loud. Having grown up in San Francisco, I’ve known of many marriages that involved agreed-upon sexual arrangements that had very little to do with traditional heteronormative behavior, and everything to do with people wanting to live their lives their way, free from prying eyes.

Progressive’s frustration with old-fashioned notions of personal privacy — the same notion that they promoted and cheered in Roe v. Wade — came to a head in 2008 at the University of Delaware.  In academia’s never-ending push to turn people into malleable little clumps of victim-hood, and class-, race-, or sexuality-based identity groups, the University of Delaware realized that it would need to force recalcitrant students to state whether they’re LGBT, GLBT, STR8T, BI, AC/DC, or LMNOP (oh, sorry, got lost in my alphabet soup there):

A female freshman arrives for her mandatory one-on-one session in her male RA’s dorm room. It is 8:00 p.m. Classes have been in session for about a week. The resident assistant hands her a questionnaire. He tells her it is “a little questionnaire to help [you] and all the other residents relate to the curriculum.” He adds that they will “go through every question together and discuss them.” He later reports that she “looked a little uncomfortable.”

“When did you discover your sexual identity?” the questionnaire asks.

“That is none of your damn business,” she writes.

“When was a time you felt oppressed?”

“I am oppressed every day [because of my] feelings for the opera. Regularly [people] throw stones at me and jeer me with cruel names…. Unbearable adversity. But I will overcome, hear me, you rock loving majority.”[1]

She is not playing along like the other students, and the RA confronts her using his “confrontation training,” but it isn’t working. He becomes so appalled by her resistance that he writes up an incident report and reports her to his superiors. After all, this is the University of Delaware, and the school has a zero-tolerance policy for anything remotely resembling “hate speech.”

This one-on-one session was not meant to be a punishment, some kind of mandatory sensitivity training for a recalcitrant student who had committed an infraction. It was mandatory training for all 7,000-odd students in the University of Delaware dorms. The sessions were part of a thorough thought-reform curriculum, designed by the school’s Office of Residence Life, to psychologically “treat” and correct the allegedly incorrect thoughts, attitudes, values, beliefs, and habits of the students. The ResLife staff considered students too intolerant of one another, too “consumerist,” and in dire need of reeducation to become responsible world citizens who could meet the planet’s environmental crisis and the requirements of social and economic “justice.”

(FIRE successfully mounted a campaign to force the University of Delaware to abandon this forcible effort to extract personal information from vulnerable freshman, but I use it as an example here, because it so perfectly encapsulates the Leftist attitude towards privacy and sexuality.)

Aside from having a girl-crush (but not an LGBT girl-crush, just an intellectual one) on the young woman who spoke of being opera-oppressed, I’m shocked, disgusted, appalled, etc. — the usual range of emotion a liberty-loving person experiences when an institution takes vast sums of money to control a young person’s life and future and then uses its coercive power to extort deeply private information from that same vulnerable student.

What makes this Progressive attitude even more distasteful is the fact that Universities claim to be all about privacy — at least when that privacy means isolating students from their own parents, despite a reasonable presumption that these same parents, unlike the vast, impersonal institutions, truly have their children’s best interests at heart:

College and University students have a right to privacy. In the United States, it’s called FERPA: the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. And there are a lot of rights and protections that you have as a student eighteen or over, and that you must respect as both a parent and a professor.

As a student, your grades, enrollment, assignments, and interactions with professors are all completely confidential. As a professor, I am not allowed, legally, to give out any information whatsoever about a student without that student’s explicit permission.

And, like practically all professors, I don’t. But this message is most important for parents, and for students who are worried about their irate parents.

Put another way:  your parent, who is probably paying for some or all of your education, cannot ask about your grades, but your university, which will have taken a minimum of $100,000 from you over the course of four years, while promising you a diploma with at least some market value, can force you to state your most private personal information.

I was going to end this post by saying the Left can’t have it both ways:  it either recognizes individual privacy or it doesn’t.  Then I slapped myself in the face and said “Don’t be stupid, Bookworm!  In Obama’s Leftist, narcissistic America, the Left can have it any way it likes it, both coming and going, as long as its demands drive the bottom line towards statism.”

Putting all your information out there — and having it turn around and destroy you

Some of you may have been aware of a very ugly situation that started when NewsRealBlog concluded that one of its contributors (not an employee, but a contributor), displayed a truly unhealthy sexual interest in young children.  Although the editors at NewsRealBlog are conservative, they also respect an individual’s right to privacy.  However, if an individual goes public, over and over and over, with bizarre and explicit posts focused obsessively on sex with children, they concluded (rightly) that it would be morally wrong to continue to have any type of association with that person.  Even if that specific individual hasn’t had sex with children, and isn’t even trying to have sex with children, using the internet as a forum to play out those fantasies is an active incitement to pedophilia that cannot be countenanced.

The whole thing should have ended there, as a reasonable decision by a collaborative blog not to publish unpaid writings from a source who, while sound on libertarian principles, proved to be an exceptionally unsavory human being in a way that endangers children.  Things went a little crazy, though, when David Frum, who apparently mentors Alex Knepper (the man at the center of the controversy) decided to stick up for him.  He did so by attacking NewsRealBlog.  The latter struck back with the most dangerous weapon of all:  facts.  [Warning:  Do NOT click the link if children are present.  Do NOT.  It's truly icky stuff.]

Frum, rather than mumbling something about “Oh, I didn’t know that,” decided to counterattack by calling the NewsReal people witch hunters, cyber stalkers, McCarthyites, etc.  Interestingly, he didn’t deny Knepper’s sordid obsession with sexualizing children.  He just said it was unfair for NewsReal to find out about it.  And you know, if NewsReal had combed through garbage cans and hacked into private email accounts, there would have been a point to this charge, no matter how icky Knepper’s sensibilities are.  Once again, though, NewsReal slapped Frum down with facts.

The pivotal fact for purposes of my post here is that everything NewsReal found was just out there.  Knepper hadn’t made any effort to hide his thoughts on the subject.  He’d posted widely and wildly in a variety of public forums that could be accessed by a simple Google search.  In doing that, the 20 year old Knepper proved typical of his generation.  (By the way, apropos his age, his relative youth is no excuse, no matter what Frum says.  Knepper’s writing makes it clear that he is not a man just out of adolescence who still has his teenage girl friend from high school.  Instead, this is a man who lusts after prepubescent children, as well as young teenagers.)

We’ve all noticed that we are raising a generation that views the internet as its community, just as it views the local playground, the school yard or the neighborhood hangout as community.  The boundaries of privacy that we adults feel do not exist for this up and coming generation.  Knepper had no compunction about putting his sexual fantasies out into the ether.  He was talking to his “cyber friends,” and was unconcerned that the whole world could eavesdrop.

I see the same in my children.  No matter how often I tell them that the internet is a public square, with no privacy, and a permanent memory, they still place information out there that no adult from my era would ever contemplate making public.  Since my kids are still fairly young, they’re not posting things that are terribly embarrassing, and certainly not illegal, but they’re still private.  I’ve concluded that, at least in part, the problem isn’t that my kids don’t understand the internet’s ramifications.  The problem is that they don’t care.  The notion of a zone of individual privacy, a place where only you and a few invited guests can go, is alien to them.

Right now, my husband and I simply remind our children that whatever is out there will remain in perpetuity for colleges and potential employers to examine.  We hope that their self-interest is sufficient to rein them in.

I do wonder, though, if we’re seeing a new era of privacy.  Or perhaps what we’re really seeing is an old era of privacy.  The privacy we enjoy is a modern construct, resulting from affluence and a large population.  We live behind closed doors and our world is made up of strangers who don’t care about us.  In the old days, people lived in small communities, and often shared homes, rooms and even beds.  (In the Middle Ages, a whole family would sleep on one flea-ridden straw mattress, with the sheep and cows arrayed around them for warmth.)  People lived in public then, just as our children are starting to do now.  I guess it’s only strange for those of us trying to bridge the gap as we shift from one paradigm to another.

For an extremely good post summarizing this whole episode, and giving Knepper a chance to defend himself (although I don’t think he succeeds in doing so), please check out John Hawkin’s post at Right Wing News.

The death of privacy

All over my “real me” facebook, my liberal friends have been treating Tyler Clementi’s tragic suicide by framing him as a victim of an anti-gay crime.  I saw it as him being the victim of the total loss of sexual privacy.  I was going to blog about that, but IBD got there first and did a better job than I could have.

About the race questions on that census form

Country of origin strikes me as a reasonable question for a census, although it’s not constitutionally mandated.  (The Constitution just allows for a head count.)  Race questions are obviously simply to satisfy the grievance mongers in America.  So I pass on this advice from The Corner:

Sending a Message with the Census [Mark Krikorian]

John: I haven’t gotten my letter from the Census Bureau yet asking me to make sure I fill out the questionnaire. But when I do fill it out, I’ll use it to send a message.

Fully one-quarter of the space on this year’s form is taken up with questions of race and ethnicity, which are clearly illegitimate and none of the government’s business (despite the New York Times‘ assurances to the contrary on today’s editorial page). So until we succeed in building the needed wall of separation between race and state, I have a proposal. Question 9 on the census form asks “What is Person 1′s race?” (and so on, for other members of the household). My initial impulse was simply to misidentify my race so as to throw a monkey wrench into the statistics; I had fun doing this on the personal-information form my college required every semester, where I was a Puerto Rican Muslim one semester, and a Samoan Buddhist the next. But lying in this constitutionally mandated process is wrong. Really — don’t do it.

Instead, we should answer Question 9 by checking the last option — “Some other race” — and writing in “American.” It’s a truthful answer but at the same time is a way for ordinary citizens to express their rejection of unconstitutional racial classification schemes. In fact, “American” was the plurality ancestry selection for respondents to the 2000 census in four states and several hundred counties.

So remember: Question 9 — “Some other race” — “American”. Pass it on.

Andrew Sullivan is right — the President has very limited privacy

I would have thought the earth would reverse its rotation before I’d find common ground with Andrew Sullivan.  Apparently nothing so extreme had to happen.  All Sullivan had to do was advocate precisely the same point I’ve been making forever which is that Obama needs to stop being so secretive.  Here’s Sullivan:

So many readers are furious that I have dared to ask the president to show the original copy of his birth certificate. The reason for demanding it is the same reason for demanding basic medical records proving Sarah Palin is the biological mother of Trig.

Because it would make it go away and it’s easily done.

I’m tired of these public officials believing they have some right to privacy. They don’t. It’s the price of public office. If you don’t like it, don’t be president. And for goodness’ sake, don’t run for president on a platform of transparency.

And then once Obama’s cleared the air as to his birth, how about if he releases his Occidental College transcripts, his Columbia U. transcripts and his Harvard Law Transcripts?  As Sullivan so pithily (and correctly) said, “I’m tired of these public officials believing they have some right to privacy.  They don’t.”

Andrew, you are completely right.  Obama could make all of this go away in a single second.

Of course, right now, Obama doesn’t want the birth certificate issue to go away.  Because the press has figured out how to turn it against the conservatives who are troubled by Obama’s many secrets, it’s in Obama’s interest to keep waving the birth certificate red flag in front of charging Birthers for as long as possible.

I therefore humbly suggest that Birthers stop focusing on the birth certificate, which is a double edged and pointless sword, and instead begin demanding that Obama release all of his records so that the American people can to know more about this hyper-secretive man who is guiding our destinies.  That’s a much better and more interesting sell to ordinary citizens, and it doesn’t expose conservatives to the risk of being characterized as wackos with tinfoil hats.

The new mantra:  “Release your records, Mr. President.  All of them!”

Chipping away at liberals’ belief in Obama’s program *UPDATED*

For reasons too complicated to explain, I have more than a passing knowledge about medical informatics — or, in simple terms, the trend to put all patient records in computerized systems.  That’s why, at a soccer game, a young woman who is clearly an Obama supporter asked me what I thought of the move to put all American medical records in a federal database.  “What harm can it do?” she asked.

We both agreed that a comprehensive federal medical database probably couldn’t harm people financially, the way identity theft scams can.  I suggested to her, though, that federal control over medical records — could harm people in much more significant ways.  For example, I said, a 50 year old, vital man, might not want the feds responsible for keeping secret the fact that he has to use Viagra.  Likewise, I said, no one wants information about their hemorrhoids to go much beyond their own doctor.  Hackers, I pointed out, could easily blackmail or humiliate people with information such as that.

Further, I said, it’s not only, or even primarily, the big diseases like cancer or AIDS that are the problem.  For most people, privacy means keeping around them a zone in which they forever function like a healthy young person, free of warts and erectile dysfunctions and fibroids and whatever other systemic failures people don’t want to admit to having.

She was much struck by this argument.  She certainly agreed with me that the average citizen would be wise not to trust the government with his or her secrets.  She understood, as I do, that government loses control of secrets, that a hostile administration may give away secrets, that individual government employees abuse secrets and that, by the nature of government, too many people know the secrets.

The gal pointed out, though, that we already give that same information to insurance companies, hospitals and doctors offices, and that they too have that information on their computer systems.  That’s different, I explained.  In those cases, there’s a one on one quid pro quo that precedes the entity’s taking on and computerizing that information.  Thus, I, personally, agree to go to that doctor and I acknowledge that, as a necessary adjunct to my treatment, the doctor needs to create and maintain my medical records.  Likewise, I choose to have insurance and, as part of that agreement, I also agree that it is reasonable for the insurance company, before it pays for my health care, to know what’s wrong with me.

With a federal database, though, I don’t get to make that agreement.  The federal government, as it just did, dictates by legislative fiat that it is entitled to create and control these records — and, being the government, to lose, abuse, publicize, sell or, ultimately, use these records as a justification to deny me medical care entirely.  There is no quid pro quo here.  There is no contract.  There is simply a federal government using its vast power to access and control, not only my big secrets (assuming I have any), but my little, humiliating secrets, the ones that knock down the sphere of physical inviolability all of us like to believe we have around ourselves.

I doubt I shook this gal’s faith in Obama, or the Democrats, or even the spendulus plan.  But I like to believe I made her think. And maybe once she’s done thinking about this, she’ll start thinking about something else too.

UPDATE:  A little off topic, but a good reminder that you should never, never, never trust the government with your secrets.

Freedom, but from what?

More than twenty years ago, I attended a speech that famed legal scholar Arthur Miller gave, in which he decried the fact that the zone of privacy surrounding ordinary citizens was shrinking rapidly with the dawn of the computer age. What he pointed out then is even more true today: unless you step entirely off the matrix, every time you engage in any type of commercial transaction, whether it’s using your ATM or credit card to buy a latte, using your cell phone to call your mother, or buying an airplane ticket, your transaction creates a record that a corporation owns and that the government can find. Theoretically (and in actual fact if the authorities are after you with the right warrants), someone can put those transactions together and create a comprehensive picture of every detail of your life.

I walked out of Miller’s talk knowing that he was correct and yet curiously unimpressed. I could not then and cannot now work myself into a lather knowing that some clerk in Dubuque or Bombay can have access to information about my grocery shopping habits or the number of times I called my mother. Of more concern to me has always been what people who know me might think of me if they could pry into the small details of my life. While I may be unmoved by the Dubuque or Bombay clerk knowing about my grocery list, I’d find it very unpleasant if my next door neighbor, colleague or classmate were to learn too many of the details of my life. In other words, for me, privacy is local.

In the years since I first heard Miller’s speech, I’ve often had reason to think about his thesis and about my response and I’ve come to the conclusion that I haven’t changed my viewpoint since then. Indeed, my blog is a perfect example of that fact. I’m more forthcoming with you, my readers, than I am with my immediate neighbors because I won’t run into you on the street. If I’m grumpy, I grouse on my blog, whereas I make an effort to present a cheerful face to my neighbors. If my kids are driving me up a wall, I wail in cyberspace, but make light hearted jokes to the parents I see during the day. And of course, I talk politics on my blog in a way that I never would to the flesh-and-blood people around me who believe that conservatives aren’t just misguided, but are evil. Privacy is therefore often on my mind insofar as it relates to me.

The privacy issues I’ve discussed above can, of course, be reframed as the flip side of freedom: freedom from oversight and intrusion. And in our world, there are three basic categories of people or institutions that infringe on that freedom: individuals, corporations, and the government.

Traditionally, individuals infringing on your freedom from oversight and intrusion have been the nosy next door neighbors who physically peer into your world. (For purposes of this discussion, I’m going to ignore the Peeping Toms or stalkers, who are committing out-and-out criminal acts — that is, acts that can be characterized as visual assaults.) Corporations, as I noted above, have become an increasing infringer on that same freedom. As Miller argued so long ago, the computer records they keep mean that, with a push of a button, corporations (especially banks and credit card companies) can create a comprehensive record about you.

Whether it’s a nosy neighbor or a data collecting computer, we are usually willing to put up with the infringement on our freedom because of the benefits that come with those intrusions or, at most, we place small, almost symbolic barriers in the way. As to our neighbors, we may determine that their help with the children is the price we pay for their knowing how messy our house is. Alternatively, we may close the windows when we argue or draw the curtains when we let our hair down. And as for the corporations, most of us have long ago sold our soul to that Devil, recognizing that the convenience of credit card purchases or the discounts from our grocery store’s “Club Card” are more than worth the information those Dubuque or Bombay drones (and their computers) are collecting about us. Any barriers we attempt are likely to be minimal, such as refusing to give our phone numbers to the blank eyed clerk at the local store (after having first paid with our credit card, of course). Certainly that is my world view, and one I’ve consistently held to for decades, as I believe most other Americans have.

But when it comes to the government, our relaxed attitude to these assaults on privacy suddenly vanishes, and we see ever escalating levels of paranoia about our right to freedom from oversight and intrusion. The government, after all, is huge; it has the ability to engage in spying and data gathering at an unparalleled level; and, worst of all, it has punitive powers that even the most gossipy, vindictive neighbor or the most aggressive corporation lack. And as we’ve seen, most notably in East Germany, but also in other Communist and totalitarian countries, when the government gets into the business of invading our privacy — removing all those safeguards to freedom from oversight and intrusion — individual freedom is effectively at an end.

Most of us, of course, recognize that there is practical, personal information that we keep private from others, but that the government does get to see. For example, because the government needs to be funded (a concept separate from whether we believe it’s doing the right things with those funds), we all regularly provide it with all of our financial information, something we’d be loath to let our friends and neighbors peruse. Because the government is charged with the business of running our criminal justice system, we long ago agreed as a society that it could keep data about people’s criminal habits, as well as their fingerprints. (DNA, of course, has been a more touchy subject.) Because we all pay into Social Security (whether or not we think it’s an appropriate program in the 21st Century, as opposed to the 1930s) and we all want to get at least some of that money back, we allow the government to maintain our Social Security number, which ties into just about everything, for better or for worse.

So far, I think everyone from both sides of the political spectrum would agree with my general conclusions, above, about the dangers of government infringement into its citizens’ privacy, as well as about the basic intrusions we concede are the government’s right. What’s interesting, however, is the ideological divide between conservatives and liberals when it comes to just about any other aspects of government involvement in our day to day lives.

Liberals trust the government to manage the day to day details of their lives. The most striking example of this, of course, is the current debate about health care. And the most extreme statement of this belief that government should be trusted to take care of our bodies came from John Edwards when he announced that, “Damn it! When I’m President, I’ll force everyone to go to the doctor, whether they want to or not.” Okay, I’m exaggerating, but not by much. What he really said was:

“It [his mandatory health care plan] requires that everybody be covered. It requires that everybody get preventive care,” he told a crowd sitting in lawn chairs in front of the Cedar County Courthouse. “If you are going to be in the system, you can’t choose not to go to the doctor for 20 years. You have to go in and be checked and make sure that you are OK.”

Wow, that’s some serious government oversight. You wonder if the lovely Edwards has thought through the kind of enforcement this policy will require. Will Stasi-style health police knock on citizens’ doors and demand evidence that they saw their doctor recently? Doubtful. What will really happen is that Stasi-style health police will carefully study the records of every American citizen, diligently checking to make sure every good American visited his or her doctor and, oh, just incidentally, getting access to every detail of each citizen’s medical records to make sure they were real visits and not just feints to mislead the health police. But that’s okay in the world of John Edwards because it’s for our own good.

Hillary Clinton, of course, isn’t that far behind, although she’s smart enough to have framed her ideas to sound more moderate. Although she claims the plan is “not government run,” she nevertheless intends to have the government oversee a program that insures 47 million people, with a cool $110,000,000,000 annual price tag. If a program that costly doesn’t have oversight it should; and once it does, you’ve got government deeply involved in the health care business. (And we won’t even touch the fact that at least some of these millions of uninsured are people who could afford insurance but for their own private reasons have opted not to get it or who are merely temporarily between insurance.)

(By the way, please understand that I would like to see more people insured. However, I most certainly do not want Hillary and her friends managing that program. And as I always say, if you want to see what it looks like when government gets in the health care business, just look at Walter Reed, our “gift” to those who have sacrificed the most for us.)

Liberals also would like government to have increasing oversight in other areas of day-to-day life, such as their desire for more and more oversight for American business; their preference that government tell us what to do with our savings (hence the deep commitment to Social Security); their craving for government control over schools (hence the strong opposition to vouchers); and their abiding belief, the 1960s through the 1990s notwithstanding, that intense government interference can control poverty.

The common thread binding the liberals’ willingness to relinquish control of their health care decisions, economy, education and business to the government is a manifest belief that the government’s collective wisdom trumps the intelligence of the ordinary person. The government, made up of experts and policy wonks, must be better at taking care of people than people can be trusted to take care of themselves. (People, of course, being defined here as the Wal-Mart shopping, NASCAR loving, country-music listening masses.) And the surprising thing is that liberals cling to this belief, not only despite government’s repeated management failures over the decades, such as the failed War on Poverty or the failed care at Walter Reed, but also despite the fact that they are convinced that the administration now in charge of the government is the most evil thing since . . . well, since Satan!

Conservatives, of course, have the complete opposite view when it comes to government micromanage of just about anything. Conservatives want to be free from government micromanagement, something Fred Thompson neatly summed up here:

In 1994 when I first ran [for Senate], I advocated the same common sense conservative positions that I hold today. They are based upon what I believe to be sound conservative First Principles – reflecting the nature of man and the wisdom of the ages. They are based upon the conviction that our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution are not outdated documents that have outlived their usefulness. It is a recognition that our basic rights come from God and not from government. That government should have its power divided, not only at the federal level but between the federal government and the states. Federalism is the belief that not every problem should have a federal solution. Essentially it’s about freedom. A government that is big enough to do everything for us is powerful enough to do anything to us.

“These principles lead me to believe in lower taxes, which foster growth and leave more power in the hands of the people. They also respect free markets, private property, and fair competition. They honor the sanctity of life – the great truth every life matters, and no person is beneath the protection of the law. These principles made our country great and we should rededicate ourselves to them, not abandon them.

In other words, conservatives do not want the government telling them how to run their businesses, how to educate their children, how to invest their money, how to allocate resources for their needs (such as insurance), what kind of property they can buy, what medical care they can seek, etc. To conservatives, those are private decisions that ought to be free from government diktats. Conservatives believe individuals are better equipped to make these decisions for themselves, with an eye to their own particular circumstances, and accept as a price of freedom the inevitable fact that some individuals may make bad decisions.

(An aside here about the beneficial flexibility that comes with allowing people on the ground to make decisions. Some crosswalks are being installed near my house. It is a huge job, because it doesn’t simply involve drawing lines on the street to mark where people will cross and cars should stop. Instead, because of ADA requirements, all new crosswalks must have curb ramps installed, which involves destroying the four existing corner curbs and pouring new concrete ramps at each corner. Ramps are a great thing, not only for the handicapped, but also for women with strollers. But you see, in our neighborhood, there are existing ramps within 10 feet of each of the corners being destroyed and rebuilt. Admittedly, these ramps are driveways, but they’re still ramps, and they provide easy access to the new crosswalks, especially since the streets are wide and the traffic flow very low.

If the ADA rule had simply said that people in wheelchairs need to have easy or reasonable access to the crosswalks, and then allowed the people on the ground to review the situation, these driveways would have been more than adequate, and saved a heck of a lot of tax payer money. Since people who love government don’t trust individuals, though, and put their faith instead in government rules, we now have two ramps per corner, for a total eight ramps near the new crosswalks. And now back to our regularly scheduled ranting….)

There is one area, however, in which conservatives do want the government around, and this area falls within the traditional purview of government, so much so that the Founders would easily have recognized it: security. Because conservatives believe that it is the government’s job to protect them against external enemies and, even more so, against external enemies who are trying to infiltrate our internal structures, we tend to be more sanguine about government programs aimed at catching those who wish to harm us. We also seem to take a longer view, recognizing that the country has always recovered from the limitations on freedom our government has imposed during times of war, whether we’re talking Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus, the drastic wartime powers Wilson assumed during WWI, or the ill considered decision to imprison anyone who was Japanese or of Japanese ancestry during WWII. In each case, when the threat ended, America’s Constitution and her basic commitment to freedom was sufficiently resilient to come back from these assaults on liberty.

Liberals, on the other hand, who are willing to hand over to the government so many aspects of their private lives, are loath to surrender their security to the government. Instead, when it comes to security, they look at the same government they trust to examine their bodies, make their health care decisions, educate their children, rescue their poor, and control their businesses, and suddenly start ranting that it is out to get them, whether to destroy their buildings and their citizens, listen to their phone calls, or read the same library books they do. They demonstrate a bizarre love-hate relationship with the government, that sees them on the one hand practically handing it their first born, while on the other hand having paranoid nightmares about wiretapping.

Frankly, I’m at a loss to explain this inconsistency. Whether you agree with their viewpoint regarding freedom and privacy, when it comes to government, conservatives at least are consistent — they want the government out of their lives as much as possible, except for the one thing the government does best, which is securing the nation as a whole.

(I’ve developed a rather inexplicable fascination with Patrick Ruffini’s 2008 Presidential Wire. Getting a high score there doesn’t increase my traffic, but I still find it very gratifying. So, if you think this post is worthy of a high score at the Wire, please click **here**.)

UPDATE:  Hillary continues to make my point about liberals’ willingness to bring the government into your day-to-day life, this time envisioning a situation in which you’re required to show a prospective employer that you have GovInsur as one of the conditions of employment.  And just who is going to enforce that and what kind of weird employment black market is going to develop?