Trading Essential Liberties for Temporary Safety
Cato’s Tim Lee wonders, “Why are today’s Democrats less concerned with civil liberties than Republicans were a decade ago?”
Jim Henley retorts, “Why are today’s Republicans less concerned with civil liberties than Republicans were a decade ago?” His guess is that its because 1996 Republicans were trying to protect “their voters, the right-most fringe of exurban and rural white men” whereas now the laws are aimed at an other.
But there’s a rather obvious answer to both questions: The 9/11 attacks hadn’t happened a decade ago.
In fairness, Lee acknowledges that defense but rejects it because it doesn’t “justify Congress’s panicky reaction to the president’s demands” and because they steadily chipped away at civil liberties since 9/11. But politics is often irrational.
Megan McArdle discusses the lunacy of our airport security policies which she correctly points out “waste time, turn us into sheep–and give the world the impression that the government is ‘doing something.'” For the most part, though, the latter trumps the former from the cost-benefit analysis of the policy-makers.
Furthermore, from the standpoint of a politician seeking re-election, the moves have been decidedly rational. When the president or the FBI or the CIA say they need certain powers to protect us from another 9/11 attack, the public naturally jumps on board. It takes stern moral fiber, indeed, to fight against these encroachments when one’s career is on the line.
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