Monday, June 8, 2009

But what could possibly be wrong with getting tough on crime?



In my last post, I stated that one of my key objections to politician Mitt Romney was his emphasis on cracking down on crime.

Often when I criticize the laws currently governing this country (and I often do), I get the knee jerk response, “Oh, then you want to have no laws at all”.

I try, usually in vain, to explain that what I want are reasonable laws.

I’ve been watching since about 1980, as new restrictions have been continuously added, penalties increased, misdemeanors have been raised to felony status, surveillance has become ubiquitous, and as enforcement tactics have become more and more forceful and violent. No reasonable person can deny that the laws of this country are much tougher today than they were when Reagan took office. I’ve seen an endless line of scary bogeymen being paraded before the public, drugs, criminals, terrorists, impaired drivers, identity thieves, the war on this, the war on that, in order to frighten the people into accepting control measures that they would normally recognize as going too far.

And I’ve seen the results. I couldn’t begin to count all the decent people I have known, who thought that all of this would never affect them, because they live good lives and would never do anything to cheat or harm their neighbors…until one night they found themselves being taken from their cars or from their homes, handcuffed, and put in the back of a squad car.

Anyone who demands proof that the US has become an authoritarian state need only look at our prisons, which currently hold a greater percentage of our population than Iran, China, or any other despotic regime, either now or in history.

It is clear to me that excessive laws have become much greater threat to the honest citizen than drugs, crime, terrorism, or the distracted driver in the next lane.

That’s the problem, but what is the solution?
As I stated in the beginning, I am not some anarchist advocating the abolition of the rule of law. Indeed what I am advocating is a return to the rule of law, and to the principles enumerated in the Constitution of the United States of America.

Disorderly conduct, obstructing justice, failure to obey a lawful order, criminal mischief, these are just a few examples of vaguely defined charges which enable police to stop any activity they choose, even though no law has been passed specifically prohibiting that activity, and to arrest anyone whose behavior they don’t like. Giving those in authority the power to make up the law as they go along is not the rule of law, it is rule by fiat, or put even more simply, tyranny.

Getting rid of these broad sweeping laws would be a good first step.

Some say that our society swings like a pendulum, back and forth between a civil rights model and a crime control model. My own personal observation is that once a restriction is passed, it’s usually in place forever, once the government expands itself to deal with some supposed problem, it will never admit it’s error and back out, once a right is limited or lost, seldom will we ever get it back. But if the pendulum theory is right, then it is my hope that the public will turn off the scary images that CNN is bringing into their living rooms in vivid high def, will examine the world from the prospective of what they actually see with their own eyes as they go about their daily lives, will realize that the world they actually live in is really not all that dangerous, will stop demanding for the congressman they have on speed dial to fight for tougher laws, and will start calling that congressman with suggestions to start scaling things back to the way they were in a more free and reasonable time, repairing the damage caused to our once free society by 30 years of misguided zealotry.

No comments:

Post a Comment