Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Long Tail of Liberty...

A rather long and thoughtful post…skip if you're in the mood for sexy hijinks! (Go, hijinks!)

I’m no legal historian. In fact, I’m no kind of historian, unless it’s an armchair one.  Or, rather, computer-chair.  My research amuses myself, and informs my stories, that’s all.

That said, I have musings.  And sometimes, current events impinge directly on my historical sensibilities.

I write stories set in the middle ages. For a good portion of that period, liberty was dependent on how much money you could afford to pay the king or local nobleman for his 'goodwill,' or how well you fought in a ring (or again, how much money to had to hire a champion to do it for you), or how well you floated in water, or, most commonly, if the Sherriff of Nottingham was your local law-keeper (bad news for you), or some other local strong-arm was in the mood to plunder. People had very few recognized rights, and they could be compelled to do any number of things, depending on the will of the more powerful.

It was not until King Henry II that the concept of 'common law'--laws that applied to all, and could restrict the king & his agents' actions--came to be an accepted government policy. Next came Magna Carta (based on a charter of liberties from King Henry I), further restricted the government. And so on.

These were hard-fought, and hard-won victories. They were fundamental expansions of the notion of personal liberty and a curb on State's rights, & were therefore core redistributions of power.

Might did not necessarily make right anymore, at least legally.

Liberty requires strong checks on the powers of a State. 

This includes surveillance powers.  It also includes the power to compel private individuals (& companies) to engage in particular actions.

And that is the reason I hope Apple does (& think they should) win their 'appeal' against the FBI's current attempt to force Apple to give them backdoor access so the FBI can bruteforce open the phone of one of the San Bernardino shooters.

In short, this: There will always be crime. There will not always be liberty.

In fact, in the course of human history, liberty has been a rare and precious commodity for a citizenry against powerful, militarized State.

Be careful what powers you give your government, in a state of fear or anger, to encroach on the civil liberties of its citizens, even to "combat crime."  Because next time, it's going to be your civil liberties.


azteclady said...

Benjamin Franklin said something that's often paraphrased to, "Those who would give up Essential Liberties in exchange of temporary security, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

Whether or not he said it to mean the current interpretation, I'll go one better: when we give the powerful unchecked power, we lose everything in short order. Freedom, security, and, in the end, inevitably, our very lives. said...

Yes! I kept hearing Benjamin Franklin in my head as I wrote this, Aztec.

At the least (which isn't 'least' at all) we lose the higher order value of our lives if we're willing to allow it. The individual life cannot be constrained by, nor compelled to, those areas/actions that are deemed convenient or comfortable to our government & its agents (intra- or extra-government). We are neither property nor prey.

We are at a perilous crossroads in the U.S. I believe we're in the adolescence of our nationhood, developmentally (unless of course we blow everything up tmrw, then we're in old age). We could go many ways. We need to adhere ourselves to the highest standards, then hold to them even when it's difficult, inconvenient, or scary. Especially then. They either matter, or they don't.