Freedom Left and Right

The Sunday Washington papers carried several dire reports about the state of freedom in America. Funny thing is, they didn’t much agree on what kinds of freedoms are being lost.

In the Washington Post, law professor Jonathan Turley warned:

In the decade since Sept. 11, 2001, this country has comprehensively reduced civil liberties in the name of an expanded security state. The most recent example of this was the National Defense Authorization Act, signed Dec. 31, which allows for the indefinite detention of citizens. At what point does the reduction of individual rights in our country change how we define ourselves? … .

An authoritarian nation is defined not just by the use of authoritarian powers, but by the ability to use them. If a president can take away your freedom or your life on his own authority, all rights become little more than a discretionary grant subject to executive will.

He pointed to such hallmarks of authoritarian states as the official assassination of U.S. citizens, warrantless searches, immunity from judicial review, and continual monitoring of citizens.

Meanwhile, the editorial in the Washington Examiner deplored the rise in regulation and federal spending under President Obama “and the resulting decline in U.S. economic freedom.”

And Michael Barone of the American Enterprise Institute wrote in the Examiner about President Obama’s not-really-recess appointments:

The Framers of the Constitution saw it a different way. When the Senate refuses to confirm a presidential appointee, that person does not take office. When the Senate is not in recess, the president cannot make a recess appointment.

The Framers thought it more important to limit power than for government to act quickly. Obama disagrees.

All good points. The three articles together would make a comprehensive case brief on the loss of freedom under President Obama. And under President Bush, of course. After all, Turley notes that Bush pioneered many of the new powers that Obama now exercises. Bush also increased federal spending dramatically and expanded regulation and economic intervention from Sarbanes-Oxley to TSA to TARP.

Libertarians have long argued that freedom is indivisible, that it is difficult to sustain either political or economic freedom for long without the other. These articles remind us that both economic and civil liberties are threatened today, and thus we need a broad movement to protect and advance liberty and limited government against all these threats.