Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Freedom, liberty and the law

Last night I posted about a US Army Master Sergeant who had a very unpleasant encounter with the Temple, TX police department.  I made several unflattering references to the latter force.  This produced some comments in favor of my approach, and others objecting to it, claiming that the Master Sergeant - in so many words - 'asked for it'.

I was thinking about this today as I responded to one such critic.  It seems to me that this disparity in responses is, in fact, a primary determination of who we are as individuals.  I submit that the problem boils down to the distinction between two approaches to life, the universe and everything:

1.  Everything that is not permitted, is forbidden

- OR -

2.  Everything that is not forbidden, is permitted

I'd go further, and submit that the first approach is statism writ large;  the presumption that the authorities have the right to state explicitly what they're prepared to allow, and then forbid their subjects to do anything else - up to and including taking action against them if they do.  The second approach is that of freedom and liberty;  the presumption that the individual is the master of his or her own destiny, which may not be restricted or obstructed by the authorities except in matters of overriding common concern (and those matters must be clearly demonstrated to be overriding, and be accepted as such by those who elect the authorities).

It's also worth noting that prohibiting something has never yet stopped it from happening.  Forbid murder?  It happens every day - once every 36 minutes in the USA, in fact, according to the FBI's crime statistics for 2011 (the last full year for which they're available at the time of writing).  Forbid alcohol?  Yeah . . . we all know how well that worked last time it was tried!  Forbid drugs?  Yeah, right.  Forbid extramarital sex, even on the grounds that it's a Divine command, not just a civil law?  I was a pastor.  I daresay that 99 out of every 100 couples I married were already sexually active - and between a quarter and a third of them were already pregnant!  No, never in human history has forbidding something actually stopped or eradicated it.  Not once.

The only thing forbidding something has achieved, from a historical perspective, is to expand the authorities' power to crack down on their subjects.  Note that I didn't say 'citizens', because citizens are free people almost by definition.  Authority uses legislation and regulation to transform citizens into subjects;  to force them to conform;  to coerce them into giving up some or all of their freedoms;  to make them allow those in power to dictate to them how they are to behave.  The events of 9/11 have led to precisely this reaction in the USA, with the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, the erection of massive new state security organs and organizations (including the Transportation Security Administration), warrantless phone taps, warrantless searches, and so on.  It's even led to the indefinite detention, without legal representation or trial by a jury of their peers, of alleged 'terrorists' or 'criminals', despite the provisions of the Sixth Amendment.

Any and all of these developments would have been anathema to our Founding Fathers, who enacted the Bill of Rights specifically to guard against such developments.  Unfortunately, the present 'herd mentality' evident in much of the USA has tolerated such intrusions onto and erosions of our constitutional freedoms and liberties.  This meek, unthinking acquiescence merely ensures that the authorities will continue to impose more such measures upon us - and treat us as Master Sergeant Grisham was treated.

I absolutely, categorically refuse to consent to, co-operate with, or permit such treatment of myself or my loved ones by the authorities.  I stand upon the platform set out so well by Patrick Henry, who also reminded us:

Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.

It's our 'public liberty' that's at stake if we permit the authorities to behave towards us as those Temple, TX cops behaved towards Master Sergeant Grisham.  Their actions defied and defiled his liberty.  They acted as if what was not explicitly permitted, was forbidden.  Since Texas law does not explicitly address the situation in question, then clearly, what is not forbidden by law should be permitted - the diametric opposite of their approach.

Samuel Adams' pre-Revolution words to the timid are, I think, germane to the point at issue:

If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, — go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!

I submit that one's reaction to Master Sergeant Grisham's predicament is a very clear indicator of whether one is, at heart, a subject or a citizen - a statist or a libertarian.  I submit that the former prefers 'the tranquility of servitude';  the latter, 'the animating contest of freedom.'

(If you feel differently, of course I welcome alternative points of view in Comments.)



Grog said...

That's a succint definition of Liberty. Which is why so many people have the inclination to argue about it, the simultaneous simplicity and complexity is too basic(for lack of a more accurate word)to grasp for most people because they've allowed themselves to become ego oriented, self centered, etc...........

But that's the modern world we have, until He returns.

LL said...

Was MSG Grishim's situation one that he provoked in order to gain notoriety. He has a track record. I am not blaming him, simply asking the question. The video had that flavor to me. The police acted so unreasonably that I can't imagine that it wasn't some sort of put up job.

Call me a cynic. (but buy my books all the same...)

Greg Tag said...

I will take the video at face value.

MSG Grisham was in compliance with Texas law, the Texas Constitution quite clearly allows the keeping and bearing of long arms, un hindered, and PC 46.02 "Unlawful Carrying Weapons" speaks of handguns, illegal knives and clubs.

He was walking down the road with a rifle slung, not threatening in any way - whether it makes some cop "uncomfortable" doesnt matter a whit.

Long arms are NEVER mentioned in the PC 46.02; in fact, unless you are in a prohibited place such as a school or court building, you may carry a rifle anywhere you wish. Black rifle or lever gun, pump action or muzzle-loader, loaded or not.

The cops WAY over-reacted; they are bound to know the statute. If they do not, their training is ls severely lacking, and the lack of judgement on display calls to question whether they are fit to serve as peace officers at all.

If I were their police chief or Watch Commander I would be mortally embarassed, if I were Mayor of Temple I would be afraid.

All I can say is that the City of Temple had better prepare for a breathtaking lawsuit - its all on video, and the officers are the ones who broke the law.



Retired Mustang said...

I can't count the number of times I've pointed out that it's the tendency of human government to always seek greater control over citizens. The only way to remain free is to oppose this tendency at every turn.

As for people breaking laws: While the context was certainly different, Paul pointed out that it is inherent in the nature of law to arouse within us the urge to violate it.

Retired Mustang said...


It is indeed a succinct definition. I suggest another reason people tend to favor law over freedom is that freedom places the responsibility for actions (and subsequent consequences)in the lap of the individual. Many (most) people fear such responsibility. Many times simple definitions and truths are feared for similar reasons. If something is truly that simple, it leaves little room to hide. I'm reminded of Adam's response to God: "The woman whom you gave to be with me..."

DOuglas2 said...

In a free society (and in ours, especially as more and more federal constitutional freedoms are made explicitly applicable against the states by court opinion) the actions of the government and its agents acainst the cotizenry are governed by (1)

P said...

Peter, I agree with you. I'm still hung up on the justification the officer used, that Grisham was "rudely displaying" his weapon. What the blankety-blank does that mean? If Grisham pointed it at the officer, the officer would have had a right to pull his own weapon and gun Grisham down. If Grisham pointed to his weapon and said, "Nanny nanny boo boo! This is mine, and you can't take it!" well, too bad for the officer. He's a grown man and should be tough enough to take it. Bottom line, unless there is something we don't know yet, the cops had no right to do this.

Dirk said...

From my viewing, it seems the reason the cops were called at all is because someone called them and reported seeing a man with a gun and that this made them uncomfortable or afraid. Given that it's not against the law to open-carry, as was pointed out by previous commenters, there was no reason for the police to do anything but tell the caller "Too bad, so sad - if the guy is just walking down the road, and not doing anything threatening, it's your problem, not ours."

And, Peter - I completely agree with you.

Mad Jack said...

These aren't cops. These are Texas pigs.

Wraith said...

@ Greg: Well, rotsa ruck with that lawsuit. I predict it will wind up with some fascist so-called "judge" rubber-stamping the officers' actions.

I'll be pleasantly surprised if this does not, in fact, occur...but don't call me paranoid. I got this way from being proved right too often. :(

Anonymous said...

I got to thinking about this second post and I hope there's room for folks who believe all that is not forbidden is permitted is the ethical paradigm and one we should move toward.
Because, in my original correspondence on this with friend Eric my comments to him were that they guy should've shut up. That doesn't mean I don't support the right to open carry, it means that when engaged with low level law enforcement it's my expectation (through very widely available public information) that they will not understand the law and that they are trained to consider themselves authority figures and to -act- as if they are. Choosing not to initially confront that doesn't mean I'm a fascist or a co traveler. It means I want to take an approach (in court) that I think is more likely to win and cause more systematic change. All IMO. Boyd K

Bob Beers said...

Someone needs to force this issue to the Supreme Court and some courageous attorney is going to have to risk the full weight of socialist Washington coming down on them, but it needs to be done.

The police claim that any objection to what they choose to do is "obstruction" and they could not be more wrong. The Master Sergeant would have been completely within his rights as an active duty member of the military to defend his rights with deadly force, even though it would have brought on a firestorm. Frankly, after seeing this fat pig who thinks he is a proper policeman act that way, we would better off as a race without him.