Every time you get groped, the terrorists win

“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster”

-Friedrich Nietzsche

It’s been a decade since religious fanatics murdered 3,000 Americans by attacking the world trade center towers and the pentagon with hijacked airplanes. Since that time, we’ve witnessed a rapid erosion of our freedoms, ostensibly in the name of fighting “terror”. While it’s obvious to most that you can neither declare war on — nor fight — a tactic, our government does not see it that way. And why should they? The government has infringed on our rights with new “anti-terror” policies at every opportunity by playing on public fears of another terrorist attack. They’ve presented the public with a false dichotomy of choosing between the tyrannical policy de jure or facing death at the hands of terrorists. In short: the government has used the public’s fear to further control our lives. I hear you asking “but isn’t that, like, Terrorism?” To quote SouthPark, that’s “not like terrorism — it is terrorism!”[1]

Patriot acts contrast
The irony of government policies that capitalize on public fear to expand power is compounded by the notion that the terrorists supposedly hate us (and attack us) because we are “free”. Most thinking people recognize that this is nonsense, of course, but the government is hardly revered for its intellectual prowess. I suppose the government strategy is to simply remove those freedoms that the terrorists supposedly hate us for, thereby reducing the chance for an attack; to launch a pre-emptive strike on liberty! As anyone who has read or heard anything published or stated by Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups knows, however, the terrorists “hate” us because we are occupying their lands with our military bases, meddling in their affairs, and supporting their religious enemies.[2] Ten years later, we can add drone strikes, the killing of civilians during war operations (i.e. collateral damage), and new sanctions imposed on countries like Iran to their list of arguably legitimate grievances.

So what freedoms have we given up in the name of fighting these enemies that want to destroy our… freedoms? The most visible loss of freedoms is apparent at the airport, where travelers are herded like cattle through security checkpoints and are then subjected to a humiliating, sexually suggestive search process. Travelers are treated like criminals merely because they wish to travel for business or see their families. At the airport, they must choose between being seen naked or sexually assaulted before boarding a plane. And, of course, the screening process is ineffective anyway. Stories of people getting on board with fake boarding passes, bags full of sharp knives, and even firearms appear on an almost monthly basis. Of the prohibited items, many of these were accidentally left in luggage by everyday travelers — imagine what a determined group of criminals could accomplish. Compounding the stupidity of this process, the security checkpoint creates a bottleneck in human traffic, forcing hundreds of people to congregate in one small area waiting to enter the security checkpoint. A terrorist doesn’t even have to go through the trouble of trying to bypass security to kill hundreds of people. He could just walk in the middle of this crowd with a couple of bombs in his luggage and kill at least as many as he could on a plane.

Osama was no doubt amused by the TSA

It's hard to conceive of a terrorist plot more sinister than ensuring that every American man, woman, and child is sexually assaulted, humiliated, and treated like a criminal before getting on an airplane

In addition to the absurdities we deal with at an airport, we’ve also lost far more important freedoms in far more sinister ways. Certainly, the PATRIOT Act is the most well known of these abuses. The PATRIOT Act gives the government permission to violate the 4th amendment rights of American citizens in a number of ways: sneak-and-peak warrants, roving wiretaps, and access to business and banking records without a warrant. Even more alarming then the PATRIOT act was the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and accompanying legislation, court battles, and executive orders. The premise behind this power grab is that the government can designate someone an enemy combatant and then hold him indefinitely without a trial, without access to a lawyer, or without even informing him of the charges he faces. While this suspect is held at Guantanamo Bay or some secret overseas prison, he will likely be deprived of the most basic human rights, let alone his ability to petition for a writ of habeas corpus or have any recourse against a potentially illegal detainment. Given the US government’s track record of heavy-handed ineptitude[3] , it’s hard to believe that terrorists present a greater threat to your life or liberty than governments and law enforcement agents.

Government vs. Terrorism

Yeah, pretty much.

All these manifestations of eroded freedoms, of course, stem from sacrificing the very principles that define the United States. Key components of a free society are protection of private property rights and personal liberties, rule of law, and due process, among others. If our country is defined by a set of principles, and we abandon those principles in the name of defending our country, have we not abandoned our country? The United States is not the “greatest, freest country in the world” just because we say it is; it is great and free only so long as we value and live by the principles of a free society. The extent that we depart from those principles is the extent to which we have surrendered our country. What is the point of fighting to save a country if our methods of fighting destroy its philosophical foundation? By abandoning our ideals, we are doing far more damage to our country than violent criminals ever could.

To really make things worse, does anyone really believe we are safer now than we were prior to the attacks? We’ve not only continued, but furthered, many of the same policies given as reasons for the violence. We’ve put tens of thousands of our troops in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan, losing 6,000 in the process — more than double the number of civilian lives lost in the attacks themselves. No doubt our enhanced presence in Arab states and the high civilian death toll as a result of our operations is raising a new generation of people that will seek to avenge what they perceive as injustice. Law enforcement abuses of powers granted in the name of fighting terrorism are commonplace, as are complaints against the TSA. By all accounts, you’re more likely to suffer abuse at the hands of terror-fighting law enforcement than you are to be a victim of terrorism. If the choice was between getting groped by the TSA or getting attacked by terrorists — and I assure you that it isn’t — I’ll take my chances with the terrorists.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Episode: Carton Wars Part II, from http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/South_Park/Season_10
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motives_for_the_September_11_attacks
  3. The Waco seige, The Ruby Ridge incident, and every botched paramilitary drug raid

America’s War on Peace — the costs of our foreign policy

My last post covered a paper I wrote on the economics of the American Revolution during my last semester at Tech. Continuing in the same vein this week, I also wanted to post my Senior Economics Thesis. My paper addresses the astronomical costs and long-term implications of our aggressive foreign policy.

Friends and readers will note that I argued my point from the Keynesian point of view despite the fact that I reject Keynesian economics entirely. I did this because I wanted to argue the point on their terms — and there is nothing more Keynesian than the myth that war is good for the economy. A third-grader can see the flaw in this myth, via the parable of the broken window, but most Keynesians are so deluded that they refuse to accept any argument that isn’t framed in the context of a “government multiplier”. So I argued on those terms and still believe I made my point.

Here’s a link to the paper, called The Costs of America’s War on Peace and I have embedded it below. Enjoy:

The Economic American Revolution

During my last semester in college, when I had to take 3 unexpected classes to graduate, I wrote a paper on the economic background of the American Revolutionary War and the Constitution. Most people consider the American Revolution to be a purely philosophical or political revolution, but economic considerations were significant. Perhaps even lesser known is the role post-war economics played in the drafting of the Constitution. The Articles of Confederation were not scrapped and replaced by the Constitution because the federal government didn’t have “enough power” in the sense of authoritarian control, but because of state-level economic issues that threatened the economic stability of the country.

Here’s a link to the paper, called The Economic American Revolution: Economic motivators and conditions in Revolutionary America and I have embedded it below. Enjoy: