Magazine article The American Conservative

Liberty's Last Dance: OK, So This Baby Boomer Has Grown Less Libertarian, and More Conservative in His Old Age. but I Could Still Change. Three Things in Particular Are Giving Me Pause

Magazine article The American Conservative

Liberty's Last Dance: OK, So This Baby Boomer Has Grown Less Libertarian, and More Conservative in His Old Age. but I Could Still Change. Three Things in Particular Are Giving Me Pause

Article excerpt

First, there's the sudden decline and fall of Eliot Spitzer, the former governor of New York. I am enough of a libertarian to think that prostitution should be legal in a few places--and enough of a conservative to think it should be illegal in most places, including Washington D.C. So no sympathy for Spitzer from me.

Yet unfortunately, a government powerful enough to supervise virtue is also powerful enough to indulge its own particular vices. Consider: If the federal government can catch Spitzer because he moved around $80,000 in cash--not much, in a $14-trillion-a-year economy--then the netting of Uncle Sam's financial dragnet has become, indeed, a tight mesh.

And as a further wrinkle, search engines are now enabling everybody to look up anybody and thereby link, in cybernetic eternity, Spitzer and, say, his temporary girlfriend, Ashley Alexandra Dupre. Indeed, it's hard to imagine that E.M. Forster felt it necessary to tell us to get connected; that's all we are now--connected.

None of us are islands anymore. There's no need to send to know because we already know--or at least the Feds know.

A second spur to neo-libertarianism is the growing power of the homeland securitizers, post-9/11. The Patriot Act never bothered me, and I support building a wall on the southern border. And if we have a national ID card, that's good; it will cut down on vote fraud. Besides, what with surveillance cams and credit cards, I have no doubt They know where I am all the time anyway. But let's remember, things can get worse because power in the name of security soon metastasizes into power as a threat to liberty.

Thus a recent incident in Washington D.C. is a disturbing indicator. On April 12, the eve of Thomas Jefferson's 265th birthday, a group of 20 or so libertarians gathered for an iPod-based silent "dance in" at the Jefferson Memorial. There's no curfew in the area; plenty of other tourists were there, too. Yet one of the "flash-mobbers," a 20-something female, was arrested by the National Park Service police for disorderly conduct, and the other dancing liberty-lovers were shooed away.

One needn't pity this young woman too much; she will have lots of publicity and plenty of lawyers. Her nonviolent conduct that night, and seemingly unreasonable arrest, are all visible on YouTube, and she will no doubt get the smartest constitutional lawyer that the Cato Institute can cough up. …

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