Tag Archives: Rule of law

Voting for the Lesser Evil is Irrational

It’s the tie color that makes the difference. The only difference.

Presidential election season means pretty much half of all the voters are asking, “Do I really have to vote for that guy?”  Libertarians and Tea Partiers have no desire to vote for Mitt Romney, and liberals, socialists, and Occupiers don’t want to have to vote for Obama.  Reluctant voters are scolded that if they don’t vote for one of the major party candidates, then the other guy will win; and make no mistake, he’ll destroy America.  Of course, America has already been mostly destroyed, and the two major parties are some of the main culprits.  In any case, the idea that you should set aside your own political preferences to vote for one of two cartoonish villains is known as “the lesser evil argument”. read more »

President Obama Commits Extrajudicial Killing

So there it is.  On September 30, the United States government succeeded in assassinating an American citizen living in Yemen.  Anwar al-Awlaki was a moderate Muslim cleric turned radical by US wars in the Middle East.  The US government has subsequently decided that he was a member of Al-Qaeda, despite the doubts of Yemeni officials that he had any contact with the terrorist organization.  In other words, Awlaki was an American targeted for assassination by the government of the United States for his religious expression.  The President of the United States now claims the right to execute American citizens without a trial on the basis of “national security,” which, since the executive has no judicial or legislative oversight in this regard, means whatever the President decides that it means.

Most Americans do not understand the implications of Obama’s action.  They will just say that they “don’t care about Awlaki’s rights,” just like Osama bin Laden before him.  In fact, when Obama informed an audience with the news, they applauded.  The error here is not just a failure of being a person, though there is that.  The failure is understanding that one’s rights are not something that one possesses for oneself.  Somebody might respond that just because Awlaki’s rights were violated, doesn’t mean that my own rights will be.  This is the lemming-like belief that just because those other lemmings fell off the cliff, doesn’t mean I will – I’m a special lemming.

But our rights are not something enjoyed individually, but socially, because they exist only in the manner that the institutions we share are organized.  We have the right to the freedom of speech only because our society does not prevent individuals from speaking, and those who do prevent free speech are penalized (let’s pretend, anyway).  In this way, Awlaki’s rights are our rights, and if he does not have the right not to be killed by the government for whatever reason that it does not have to prove, then any American is subject to the same extrajudicial execution.

Unfortunately, it’s always the case in these historical transformations that people don’t see, in fact applaud, their journey into authoritarian nightmares.  It’s happened to countless societies, and each failed to learn from history by thinking itself to be specially protected by its own virtues.  Marx said that when history repeats itself, it does so “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” But when it’s your own country, it doesn’t feel very funny.

Was the Killing of Osama bin Laden Justified?

Osama bin Laden has finally been found and killed, almost ten years after George W. Bush promised to catch him ‘dead or alive,’ and nine and a half years after he said he didn’t care where Bin Laden was. We in the United States are justifiably excited. Some claim that the celebrations at the death of another human being are morbid; but I can’t see how it’s not permissible in the case of mass murderers. As far as can be known, Osama bin Laden funded the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and thus deserved to die. But the question I’m interested in is whether the government of the United States therefore deserves to kill him. read more »

It’s Not Enough

Bradley Manning has recently been moved from conditions amounting to torture in Quantico to the medium-security prison at Fort Leavenworth, and people concerned with seeing any form of justice in the United States have been relieved.  While I am glad that Private Manning is no longer effectively being tortured, this is not enough. read more »