Thursday, October 21, 2004

Naughty Blogger

I feel ike a naughty Catholic who's come back from hiatus, "Forgive me readers, for I have's been 16 days since my last post"
I'm feeling lethargic, have been all week, and, subsequently, I have no drive to write tonight either. I"m cold and tired and I miss home amongst other things...
Rather than force myself to create a post which i do not feel like creating, I'd like to share the essay I wrote for sociology class. It's a sort of overview of the so caled "Civil-Liberties Crisis in America." here you go...
Protecting Liberty

“How Liberty is Lost,” an article written by Amitai Etzioni and appearing in the July/August 2003 issue of Transaction, Social Science, and Modern Society, provides a brief examination and analysis of people’s perception of civil liberties in a democracy in the post 9/11 world by posing the question, “Under what conditions is democracy undermined?” This, he says, is a question which has been set aside for too long as we attempt to foster new democracies in nations formerly controlled by Communists. This examination is one seen often today as Americans seek to balance security with liberty and safety with freedom. In essence, one might say Etzioni attempts to provide a common ground for those concerned only with safety and security and those seeking to maintain freedom and liberty to meet together in order to achieve a common goal; providing a means by which we as a whole can be safe and secure while retaining the liberties and freedoms which define our way of life.
Etzioni begins by defining democracy, a seemingly easy task which is seldom successfully (where success is a correct definition) completed. Despite the fact that democracy, as a term, is so difficult to define, he ‘hits the nail on the head,’ so to speak, in pointing out quickly that democracy is not just “a nation that holds regular elections.” This is a particularly valid point as this aspect of democracy, while key is not the single defining aspect of democracy, if a single aspect can be deemed ‘most important.’ One need look no further to see this sort of ‘democracy’ than the former Baathist regime in Iraq, which held regular elections, yet only allowed one candidate to run. “Democracy,” he continues, “is taken to mean a polity in which there are regular institutionalized changes in power, in line with the preferences of the people, freely expressed…democracy is ensconced in a framework of rights that are not subject to majority rule.”
Next, Etzioni begins to examine one of the common arguments used by those fighting to retain the liberties of the people: the Slippery Slope Hypothesis. This, he explains, is the idea that government begins to trim rights at a time of great strife in the name of national security. Once this trimming begins, he says, it is only a matter of time before other rights and liberties are lost until eventually, the “institutional structure on which democracy rests tumbles down the slope with nobody able to stop it.” This is an argument often used in opposition to the USA PATRIOT Act, which was put into law following the events of 9/11 and allows law enforcement agencies to eliminate red tape which had previously prevented them from necessary resources to combat terrorism. Eliminating this tape, they argue, will lead to a country very much like that in the George Orwell novel 1984 which is a nation of people whose very thoughts are monitored and controlled by the sinister Big Brother. This, Etzioni explains, is said with the best of intentions, but is actually far more detrimental to the continuation of democracy than allowing the changes the government is attempting to initiate. He explains,
If one fears setting a foot on the slope because he may end up on his backside at the lower end of the slope, there is only one alternative—to remain frozen at the top, opposed to all changes… [Instead] one should be able to make notches in the slope. In other words, before setting foot on it, one needs to …clearly mark how far he is willing to go and what is unacceptable.
To further explain this anti-theory, that is, opposition to the “Slippery-Slope” idea, Etzioni uses the Weimar Republic of post-World War I Germany as a model. The reason, he says, Germany was so receptive to the charismatic leadership of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Regime is that the pre-Nazi government was non-receptive to the needs of the people. Economic hardship in post-war Germany left many needing government help. “Inaction,” Etzioni points out, “killed the Weimar Republic, not excessive action.”
Next, he applies a combination of his ‘anti-theory’ (as defined previously in this paper) and the “slippery-slope” theory to post-9/11 America stating that “we seek to asses whether the size of the challenge minus the impact of new measures will correlate with the extent to which the public will support a rights-based, constitutional democracy.” In other words, we must strive to reach a balance between the initial problem and the actions we take to resolve that problem. I suppose that this may be illustrated using the old saying “Do not use a hatchet to remove a fly from your friends head;” the hatchet is, in effect, more harmful than the fly could ever be.
To me, Etzioni’s theory is a no-brainer which needs to be shouted from the rooftops until every single person in America recognizes that there is a real problem which needs to be dealt with. I, for one, am tired of the ‘slippery-slope’ argument and am glad that a writer finally had the nerve to say what needs to be said of this—if one is too fearful to take a single step, nothing remains but to stand idly by while the world around him falls apart.
Etzioni almost seems to suggest that the action taken by the Bush Administration and the Congress during the days immediately following 9/11 saved the country. He seems to suggest, without saying it in simple terms that had the Bush Administration waited to act, we would be worse off now than we actually are. This, I believe, is very true and a valuable point which we need to realize.
The model Etzioni used can, I believe, be applied to the ever-useless international body we know as the United Nations; they should seriously consider examining this model and applying it to themselves. As he suggested, the Weimar Republic become irrelevant and useless because of their unwillingness to act. To me, the extended promise of action is just as detrimental, if not more so, than inaction in itself. This, I believe, is why the Iraq War was so needed, but that’s another topic, for another essay.
Iraq, though, is not all the United Nations has been “inactive” in regards to. One can examine the situation in Darfer which has grown exponentially while the world waits for the United Nations to deliberate and argue over fine print. Continued delay of this sort will ultimately, I believe, bring about the end of the United Nations much as unwillingness to respond to the needs of its people brought about an end to the Weimar Republic.
Whether examining the Weimar Republic, looking at the response by the Bush Administration to the attacks on 9/11, reviewing the action taken by Congress in response to the public demand for increased security, which ultimately led to the creation of the USA PATRIOT Act, or attempting to save the United Nations by showing flaws in their responsiveness, one thing is certain—Etzioni is most certainly correct when he says it is the public’s responsibility to “assess whether the size of the challenge minus the impact of new measures will correlate with the extent to which the public will support a rights-based, constitutional democracy.” Ultimately, the power in a democracy lay with its people. This idea of social contract, which dates back to before our Declaration of Independence was even written, establishes the idea that we as people are born free and only sacrifice our liberty so that we may be well protected. When, as John Locke stated, government acts improperly against the freedoms sacrificed by the people, said government breaks its contract with the people thereby losing the consent of the governed. When this happens, said people are duty-bound to replace these people. This ideology is at the heart of democracy and is key to the continued survival of the free world.


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