Clinton wants his private life back. His personal behavior is his
alone, and his family’s. It’s a moral outrage that a prosecutor wants to
turn a private matter into a public one. Ken Starr’s power is wholly
Welcome to the early 19th century, when people actually did have
lives because the government dared not intrude. Family was autonomous
so too were extended families. Homes were sacred spaces. Businesses were
private property. Neighborhoods managed their own affairs without
There were no spooks listening in on phone calls, reading our mail,
investigating our politics, monitoring our income and stealing up to
of it for “public policy.” There was no army of social workers telling
how to raise their kids. There was no war on tobacco or drugs. These
all private matters.
Heads of households, pastors, and community leaders were the social
authorities, not politicians. The president had no agencies to regulate
business, tell property owners whom to hire and fire, much less pretend
manage the national and world economy.
There was no “sexual-harassment” law. People who didn’t like their
didn’t sue. Instead, they sought out a new job. Discrimination on any
whatsoever was not a crime but a sacred right. There were no laws that
punished people for their choices and associations so long as they
It was a system called freedom, and it made possible the most
and humane society in human history. We owe our current prosperity to
remnants of the old system.
But Bill Clinton represents something different, an ideology whose
tenet is that private life shouldn’t exist. All behavior is public
The State has an interest in managing all aspects of it. What choices
freedoms we have are ours because the State grants them. Children don’t
belong to the family but to society. Businesses are public property. Our
thoughts and motivations — even our jokes — are the business of courts
But now Clinton, in high-flown libertarian rhetoric, attempts to tap
the seething resentment the public has for big government and demands
the Administrative State he heads and loves leave him alone. In his
new-found worldview, he alone enjoys the right to conduct his affairs as
He says no one has a right to know what he is doing with his
His friends cannot be subpoenaed and forced to rat on him to the feds.
“Even presidents have private lives,” he says. He means ONLY presidents
have private lives.
Can someone please welcome Bill to the late 20th century? The power
intrusions of the government now frying him are the same power and
intrusions the rest of America is forced to endure every day.
Every penny we spend is subject to investigation by the tax police.
business owner can take a step on his own property without consulting
federal agencies. Even in our own homes, we are not free to decide what
kind of paint to put on the walls or the size of our toilet tanks.
Recall that Bill would not be in this fix were it not for the
advent of sexual-harassment law. On the day of his speech, thousands of
cases are roiling through the courts that will result in million-dollar
fines against bosses accused of far less. Managers’ lives will be ruined
a subordinate’s lewd remark or provocative picture displayed on a desk.
This is a law that Bill defends and champions. His own wife, now
that her personal space is invaded by government power, is the icon of
feminist movement that has long claimed that the personal is the
Bill is inviting all of us to reject the authority that Starr is
exercising. Bill didn’t like the questions Starr was asking and
even refused to answer them. Why should he? Hey, he’s thinking, it’s a
It might be possible to be more sympathetic to Bill’s predicament.
repeal the sexual harassment laws in which he is now entangled. Let him
strip the CIA, the IRS, the FBI, the ATF, and the NSA of their power to
on our private lives.
Let Bill light a bonfire on the White House lawn made of the federal
and a hundred years of the Federal Register. Let him grant to every
American the broad rights to private life that he demands for himself.
we are entitled to regard his speech as the plea of a tyrant caught in
Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., is president of the Ludwig von Mises
in Auburn, Alabama.