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'If you aren't guilty, what are you afraid of?'
Posted By Harry Browne On 11/28/2002 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled
The Homeland Security bill is now law – following in the footsteps of all the new government intrusions of the past 14 months. And as concerns are raised about the new powers of the government, we continue to hear the familiar refrain, “If you aren’t guilty, you have nothing to fear. These restrictions are necessary to catch terrorists, but they won’t hurt innocent people.”
The well-known phrase, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you,” could easily be reworded to read, “I’m from Congress and this program will turn out exactly as we promise it will.”
Government has failed to educate our children properly, it has made a mess of our health-care system, it can’t balance its budget, it can’t keep its spending in line, it can’t keep drugs out of its own prisons – but we’re assured that it will run a squeaky-clean homeland security program.
It’s bad enough that government wastes so much of our money, but it’s even worse that almost anyone could wind up in prison – even someone who has committed no act of violence against anyone else. Look at the hundreds of thousands of pot-smokers who took seriously the statement that “a woman [or man] has a right to control his own body.”
The guilty and the innocent
Why should we think the so-called War on Terrorism will be conducted with more regard for individual rights than anything the government has done up to now?
And yet, no matter how bad the government’s record, whenever Congress passes a new piece of draconian legislation, we’re assured that only the guilty will be hurt by these laws.
If only that were so. The truth is that innocence is no protection against government agencies that have the power to do what they think best – or against a government agent hoping for promotion and willing do whatever he has to do in order to get it.
In fact, it is almost always the innocent – not the guilty – who suffer most from government’s intrusions.
Being innocent doesn’t allow you to ignore the government’s demands for reports – or to say “No, thanks” when a government agent wants to search your records, your place of business, or your home – or to refuse to observe regulations that were aimed at the guilty, not you.
How laws go wrong
How many times have we seen the following pattern?
When government force is used to solve social problems, we all suffer and nothing good is ever achieved. But coercion is wondrously effective at harming the innocent. All our lives are diminished.
Even worse, every year, a few million innocent people suffer special burdens – greater than those the government places on all of us. The dismantling of the Bill of Rights allows the government to disrupt their lives, confiscate their property, or even kill them – even though they’ve committed no crimes.
I hope you never become one of them. But no one can guarantee that.
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