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June 1, 2010

Why doesn't the new Liberty Central website say anything about mass incarceration or the drug war or any criminal justice issues?

Thanks to this new post at The BLT, which is headlined "Virginia Thomas Celebrates 'Fantastic' Web Launch for Conservative Site," I checked out Liberty Central a new website formally launched last week with the express "primary objective" to seek "to harness the power of citizen voices, inform everyday Americans with knowledge, and activate them to preserve liberty."   Because I view my own work on this blog in similar terms, I was hopeful that I would find liberty-inspired information and discussion about criminal justice issues, and especially the massive costs and consequences of government restrictions on liberty resulting from the drug war and modern US mass incarceration. 

Troublesomely, I could not find any information of any kind about the drug war or mass incarceration anywhere on the otherwise impressive Liberty Central website.  Indeed, among the Liberty Central's a long list of "hot issues" on this page, there is not a single entry on any traditional criminal justice topic.  Given especially that the bulk of the Bill of Rights (and much of the body of the Constitution) is focused on limiting the criminal justice powers of the federal government, I find it especially disappointing to see no mention of criminal justice issue or concerns anywhere at Liberty Central amidst all the references to the Constitution and the principles of the Framers.

Interestingly, this "Founding Principles" webpage states that "[f]rom its earliest stages, Liberty Central identified limited government, individual liberty, free enterprise, national security, and personal responsibility as the five principles that best capture the foundations we, as a nation, need to preserve."   I am a firm believer in all of these important principles, and they greatly inform my own deep concern with the huge growth of government and restrictions on individual liberty that result from modern US criminal justice policies, especially with respect to the war on drugs and mass incarceration.  (Relatedly, I also see many aspects of the drug war and mass incarceration undermining free enterprise, national security, and personal responsibility, though the complete story of my views here are more complicated.) 

Usefully, the Liberty Central site has this page which allows for feedback and makes a pledge: "We want to hear from you!  So please let us know if you have suggestions, comments or questions. As America‚Äôs Public Square, we believe in citizen voices and look forward to hearing from you."  So, I encourage all of the readers of this blog to head over to Liberty Central and urge the folks there to discuss how our modern criminal justice system impacts the principles of limited government, individual liberty, free enterprise, national security, and personal responsibility.  If lots of folks go over an express interest in criminal justice discussion, I am hopeful the Liberty Central folks will fill this conspicuous gap in its coverage.

June 1, 2010 at 05:01 PM | Permalink

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I'm more interested in why the "Liberty Council" knows my zip code when I click on their web site.

A few clicks around their web site establishes that it's just another political site with an agenda and not likely a serious organization. Note their "poll" questions, and their results. I can get this at Foxnews.com.

Posted by: Matt | Jun 1, 2010 5:58:22 PM

Please stop using the word "troublesomely"

Posted by: Anon | Jun 1, 2010 6:08:16 PM

"I'm more interested in why the 'Liberty Council' knows my zip code when I click on their web site."

Their software can make an educated guess based on your IP address.

Posted by: JC | Jun 1, 2010 6:47:03 PM

What is wrong with troublesomely, Anon? It gets my point across, no?

Posted by: Doug B. | Jun 1, 2010 9:09:27 PM

I think by liberty they are referring to their freedom to hate the brown skinned and/or poor people. Maybe if you convince them that there are innumerable Anglo white collar criminals in federal pens, they could get worked up about criminal justice issues.

Posted by: Justin | Jun 2, 2010 1:23:53 AM

That web site exists in the real world. Lawyer sites are in the Twilight Zone. As ambassador from the world of reality and the mainstream, I thought it useful to remind the lawyers here.

In the real world becoming a crime victim is more likely than becoming a defendant, about 10 times more likely. Criminal victimization is likely the biggest lawyer oppression of the public. The lawyer allows its client to roam free and to do as he pleases with his victims. Ending crime would boost freedom more than any other measure, such as loosing vicious predators on minority neighborhoods.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 2, 2010 6:37:07 AM

Doug notes: "Interestingly, this 'Founding Principles' webpage states that '[f]rom its earliest stages, Liberty Central identified limited government, individual liberty, free enterprise, national security, and personal responsibility as the five principles that best capture the foundations we, as a nation, need to preserve.'"

Doug then questions why "mass incarceration" is not among the topics Liberty Central takes on.

I do not speak for Liberty Central, but I am fairly conversant with conservative thought generally. The reason conservatives do not sign on to the mass release agenda (which is what it actually is) is that they do not conceptualize these ideals in the same way liberals do.

I won't attempt a complete analysis here, but I'll give some shorthand for the conservative view.

-- limited government = Government that leaves people with the money they earn, rather than taxing it away to accomplish income redistribution favoring those who don't work over those who do. Since liberals often lack the guts to impose (or is it that they have the good sense not to impose?) the taxes their gargantuan welfare state actually demands, limited government also turns out to mean opposition to the unending debt liberals would leave to other people's children to pay off.


-- individual liberty = Freedom to go about your life, without politically correct hectoring or politically enforced coercion, in ways that conform to the law. Also the freedom to speak, even at liberal college campuses and other publicly-attended forums, without being shouted down by modern-day Stalinsts posing as civil libertarians.

-- free enterprise = Capitalism, a system that, while hardly without its drawbacks and abuses, has proven to be the most wealth-producing in history by far, not to mention more freedom-friendly than systems where the government has greater control of your standard of living.

-- national security = Having the means, moral confidence and willingness to defend America's interests, by persuasion where possible and by force where necessary. This would include, for example, the willingness to use force to prevent the Iranian mullahs from getting the bomb and the consequences of that acquisition, e.g., nuclear blackmail and intimidation, a mid-East nuclear arms race, and the completion of Hitler's dream through the annihilation of Israel.

-- personal responsibility = Holding yourself accountable for what you do, and being willing to hold others accountable for what THEY do, e.g., commit crime. It's too obvious for argument to have to explain why this does NOT mean signing on to the mass release agenda.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 2, 2010 7:07:28 AM

Even if I accept all your assertions, Bill, you still cannot explain to me why other criminal justice issues and the drug war are not anywhere on the agenda for Liberty Central.

Or, to make this debate really tangible, let's just focus on the move via voter initiative to legalize marijuana in California. Is it fair to say, Bill, that the Founding Principles set forth at Liberty Central would justify supporting pot legalization by the voters in November?

Posted by: Doug B. | Jun 2, 2010 7:36:34 AM

Doug __

"Even if I accept all your assertions, Bill, you still cannot explain to me why other criminal justice issues and the drug war are not anywhere on the agenda for Liberty Central."

Personally, I'm with you in wishing that criminal law issues WERE more extensively covered by Liberty Central (although I'm sure the coverage I'd give them would vary considerably from the coverage you would). Still, since I am not affiliated with that organization, I have no portfolio to speak for them. I will say in their defense that there is a lot more going on right now, and that crime is on the backburner, as it tends to be when the crime rate is low and falling.

So far as I'm able to assess, the country is preoccupied now with the oil spill, unbearable government debt, joblessness and the Iranian nuclear threat. You and I are in the minority in caring as much as we do about the issues on this blog and on C&C.

"Or, to make this debate really tangible, let's just focus on the move via voter initiative to legalize marijuana in California. Is it fair to say, Bill, that the Founding Principles set forth at Liberty Central would justify supporting pot legalization by the voters in November?"

It's fair to say that reasonable minds faithful to the Founding Principles could reach either conclusion. The legalizers would say that the decision whether to smoke dope should be left the individual, not the state. The anti-legalizers would say that the costs of marijuana use extend beyond the user to society at large, and that government therefore acts within its proper sphere in seeking to curb those costs through criminalization (almost always enforced with minor penalties for individual users). I have some conservative friends who believe the latter, and some the former, as I imagine you do.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 2, 2010 1:05:52 PM

Bill, I hope you (and lots of others) will go to the Liberty Central site and urge some --- ANY --- criminal justice coverage there. There are other topics at the core of political debates right now, but that reality hardly justifies a site saying nothing about what occupies a HUGE aspect of state government spending and direct restrictions on personal liberty -- especially given that the Liberty Central site says it wants to "inform everyday Americans with knowledge and activate them to preserve liberty."

I am sure that the coverage Liberty Central would give to topics like the drug war and mass incarceration would vary considerably from the coverage I would give these topics. THAT'S WHY I AM INTERESTED IN THESE VIEWS. I am read/write on-line seeking only to hear from people who agree with me; I am eager to hear what people with different perspectives have to say about issues of interest and concern to me. That's why I always leave comments open on this blog and even appreciate the ramblings of commentors unwilling to give their names when they criticize my views (or my word selection).

On the pot prohibition front, I am curious what you or your conservative friends would think of this tweak of your penultimate sentence: "The [health-care reformers] would say that the costs of [getting sick without insurance] extend beyond the user to society at large, and that government therefore acts within its proper sphere in seeking to curb those costs through criminalization (almost always enforced with minor penalties for individual users)."

[Here also is another possible tweak for Second Amendment fans: "The anti-[gun-righters] would say that the costs of [gun possession] extend beyond the user to society at large, and that government therefore acts within its proper sphere in seeking to curb those costs through criminalization (almost always enforced with minor penalties for individual users)."]

My sense is that many (all?) conservatives view the prohibition on being uninsured in the new health care legislation to be a terrible (and perhaps even unconstitutional) form of big government. And yet the rationale for that form of big government strikes me as on par with your defense of big government marijuana prohibition here. Or am I missing some critically important distinction in the mind of conservatives about the relationship between liberty and externalities in the form of social costs?

Posted by: Doug B. | Jun 2, 2010 1:47:09 PM

The biggest deprivation of liberty comes from the friends and good customers of the lawyer, the criminals. After dark, the streets belong to them, and the rest of the public has be locked in after curfew. You have 100 million people who are as restricted to their homes, as any convict with an ankle bracelet. The public should feel free to go out at night. It does not. Why does the lawyer never address that loss of freedom on any lawyer web site?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 2, 2010 1:55:28 PM

Hey SC, where do those 100 million people live?

I have spent nights this year in a major East Coast city (NYC), a major Ohio suburb, and a fair number of rural locales nationwide while traveling for work. Lots of people were out and about at night in all these locales. Where do these 100 million people who are as restricted to their homes living (and how have they kept their homes from foreclosure if they do not have the resources to buy a gun if needed to feel safe to go out in public)?

Posted by: Doug B. | Jun 2, 2010 2:35:13 PM

Conservatives bleat and rant just like everyone else when one of their own gets caught in any of the countless snares set by showboating, tough-guy-wannabe "leaders" on a forty year overcriminalization binge.

Otherwise, Republicans don't care about criminal justice issues because there's no political pay-off in it. Inciting gun nuts, huge payoff. Attacking gays and whipping up anti-abortion zealots, bread and butter.

It would go against character for Republicans to speak for Americans set upon by a ruthless, voracious justice (sic) system. They've done way too good a job demagoguing crime issues in the post-Nixon era.

Posted by: JohnK | Jun 2, 2010 4:21:50 PM

SC must live in a really rough neighborhood. Either that or he just doesn't get out much.

Posted by: JohnK | Jun 2, 2010 4:34:56 PM

Doug --

Without for the moment attempting to reply to all of your post, let me say that my principal objections to the health care bill are based on policy, not the Constitution. It may well be unConstitutional to force unwilling consumers to buy something they don't want, but if so, I am not the person to make the case. Modesty counsels speaking publicly about the issues I know better than that one.

The policy objections to Obamacare are numerous, but a single one is sufficient for me: We can't afford it. Our present entitlements are enormous and already headed for bankruptcy (Social Security, Medicare and Medicade). To add a fourth is crazy. There's not nearly enough money to pay our present committments. Indeed, Obamacare is unaffordable even if we assume the official budget projections for it are accurate, which they are not. Government estimates of cost are ALWAYS understated, usually by vast amounts, as they were for Medicare. Indeed, part of Obamacare is "funded" by projected cuts in Medicare, which are nothing more than fantasy, and which if they happened would be even worse: Why should those who worked and paid into the system get watered-down care so that those who did not work and did not pay should get a free ride?

Obama denied that there would be rationing, but the person from Harvard he appointed to be in charge readily admits (indeed proclaims) that there WILL BE, and the only question is how much better the government will be at it than the private sector would have been. But the idea of the governement's rationing life-or-death services is worse than frightening. Even assuming such a thing could be apolitical, what reason is there to believe that it will even be efficient? If your insurance company refuses coverage for Condition X, you can switch companies. If the government refuses to allow you to be covered for Condition X, then what?

I never need reach the Constitutional question. The great majority of the country likes its present, private insurance and wants the government kept out. It was the push for healthcare that set Obama on his present glidepath to disaster, see http://realclearpolitics.blogs.time.com/2010/06/01/republicans-jump-out-to-historic-lead-in-gallup-generic-ballot/. Now that Big Government has proven to be a Big Zero in handling the biggest environmental disaster ever, people are even more suspicious of Obamacare than they were earlier in the year.

To repeat: We can't afford it. It's the welfare state on steroids. We can't pay our present bills, much less afford new ones. It's time to quit spending and start saving.

Sorry this went on so long; I had intended to keep it short. Oh well.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 2, 2010 6:26:06 PM

I share your concerns about big government and excessive spending, which is why I would like Liberty Central and others to start advocating cutting big government spending on wasteful and liberty-restricting programs like pot prohibition. If and when they do, I will believe they really care about true liberty and not just their own liberty to avoid paying taxes for just those government programs they do not like (as opposed to the ones they do like, like military spending).

In addition, I find it notable you blame Big Government rather than Big Oil for the problems in the gulf. Shows how everyone can find their convenient fall guy.

Posted by: Doug B. | Jun 2, 2010 8:33:26 PM

Doug --

Oh, I blame Big Oil. But the damn well needs capping, and Big Oil just is not getting it done. So if there was ever a place for Big Government, this is it, here and now. But all I see is a bunch of talk.

When the time for sorting it out arrives, I will be foresquare for a thorough grand jury inquiry and -- if charges are justly brought -- for big time jail for those convicted, notwithstanding that they are almost sure to be "first time, non-violent" offenders with virtually no chance of recidivism -- in other words, persons exactly matching the typical description given to the "victims" of "mass incarceration."

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 2, 2010 10:11:42 PM

Bill, if you feel that entitlements are the only expenditures that can save us from our huge deficits, it seems logical that the first place to cut is medicare and social security. these are the two biggest unfunded mandates.

Reform of the criminal justice system may not produce nearly the savings of medicare and social security, but surely the billions spent on salaries equipment and infrastructure in this area are worth considering. Much more could be cut from the department of defense if we looked at duplication of services and equipment.

Perhaps the retirement age, salaries, and benefits of all government workers should be reexamined in light of the ever increasing federal budget. I think true conservatives would put everything on the table. Consistency demands this over all agenda, not a pick and choose big government.

Posted by: beth | Jun 3, 2010 1:18:53 AM

Prof. Berman: Gut check. Leave your lawyer residential areas. Take a night walk in the South Bronx, more than 2 blocks away from Yankee Stadium, which is held by the police as theirs. Go 2 blocks off the Federal strip in Washington DC. (SW). Anywhere in Detroit. Newark, away from the downtown. You may take your car, for a quick getaway. The odds are you will survive these promenades. But tell me if you can relax, walking, taking in the night air and can whistle a happy tune.

If you liked the excitement, live there for a week. See if you feel free. As a test, call the police for a possible ongoing break in. Time their arrival. Is it measured in hours? You are lucky if they show up at all.

In my lawyer residential neighborhood? 2.5 minutes, 3 college educated police. If they had found a perp on my property, he would have been blasted. The death penalty is at the scene. No excessive force litigation where the lawyer lives.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 3, 2010 9:12:51 AM

Prof. Berman: I take it back. Please, do not go out for a walk alone, at night, in the South Bronx, nor in Detroit, nor Newark. If something happened to you, I would never forgive myself.

John should know I live in a lawyer ghetto. It is 5 miles from a Fallujah like neighborhood, a crime lifestyle community, where the police have herded crime. Even the police is not safe there, and avoids the area.

However, around here, you can send out a pretty daughter for a walk at 3 AM with her little dog, and nothing will happen. The crime rate here is lower than in Japan and Switzerland. Shoplifting makes the local paper. Sometimes, a criminal drifts in here, and goes crazy. Within a short time, dead or in stir.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 3, 2010 10:41:48 PM

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